Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 - Bring It!

INK would like to wish all friends and family a very Happy and safe New Year. Make life fine in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fantasy Writing Plunges

I haven't been writing much fantasy lately.  I get a few words in edgewise here and there, but my focus the past bit has been on non-fiction.  I've got about 18000 words in so far, and I'm hoping to do some email interviews soon.  

At least I'm still editing and marketing fiction.  I got two rejections, and sent out two manuscripts.  I'll be sending out a third manuscript soon.  

My to-be-edited pile is really deep right now, so the break from first draft fiction writing is probably a good thing.  I have lost momentum on my Nano, though, so that's going to be a pain to start back up again.  Hopefully experience and determination will bail me out, otherwise, getting to The End on my Nano this year will be unlikely.  Is the Nano worth working on?  I still think so.  Come January, I may change my mind, but I still grin when I think about what's happened so far and what's ahead.

The next convention in line is Radcon.  This interesting convention in Pasco, WA is very well attended and has a loyal following.  I had a blast with C.S. last year and I'm really looking forward to Radcon this year.  Heck, maybe I'll even get a fun phone call while I'm there.  It can become an INK tradition!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nothing to Lament About - PW on Ken Scholes

Jay Lake has written a wonderful article for Publisher's Weekly about recent INK visitor and OryCon 30 speaker Ken Scholes.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6620242.html?nid=3332

The best money shot ever:

"Advance praise from renowned authors Orson Scott Card, Harry Turtledove and Jonathan Strahan has set the stage for Scholes to step into the shoes of the late James Rigney (1948–2007), aka Robert Jordan, whose blockbuster Wheel of Time series anchored Tor's fantasy line for most of two decades."

Lamentation, the first of five books in a series, is due out in February of 2009. Seriously, get your hands on one and hang on for the ride.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post-Orycon Musings

With the end of Orycon 30 now over 24 hours behind, I figured I'd capture a number of observations about our attendance this year.

- We spent much less time going at panels this year. While Carole spent more time socializing and helping set up for events, I spent time recharging batteries in our room. I even had time to write a couple thousand more words on Saturday afternoon. Without that helpful isolation time, I would not have been able to make it through Saturday night's ORC session.

- The ORCs were amazing this year. Friday night, the focus-on-the-hook sessions lasted until about 2:00AM. Not to be outdone, Saturday's session ran until very nearly 3:30AM with only one person leaving before they had a chance to read. Carole's adaptation of the Rogue Readings we attended at the Southern California Writer's Conference almost three years ago now are getting a very enthusiastic reception. Next year may need to go to multiple sessions to meet the demand.

- I appreciated the opportunity to meet many of Carole's writing friends and acquaintances, though I wasn't entirely comfortable with how socially dysfunctional I felt - more like a nightmare of introversion. I think there's a host of journal material to write about there and certainly a whole lot to improve before next year.

- On the downside, I was hoping that this year's convention would reignite my desire to write. Instead, it reinforced how many things I need to focus on to get the rest of my lift in control before expanding my engagements. Many thanks to Ken Scholes for his messaging on self-awareness.

All in all, a good con. I'm cautiously optimistic about next year's event at its new home - especially after a refreshed focus on goals for the coming year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whew...

I just went over the 50,000 word mark for NaNoWriMo. This is my fifth year and simply getting started on I will remember it as a most challenging NaNoWriMo effort.

I could pass it off as difficult because of a busy work schedule, but I think it’s a bit deeper than that. I think that the difficulty this year is coming from being out of practice more than anything else.

Coming off of last year’s Orycon, I set several personal writing goals, the most notable was a goal of writing 1,000 words a day. It didn’t go so well and fell by the wayside long ago. I had managed to make it well past the three-week length that was supposed to help form the daily writing into a habit, but the habit quickly became more about battling to stay up late every night, hammering away at a keyboard that resisted me every step of the way. I fell further and further behind everything else that was going on at the time while I grew more depressed about my sagging writing commitment.

When I ultimately let it go, I let slide a number of other writing objectives as well. All the while, I looked forward to November as that time of the year I knew I'd be attracted back to writing, but as November approached, the planning for the upcoming novel effort as was a foreign process. I entered midnight of November 1 with only a vague idea of where I wanted to go with the story.

