Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Project: Top Secret

I’ve recently started a new project! I’m so excited about writing this novel and I’d love to tell you all about it.

But I can’t.

240_f_68272941_rxnsim3egcbifodhee0zurtw1d95ido0I’m writing in a shared setting, and like working with any licensed material, I can’t share anything about what I’m working on without approval from the owner of the IP. So I will now commence vague-blogging for the next [REDACTED] months. Assuming I remember to update, I mean. My track record is a little shaky.

I really like the setting, though. It reminds me of [REDACTED] crossed with [REDACTED]. It has that whiz-bang adventure feeling of old pulp magazines, where anything can happen (and usually does). I’m doing my best to write something wacky and fun to suit that paradigm.

So hang onto your hats, adventurers! As we get closer to the release date I should be able to share more about what I’m working on.

For the time being, might I direct you to Onder Librum? There are exciting things happening over there! *nudge, nudge* *wink, wink*

Evil Plots and Diabolical Plans

Whee, watch me dive into this rock!

Watch me dive straight into this rock! WHEE!

Of course I’m only calling this plot evil because it’s currently eating my brain. Yes, that’s right, it’s project planning time again!

Please note that I’ve never managed to complete this step in the writing process. I usually manage a few vague character notes, way more time devoted to setting than I can afford, and then a sketchy outline before I can’t stand the suspense and just leap headfirst into writing.

Or headfirst into a brick wall. Same thing, really.

I get over-excited when writing. Overstimulated by the cool whiz-bang ideas floating around in my brain. Then comes the reality of sitting down and writing every day:

  • No, you can’t play that game.
  • No, you don’t have time to go out with those friends.
  • Laundry is for wimps.
  • Who needs clean floors?
  • Surely the kids have figured out the microwave by now!

Or maybe that’s just me? Anyway, combined with the difficult-to-interpret nature of my usual outlines and a tendency to get carried away chasing shiny plot will-o-wisps (and we all know where those lead), my first drafts so far have a tendency to meander off course in small ways that eventually add up to a giant, chaotic mess.

But not this time! No matter how much it feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall before I’ve even started, I’m going to complete this planning process. There will be notes on critical plot points, on important conflicts between characters, on the critical scenes that must occur to move the story to the desired ending.

If anything, it just makes me more eager to get to the fun part. Really, really eager.

Project: The Last Necromancer | Status: Planning and Plotting

CORVIDAE BLOG TOUR: Guest Post by Rhonda Parrish

This week I’d like to welcome Rhonda Parrish, the editor of the Magical Menageries series of anthologies. CORVIDAE released July 7th, 2015 and can be found in both paperback and ebook form. For more information about the anthology, you can jump straight to the bottom of the post. However, I recommend reading this anecdote from Rhonda about her attempts to capture a decent photograph of a ghost magpie:

 “Rhonda Parrish is a shapeshifter with talents to match her every incarnation- magpie tenacity for picking the shiniest submissions, nightingale notes for crafting tales, and bright, feline eyes for seeking out her photographic subjects. She balances on the knife-edge of darkness and light, a sorceress of both realms.”

– Sara Cleto

Hunting the Ghost Magpie

Ghost

Ghost Magpie

My husband, Jo, rides his bike to and from work whenever weather permits and a few years ago he started mentioning an unusual magpie he would occasionally spot on his route. He knew I loved magpies so he really wanted to share this special individual with me, but every time we walked along the route he took to work it wasn’t there. I’d begun to think he was imagining things but then it happened. When I least expected we saw it — a ghost magpie.

Ghost magpies are the somewhat fanciful name for leucistic magpies. What that means is that their colouration falls somewhere between normal and albino. It makes for some very stunning birds, especially with magpies.

Edmonton, where I live, is the capital of the world for ghost magpies and I’m lucky enough to have a couple of them live in my neighbourhood–or at least visit it frequently. Alas, they never seem to come around when I have my camera in hand. It’s like they know…

That first time I saw the ghost magpie with Jo was magical. We were just walking along the path when suddenly he pulled me to a stop and pointed and there it was. A great, floofy magpie sitting on a fence post. His white feathers were white but where I expected to see black or blue they were a soft powder grey. We looked at each other, the ghostpie and I, for a very long time before he kekked and flew off. I’ve been hooked ever since, hungry to get a good photograph of a ghost magpie.

I haven’t had much success.

