Behind the Scenes

I have a favourite saying: 90% of research will never make it onto the page. It’s great to bandy about percentages like that, but it seems like an accurate estimation from my experience.

I love the research which is associated with my fiction, because I love learning and acquiring knowledge. It’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in discovering new pockets of the world we live in and delving deep into the detail and minutiae. But, by far the majority of any information I unearth will never translate to prose. It will not be added into the literal text of my story. What that bulk of knowledge will do is build a stable foundation for the written work to rest upon.

Facebook friends will know I’ve been working on a piece of short fiction known only as the unexpected story. It has an asteroid in it. When the flash of unexpected inspiration overtook me, I put in some place holder name for said cosmic rock, because I needed to get the words out of my head as quickly as my fingers would allow, and there was no time for checking into the facts of asteroid naming conventions. Once the first rush had passed, I could hit the internets and find out as much material as possible, and adjust the story accordingly.

Upon discovery of any significant rock hurtling through the vacuum of space, it gets a provisional designation, using a specific system to state the year, which half of the month, and its order of discovery for that time frame. For example, the eighth object found on June 10th, 2015, should receive a provisional designation of 2015 LG. Cool stuff to learn, but not what I wanted to know, no matter how interesting.

I kept looking and read that when the asteroid’s orbit is calculated, it changes to an official sequential number, in order of its discovery in relation to every other astronomical object previously found. They can also get a temporary alpha-numeric code based on when and where they were initially spotted. Well, still neat, but not quite to the point of straight-up naming an important asteroid.

I got to the good stuff and learnt there are some pretty strict guidelines for naming a celestial body of any kind. Follow the specific rules, you can propose a name, and the space committee will have final say over approving the name. But the really fascinating part, and the most important for my story in particular, is that Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) should be given a name from mythology that is not associated with the underworld or creation themes. Now we’re getting somewhere. There are lists published with all the names already used. It runs heavily into Greek and Roman mythos, unsurprisingly, but that isn’t a requirement for an asteroid.

So, I took my new knowledge, and flicked through some of my older research, which extensively covered gods from multiple cultures. In the end, I had to choose a fertility deity who comes from Australian Aboriginal culture, for all the myriad reasons it worked in the story. My asteroid is Anjea.

And without this blog post, no one would especially know, because none of this explanation ever makes it to the page. It’s important to the story, not in it.

~A

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Wow, so… May, huh?

Time is whizzing by at an outrageous pace. Since my last blog entry seven months ago, I have been busy. So, a quick recap!

November, the usual celebrations for that time of year. December, health issues arose. January, we slowly started to get things back in order. I managed to take the whole summer break to simultaneously get nothing and everything done. February, March, and April have been spent in a haze of writing and editing, writing and editing, as best I can while continuing to recover.

By the end of 2014, I had written an incredible 120,000 words for the entire year, across multiple projects. The next novel in the Snowflesh Trilogy clocked in over 90,000 words, and I have moved onto revising it into something worth handing to my editors. Other stories, a couple of which have been invitations to upcoming anthologies, have demanded sporadic bursts of attention with their various deadlines scattered throughout 2015.

All in all, things are good, continuing to progress, and as long as nothing new crops up, the next novel will herald its arrival by the end of the year, and I hope to have a few more significant short stories accepted in the meantime.

Of course, if you want to have a tiny taste of the efforts I’ve been expending, there will be a piece of my flash fiction in this month’s Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing newsletter. Sign up is free, you’ll get to read Night Sounds and see another end of the world from yours truly. Go to www.pmmpnews.com and fill in the relevant details to receive your copy around May 28th!

And for me, I’m falling back into Book Two. One third down, two more to go.

~A

Write a little, write a lot

First, I careened through a 2,500 word goal in a day. Mostly because that number took my overall word counts to tidy, delightful milestones on the last day of September. The novel now sits at just over 50,000 words, and also marked 85k for the entirety of 2014. This hasn’t been the easiest year to write through with the various ups and downs, but I’m still trucking along and can make my final aims if I push hard through the coming months. I don’t enjoy deadlines, but I do like a challenge.

Then on the tail of stubbornly plodding to that target, I blazed through writing a complete 2,600 word short story in two days. I declared it both a happy story, and spur-of-the-moment, but neither description is entirely accurate. The themes are, in my mind, much happier than a lot of what I otherwise write, but it’s a nostalgic and somewhat heart wrenching tale. I know this, because everyone to read the story thus far has informed me they were tearful by the end, and in one case, cried in public. (Haha. Teach you for beta reading my work at a café, M.)

The story has also been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a very long time, all because I promised a friend I would write a happy story one day. It’s taken somewhere in the vicinity of a year for me to reach this mournful answer to writing a piece not based on horror or darkness, nothing evil, just something very, very human. While I had let the idea germinate long before, I didn’t expect it to fall out, nicely whole, when a single additional incentive to write it immediately was added to the mix.

I found a place to submit the story, which I’m grateful for twofold: it gave me the final push which brought the short to completion, and also provides a prospective home for my bundle of words. My novels are my main work, but the amazing connections I’ve found through having shorter work published is an invaluable element of the experience. Those friends don’t know how much their presence and positivity serves to hold my hand when I silently worry I’m not big and vivacious enough to find a larger readership or propel my career where I want it to be. They are quiet support against a doubtful mind, not just when they share appreciation for my work, but by their companionship throughout. So I deeply value every opportunity I have to try and get more of my shorter work picked up.