It took slogging through it to get to the point where the flow had once again returned and I'm not finished yet. But the advice for anyone who cares a whit is not to give up. Slog through it. It will become easier and you will feel better for the effort.

Go INKsters and Go NaNo-ers!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eating The Words.

NaNo and 45,000 words. So close to the finish line I can smell it. Oh wait, that's the burning roasting cauliflower and leeks in the oven.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Kami about my theory of the importance of eating healthy and exercising during November's National Novel Writing Month and how I felt that just perhaps, all that talk of chocolate and caffeine consumption to get us writers through to the finish line wasn't in everyone's best interest.

I proposed that junk food, sugar, caffeine, and lack of movement be limited somewhat to see if we all could get through NaNo's weeks two and three without the expected petering out or near total meltdown in word count. I would never propose a complete 180 degree change in eating habits just for the month because well, your mileage may vary, vastly in fact, and fainting from lack of chocolate cake is a poor excuse for not writing.

I don't know if it worked for anyone else but it seemed to be a rousing success here at home. It's a plan I'll follow for many more Novembers to come.

Go INKsters!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Decisions decisions

Great INK meeting last night.  I got some writing done, and a lot of talking done.

The talking thing is necessary, at least for me.  I'm a social critter and I'm not good at keeping news, concerns and ideas to myself.  Maybe that's part of my writer-psyche-profile.  This irrational, arrogant, persistent and psychotic need to express myself with the hope that others will actually want to hear what I have to say, even if it's pure fiction.

I'm all set for OryCon 30, or as ready as I'll ever be, except for one thing.  I haven't decided what I'm going to read for the Broad Universe reading yet.  This has not been good for my nerves.  My practice time is rapidly dissolving away.  
On my list (and I'm still expanding the list)
"Calling In"  A humor flash.  
Appeal--I'll be able to read the whole thing.  It's (hopefully) funny.  I've heard many times that humor goes over well at readings.  I'll fit in with the tone of the others who are likely also reading humor.
Doubts--It's trite and not really representative of what I usually write.  I rarely write humor.  And humor is hard, so I'm uncomfortable about reading something that I haven't practiced extensively.  
"Neighbors" A fantasy flash
Appeal--It's new and punchy and I'll be able to read the whole thing with time to spare.
Doubts--It's new and may be rougher than I realize since I haven't let it sit for long.
"The Egret Prince"  A dark, sensual fantasy
Appeal--It's moody, sexy (and I've been working on making it even sexier) and I worked on making it as lush an experience as I could.  It's a Lace and Blade swashbuckling sort of setting without the actual swashbuckling.
Doubts--I've recently disassembled this story in order to deal with a dual-plot issue.  It's literally in pieces.  Also, I'm not sure how well a small section of this would read without the context of the rest of the piece.  It's a complex, weird world with odd magic rules.  Assuming I can find a piece of it long enough to read, it still may make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
"Masks"  A political fantasy
Appeal--I've put a lot of time into this and I think it has some very strong sections.  I feel very close with the pov character and enjoy his boy-trying-to-be-a-man struggles.  I really relate to him and I think there's a natural artfulness in the world of jesters that may appeal to listeners.
Doubts--I have no friggin' idea what part to read.  There's the opening, which I think may have too much going on and too little resolution/revelation to satisfy a listener.  Yeah yeah, leave 'em wanting more, but this may leave 'em thinking 'huh?'  And there's the whole rest of the novel, where I have too many choices.  It seems like a massive undertaking just to find what I'd read out of this.
"Thistles and Barley"  A fantasy short which will appear in Beneath Ceaseless Skies online magazine
Appeal--I'll be able to provide a teaser for the magazine, and this one obviously was publishing quality because it made the cut, so I can have fewer doubts about whether it's sound of mind and body.  And the characters are fun.
Doubts--This is a very quiet story that may be underwhelming when only a portion of it is read.
"Hide and Seek" A dark fantasy
Appeal--I love the creepy horror that lies at the core of this story.  And I'll probably be able to read the whole thing.
Doubts--This one is newish and may be rougher than I realize.  And if everyone else reads humor, this is beyond a dark note.  Child abuse, death ... yeah.
"Strangers Think They Know Me" A fantasy short
Appeal--I love this story about a sorceress reaching the end of her life, trying to act as if she's as strong as ever.
Doubts--It's an unreliable pov and that doesn't come out until quite late.  Not sure I could find a section that works without the rest to build it or put it into context.
"Mayhem" A fantasy novel
Appeal--Yay first person!  Yay strong opening!  Yay strong characters!
Doubts--Boo, this is still in early draft form thanks to me switching to first person recently.  Boo, it's what I submitted for the writer's workshop and I haven't gotten feedback on it yet, except at Flogging the Quill.
"The Belief" An SF novel
Appeal--I love the characters even more than the Thistles and Barley and Mayhem combined.  There's a hard-hitting antagonism that makes for great dialogue in this novel.  There's all kinds of sections I could read that would have lots of punch.
Doubts--This novel isn't finished.  It's never been vetted by anyone.  It was written quickly, has remained in the dark, and hasn't been edited at all because I don't edit first drafts.  Ugh.