Oh, I’ve managed a few pictures of ghost magpies, but nothing I’m happy with. After four years of hunting them with my camera I have a slightly out of focus shot of one with a ragged tail, a shot of the same bird from a pretty terrible angle and a picture taken from half a block away–getting this one required me to run home, get my camera, run back, wait, finally re-spot the magpie and then snap the picture without time for composition or getting closer because a truck was coming toward the birds.

Weirdly enough I’m not frustrated though. Challenged, but not frustrated.

While I would very much love to get a great picture of one of these magpies I also just love seeing them. Sure, I swear a little bit when I spot one and I don’t have my camera on me–especially when they pause and pose prettily for me, taunting me–but really it’s just a privilege to see them at all so I can’t really be upset. Not really.

I sure would like to get that picture though…

 

Moi2Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine since 2007 (which is like 30 years in internet time) and is the editor of several anthologies including (most recently) Corvidae.

In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been in publications such as Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast, Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012) and Mythic Delirium.

Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com

 

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CORVIDAE

A flock of shiny stories!

CORVIDAE-cover-resized
Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.

In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.

Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol.

 

Praise for Corvidae

“Smart and dark like the corvids themselves, this excellent collection of stories and poems will bring you a murder of chills, a tiding of intrigue, a band of the fantastic, and—most of all—an unkindness of sleepy mornings after you’ve stayed up too late reading it!”

— Karen Dudley, author of Kraken Bake

“Corvidae evokes the majesty and mischief of corvid mythologies worldwide—and beyond our world—in a collection that is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable.”

— Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger

“A creepy, crazy kaleidoscope of corvids, Corvidae is what happens when you bring together ingenious writers and sagacious subjects. It’s nothing short of a thrill ride when this anthology takes flight.”

— Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D., Utah State University; behaviorworks.org.

More about Corvidae at World Weaver Press

Writer’s Boot Camp

So I’ve been working my way through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course. I’ve previously found that her methods mesh well with the way I think, and this big “survival school for writers” course is no different. Most importantly I’ve discovered some key issues with my past process. Wanting to stay safely in my comfort zone, or have the end product turn out perfect, for example. Both hamstring the creative process, and keep me from completing projects. Or worse, I turn out stories that I’m not proud of and no one wants to buy–or read.

I also have a habit of leaping at the first vague concept that enters my head and trying to write it out by the seat of my pants without really questioning where the idea is going or what makes it special. Surprising to perhaps no one other than myself, it’s difficult to write a story about “somebody who’s special because something and saves the world or crap, I dunno, good stuff goes here.”

Ooh, shiny!

Ooh, shiny! Isn’t my setting beautiful? Let me tell you the story of Ixmitplatl, the God of Flatulence and Rainbows. No really, it’s kind of a funny story…

Occasionally I have the related-but-not-quite-opposite problem of getting so lost in an orgy of world-building that the actual story never materializes. Or, should a story spontaneously develop, it’s so weighed down with chunks of exposition to show off the Shiny Cool Setting that no one can read it without passing out from boredom.

So I’m taking it slower, trying to refine ideas before I commit to writing them, weeding out the ones that aren’t going to go anywhere, and locking in on the necessary  details that make a story extraordinary without detailing the cultural significance of what Character A ate for lunch. Honing ideas in preparation for writing is probably a much better use of my time than flailing around creating three pantheons of gods with six related languages and a plethora of weird social conventions.

Not that I’ve ever done that. I mean, come on, how much of a nerd do you have to be to actually make up verb conjugations for fun? Or write up a ten page essay on how the Great God Jahir of the Squin Empire differs from his aspect as The Highfather Johar of the Tentarin Archipelago. Ha ha, no sir, that’s not something I would do!

Ahem.

Striking that balance between the too loose, generalized story concept and the over-planned story bible without a plot is getting easier. At least I’m recognizing those tendencies, and locking that shit down before it gets out of control. This is a learning process, and a very necessary one.

I mean, would you like to read about a girl who happens to have some cool powers who is going to save the world because the cool Macguffin chose her?

OR

Would you rather read about the last necromancer’s reluctant apprentice who defies the law and sacrifices her standing as a reputable mage in order to restore Nature’s balance before the wall between Life and Death crumbles forever?

Yeah, me too.

 

Of Sheds and Routines

I have to admit that this shed is pretty cute, though.

I have to admit that this shed is pretty cute, though.