I know I have a long way to go. Every extra word written is inching me closer to that purpose.

~A

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

It’s time

Because there’s nothing like adding an extra activity into an already full schedule, I’m trying to dedicate myself to blogging again. I miss you guys! So here it is. Hi, folks. I’m back.

Let’s start off with the most pertinent information…!

I finally got my new tattoo, because The Damning Moths will be released on November 13th, and this ink is to commemorate my first full novel length publication! If you’re not already following along on Facebook or the mailing list and want to keep abreast of book-related announcements, head on over to the fancy updated official website for The Damning Moths. We’ve got a stunning photo-realistic portrait of the main character, Lacilegwen, as our background image, painted by the incredible Ty Scheuerman. A countdown timer (which never fails to give me butterflies when I see it – gasp) and some other information here and there, but the website will continue to grow as more media is completed and other goodies become available.

Here’s a photo from the day after I got tattooed. I’ve talked a little bit before about the significance of tattoos in my life, and this one is rich and meaningful in more ways than one. It’s been five days since, and it’s progressing through the natural peel part of healing, complete with otherwise frightening amounts of ink-blackened skin falling off. Itching comes on in manageable increments. I’m still very enamoured.

Now other pre-release planning for The Damning Moths is becoming concrete. I’m in the middle of contacting various printers and manufacturers for pricing on giveaway treasures, and gleefully cackling while obtaining the best possible offers. This reiterates why I run my own business. I rock at this stuff.

Other short fiction I am writing to use in the month of pre-release excitement is working out better than I anticipated, simply because I struggle with shorter work, yet must be getting better with all this practice. First impressions from a couple of readers have been positive, but I still have a lot of work to cover in an ever-shortening amount of time.

And in case you’re wondering, the weather forecast is stupidhot tomorrow, followed by a return to normal, cool, with rain. October, don’t freak out on me

I hope all you lovely people have been happy and healthy. Say hi, tell me your best news from the last few months. I need to catch up!

~A

Whipping Your Words, a guest post from Katy-Rose Hötker

Today’s guest post comes from my lifelong friend, Katy-Rose. We have been on parallel life-paths since the time we met; both five years old and instant friends. Katy-Rose is building her writing dream and running Faery Allure, a small jewellery business, in between the exciting experience of first-time motherhood, and starting The Hidden Grove organic produce farm with her husband. Thank you for the guest post, and all these shared years, Katy-Rose!
~A

I could never write short fiction, at least, I always found it difficult. I’ve more often than not been guilty of letting my words run away with me. They can be so beautiful and meaningful, how do you let go? Why would anyone want to reign in their language? The answer to that question is, to achieve better potency! Our words are more memorable and our stories more succinct when we whip them into shape.

I was raised on epic high traditional fantasy. I devoured it in my teenage years. Hungry for its rich detail and lush world building! It’s a genre that affords a fair amount of verbosity and flowery description. However, as the years have passed, my taste in fiction has expanded. I’ve started reading Young Adult fantasy. And YA fiction is a different creature entirely!

The wording of a novel aimed at a vastly teenage readership is a lot snappier I’ve found, in comparison. You must immediately engaged your audience. You must grab them by the shirt collar and pull them through the worm hole! There’s no time for long-winded explanatory prologues, epilogues and appendices. Your intended reader must be sucked in and not want to put that book down. It must be like a quick fix, full of excitement. The stakes must be high. Your audience wants to feel involved.

From my journey through these genres and my current life circumstances, (think newborn and a fledgling business) I decided to put my novels on the shelf, bad pun intended, and began seeking out fiction that would sate my love of an epic snappy story, with body and heart, without the 60-300k word count. It was at this time I found a new respect and love of short stories, and the new kid on the block, flash fiction. These formats allowed my imagination to run wild, but on the clock. I could continue to fit reading and writing into my day.

I began to try my hand at flash fiction myself and found, much to my genuine surprise, that it was easy. It flowed without obstruction from my mind to the page! I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t. For the longest time, shorter fiction, let alone a form of micro fiction, was a ‘no go’ zone for me. It was all or nothing. I was going to write and read epic traditional high fantasy my whole life. Needless to say, I’m glad my taste in fiction has widened. Variety is the spice of life!

So the key to writing shorter stories in my experience, is to write a tale that you would enjoy immersing yourself in, on a limited time budget. Instead of that fifteen minute bus ride to work being a great sullen bore, why not forget reality for that time and enjoy a quick story? Write that story and others will want to read it. We are all escapists at our core. We all dream great dreams and imagine the seemingly implausible. But sometimes big dreams and lengthy tales have to be put on hold, and this is where our smaller, every day dreams step into the limelight and it’s when short fiction shines. It fills an otherwise unoccupied niche in the reader market.

Whip your words into shape and not only will you have an engaged and entertained audience, but also a very satisfied one. One that will possibly commit your name to memory and look out for longer works of fiction by you in the future when you eventually get the time!

You can find some of Katy-Rose’s flash fiction in these upcoming publications!
“Lunar Cry” in Daily Frights 2012: 366 Days of Frightening Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition) from Pill Hill Press.
“Midnight Allure” in Daily Flash 2012: 366 Days of Flash Fiction (Leap Year Edition) from Pill Hill Press.
“Sweet Delirium” in Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection (Volume 2) from Wicked East Press