These are the top contenders.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Endeavor Award Announcement

I apologize if the font or formatting is wonky.  Cut and paste can mess things up.  KZM

November 13, 2008
For Immediate Release:
Miyazaki Figurines From LeGuin Auctioned to Benefit Endeavour Award

For additional information contact:

James W. Fiscus, Chairman
Phone: 503-239-7641
E-Mail: mailto:Fiscus@teleport.comor Fiscus@sff.net
Web: www.osfci.org/endeavour

The Endeavour Award announces an on-line auction of two figurines given to Ursula K. LeGuin by Hayao Miyazaki.  The figurines are of a Gardener from Miyazaki's film Island in the Sky and the Castle from Howl's Moving Castle.  They will be auctioned on e-Bay beginning Friday, November 21.

Full information about the Award and the auction is on the Award's Web site:  www.osfci.org/endeavour.  A link to the auction will be posted on the site when the auction begins.

The annual Endeavour Award honors a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book, either a novel or a single-author collection, created by a writer living in the Pacific Northwest.  The Award comes with a grant of $1,000.00.

Finalists for the 2008 Award are: "The Book of Joby," by Mark J. Ferrari; "Bright of the Sky," by Kay Kenyon; "Not Flesh Nor Feathers," by Cherie Priest; "Powers," by Ursula K. LeGuin; and "The Silver Ship and the Sea," by Brenda Cooper.  Mark Ferrari, Kay Kenyon, Cherie Priest, and, Brenda Cooper are from Washington and are first-time finalists.  Oregon writer Ursula K.LeGuin has won the Endeavour Award twice.  The winner will be announced November 21 at Orycon in Portland, Oregon.

The Endeavour Award is sponsored by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (OSFCI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hurray for great blogs!

I found a great blog today.  Visit Flights of Fantasy when you can; maybe it'll be your cup of tea too.  I love the professionalism and the focus on publishing and fantasy and everything else so far that I've read.  The Writer Beware blog linked over and I'm so glad.  I would have never found this page otherwise.

Which just goes to show that there's really so much more out there than any one person can ever find.  We can all afford to be picky about our sources.  Even when we're extra picky, there's way more good stuff than I have time to read, so finding something that speaks to me directly, where I feel like we're on the same page, is great and good.  There's no reason to slog through stuff wearily because you should (should meant in the yuckiest way possible here) when the same or better info is available elsewhere in a format and style that connects with you.  

BTW I also make a point of reading pages where I regularly disagree with the people, but they have to prove themselves very smart, hopefully so much smarter than me that they could dance arguments around my head while I stare, dumbfounded, so smart that they could then communicate those arguments in a way that I understand.  I may still disagree, but I'll know more than I did before.  Love those kinds of blogs.  Often they speak to me too, in the way that I like to have passionate disagreements sometimes.

But Flights of Fantasy isn't one of those.  This is my version of an "all right thinking people" blog, a blog for Kamis.  Kamis the world 'round will flock to this blog and when they read it say yea, verily, this is a good blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Insomnia

Insomnia.

I very, very rarely get insomnia.  Ask my better half.  When I go to bed, with rare exception I go to sleep with ease, and except for a night walk or two I sleep through to morning.  Sometimes I sleep very shallowly, not quite full-under, which may or may not have triggered some dizzy spells way back when.  The source of those dizzies was never fully explained.