So I’ve been over at Terrible Minds envying admiring Chuck Wendig’s Murder Writing Shed. Not so much that I want a shed, per se, but the idea of a dedicated work space does have some appeal.

Which sounds ridiculous, since of course I have a desk and chair and computer and all. But that’s where I play games. That association is strong enough that I used to hang a sign off my monitor that read “WORKING” when I was writing. Not to keep anyone else from bothering me–most often I was the only one in the media room–but to remind myself that I was, in fact, working. Not playing an MMO. Or The Sims. Or Peggle.

That plan met with limited success. My dear loving husband’s solution was brilliant: If I couldn’t concentrate because the computer itself was a distraction, then he’d get me a different computer! Thus I was gifted a lovely Macbook with a copy of Scrivener, and released into the wild to write wherever the whim might take me.

Trouble is, mostly it only takes me as far as the kitchen table. That’s on a good day, when I’m feeling professional. The table is at least desk-like. On particularly lazy days, I get no farther than the couch. Even with a cup of a coffee, I’m more than likely to pass out after about three paragraphs.

Some part of my brain looks at solutions like the Wendig Murder Writing Shed and says, “Hey! It would be just like going to work. That’d be a great way to keep yourself on task!”

A more practical part of my brain says, “You’d end up storing flower pots in it. Or something equally boring.”

The loudest part of my brain screams, “OMG I just had the best idea! Guys! Guys! GUYS! Seriously, it’s the awesomest! What if there was this family, and they hunt dragons, and then there’s this wizard, and and and hahahaha, squirrel!”

Maybe I just need to work on that part of my brain and stick to drinking my coffee at the table.

State of the Writer

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

I’m still alive and kicking, despite being constantly sore due to a harebrained “get in shape” scheme called going to the gym. By the way, if somebody hands you a kettlebell and says “deadlift this fifty times,” hit them with it and run for your life. However, if the word “windmills” enters the conversation, you’re probably already too far gone to escape. Just accept the inevitable suffering as the price of your past sins.

Aside from the pain of healthy living, I’ve been dealing with the pain of creative drought. Not that I was lacking in ideas. I just haven’t had the time and/or energy (sometimes I have one or the other, but rarely both) to pursue any of those ideas since school started for my boys. Ironic, eh? For years I’ve been repeating the mantra, “I’ll have time to write when both boys are in school.”

Sure, right. The first month of school is a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

Surprisingly, it’s not actually twice as difficult to get two boys dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and out the door with two packed lunches, all their assorted homework, permission slips, fundraising forms, and remember special days.

It’s purple day! But you don’t have a purple shirt, so…here’s a purple sticker. Look, kid, I’m trying.

It’s actually three times as difficult. Plus the bonus extra credit difficulty of riding our bikes every morning, no matter how sore Mommy is, and perhaps it becomes clear why I’ve been lagging on the creative end.

Now that things are settling down a bit, I have a short story out on submission. So far it’s racked up four rejections. I like to tell myself that story submissions are like house hunting: You don’t always find your home on the first try. So I bundled it up with love and sent it off to a new place this morning. Godspeed, little story.

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

This past week I started on a joint project with my husband. He had the idea to work together on a world-building project with an eye toward creating a setting for use across multiple media: Stories, tabletop RPG modules, maybe even some form of app (an area he’s been dying to get into). It’s interesting how the creative process changes when you’re working with a partner. Especially when their process is nothing like your own.

For me, creating a setting is like lighting a string of firecrackers. I have an idea, which sparks another idea, and another, and “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if” and “Oh, I know how to explain that!” Pop-pop-pop, one loosely-related idea after another until I’m exhausted and have to put it away. His brain goes over things much more slowly, and he tends to focus on one subject at a time. Between the two of us, I have a feeling we’re going to produce something pretty cool.

Or we’ll reach the point where we can’t stand the project and throw it all away. Either way, it’s fun for now!

 

“Woman with kettlebell” image courtesy of Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net.

Spring-Sprang-Sprung

Texas Redbud in bloom.

Texas Redbud in bloom.

I seem to be starting a new tradition of only posting on the last day of the month. I’ll be hard-pressed to keep that up, with Easter falling on the last day of March (and how crazy is that, anyway?). So maybe I’ll get into a more frequent posting groove.

Or not.

Spring has…sprung. Sprang? Sprung. Sprung. Is that even a word now? Sprung. Ahem. The skies are blue, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and our children have gone stark. Raving. MAD.

What is it about Spring that makes them so completely insane? L can barely get through a school day without being reprimanded for goofing off and distracting the other kids lately. M is…M, but moreso. Those of you who know my children personally will understand how trying that is.

Meanwhile, my husband has escaped by taking a business trip to San Diego. I can’t wait for him to get home in a few hours so I can flee the house  let him get some quality time with the boys. Maybe then I can relax enough to get some work done. I need to update my goals, because I’ve had zero luck sneaking in work time between refereeing the rodeo of Spring Madness and preparing for our Spring Break plans.

Writing Goals:

  • Complete revision on Palace of Bone by the end of June 2013
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by Feb 28 (This so didn’t happen–try again!)
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by end of March
  • Finish draft of “To Eat Dragon” by March 20
  • Attend Dreamin’ in Dallas Conference March 29 – 30
  • Re-do outline for “Dancer” story, still not working

The new timeline is all wishful thinking. Between Spring Break right around the corner, M‘s birthday right after that, and then the conference and Easter right at the end of the month, I figure I’ll be lucky to get one of these done. But hey, you never know until you try!

Slogging Through Faerieland

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

So how is everyone else faring in this post-Mayan-Apocalypse world? I have to say I’m pretty pleased the world didn’t end in December. The holidays were good to me, aside from the inevitable fifteen pounds I gained from “things I really shouldn’t eat but family made them, so I’ll just have a taste.” Oh, and immediately after New Year’s everyone in our family got sick. That made it a tad difficult to get back on the work-out wagon, but there’s always tomorrow. Or next month. Pass the Girl Scout cookies.

In the meantime, I’m starting over on my revisions with Palace of Bone. I’ve started the “How To Revise Your Novel” course by author Holly Lisle, and while the process is difficult for me (hello analytical brain, nice to know you’re still in there) it makes so much more sense than what I was doing, which basically amounted to agonizing over individual word choices while covering my ears and yelling “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!” at the glaring plot holes and inconsistencies.

There’s something about reading your manuscript on paper that makes it look more real. Suddenly I can’t just wipe out an embarrassing typo with two clicks of the mouse. Nor can I delete the three sentences of redundant dialogue that make my protagonist sound like a babbling idiot and blithely pretend I never wrote that drivel in the first place. I have to face my drivel. It’s humbling, and it’s hard to get through it without wanting to give up.

I have faith that the story will emerge from this process stronger and better. Or, at the very least, I will have learned a few things about crafting a story without plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Hopefully. Wish me luck, won’t you?

Or send cookies.

Writing Goals:

  • Complete revision on Palace of Bone by the end of June 2013
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by Feb 28
  • Finish draft of “To Eat Dragon” by March 10?
  • Attend Dreamin’ in Dallas Conference March 29 – 30
  • Re-do outline for “Dancer” story, still not working

Goodbye, Summer!

Photo: Running With Seagulls by Ed Schipul

Photo by Ed Schipul, used under Creative Commons License

I know it’s still actually summer. And for large swathes of the country, it’s even still summer vacation. Not here, baby! Yeehaw!

L went back to school on Monday, M is in preschool three days a week, and all the crazy running-around-to-visit-family is behind us for a while. Not that I don’t love visiting. It just plays merry hell with any attempt at scheduling, routine, and writing.

This has left me a little depressed, to be honest. I feel like I’m falling behind (weird, since I have no deadlines as such). There’s a sort of pressure that builds up inside when I’m not actively working on anything, and it tends to come out as…crazy. Yeah. So, time to let off some steam!

So, with that in mind, here are my goals for September:

  • Finish revisions on unnamed Bell Hunter story.
  • Complete current revision pass on Palace of Bone through at least chapter 10.
  • Rough draft of “dancer” story.
  • Use more unordered lists on the blog because I love those cute little spirals!

Seriously?

Yesterday, I asked my brain to get serious about this whole “editing and revising” thing we’re supposed to be doing. Instead, my brain flashed a shiny new 4000 word short story at me.

So we went with that. Now I have two things to edit and revise. I ask you, brain, what the hell was the point of that little detour, hmm?

Still, it did let me work out some world building and details for a character who’s been kicking around the back of my head for a while. Once my brain has recovered from its current puddingy consistency (don’t ask), I’ll write up a bit about Bell. I think you’re going to like her.

Well, I like her, anyway. That’s good enough for now.

On Writing…
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?~J.R.R. Tolkien
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