Anyway, I slept for about three hours and then inexplicably woke up full riot.  Maybe it was the strange, reality-twisted dream that inspired thoughts of a bizarre flash erotica horror.  Maybe it was that I stayed up very late the night before, slept late, and went to bed early tonight.  Threw off my cycle.  Under usual circumstances I'd be thinking dangit, I'm going to be messed up for the next few days.

But it's not usual circumstances.  It's Nano!  So after about an hour of reading with no luck recapturing the sleepies, and another hour of tossing and turning, I called b.s. on trying to go back to sleep, dressed in comfies and dashed down here to write.    I can gnash my teeth, tear my hair and throw ashes on my head tomorrow when I try to accomplish some stuff.  For now I'll take advantage of the distraction-free quiet, and the echoes of dreams half-lived in tesseract time.

I'll add on a reminder:  Nano meeting coming up this Friday!  Got word count?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Breathe, Just Breathe

*Tap *Tap...Is this thing still on?

It's just me coming up for air during this crazy month filled with NaNoWriMo and write ins and Word Stock and OryCon. How's everyone doing with their NaNo novel? Good? Let me ask, have you sat there yet with a blank brain and without a single thought going through your head except that itchy, uncomfortable feeling that maybe, just maybe, you bit off more than you can chew?

Well, if so, you know what they say in NaNoWriMo land: Time to release the wolves, time to let in the guy with the gun, time to wheel out the dead body.

What? But your novel is all about puppies and rainbows? No wolves, guns, or stiffs? Even the occasional puppy goes rogue, you know. No really, statistically it's true. And no one really knows for sure what happens if the end of a rainbow just happens to fall on your head. That pot of gold has gotta hurt, don't you think?

Don't forget to what-if yourself and your novel, but you already know this. Go INKsters!

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's the Night


Tonight at midnight Nanowrimo begins.  Good luck INKers and friends of INK!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Check!

I got my first payment check yesterday for words I've written.  It's an amazing feeling.  So many years of practice, workshops, flattening my butt on at least a half dozen different computer chairs.  Novels, shorts, stories long since lost or abandoned, hundreds of thousands of words of fantasy that will never see the light of day because I needed that million words of crap before I could begin to make real progress.  Learning to connect with a reader.  Learning to find a balance between my internal editor and my dreams.  Learning to educate myself, because so much of the education of a writer happens either entirely from the inside or by deliberately, through an act of will and trust, separating the ego from the written word long enough to accept a professional opinion.  Learning who trust and when, especially myself (and when not to trust myself.)

The kewlest part of all this?  It's a beginning.  A long road to travel to begin, but that's the nature of this, and many other crafts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NaNo Brainstorming Rocks!

Awesome evening spent at Kami's brainstorming and outlining our NaNo stories. Good food shared with good conversation in front of a warm, crackling fire (with good pet accompanyment) made for a great time! We made strong headway I think. If we don't watch out, we all just might have novels circulating out there sometime next year.

Thanks again Kami! Your downstairs library/study room is incredible and the vibe fantastic for writing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

INK sponsors an Open House for Nanowrimo

Come one, come all to the INK Open House for Nanowrimo!  Food, drinks, and fun!  October 24, 2008, 6pm, Kami's house.  If you need directions or other details, email kamila at easystreet dot net.  The plan is to discuss our Nano projects for this year, do a little outlining and brainstorming if necessary, and generally prepare to sit down, shut up and write.  Kami lives in the Columbia River Gorge not far from east Vancouver, WA.  If you want to learn about or participate in Nanowrimo, this is a good first step.

The Kickoff Party for Nanowrimo in Vancouver, WA is on the 27th.  See the Nanowrimo web page for details.  There are also lots of write-ins scheduled, including some for midnight when it officially becomes Nov. 1 (your local time.)  Kick off parties and write-ins are happening all over the world, so if you're not local to me, check out your region and see what's what.

Adrenaline is my friend

I had my first panicked OMG Nanowrimo is in single digit days moment.  I have an idea, a plan, and inspiration, but what I don't have is a lot of time.  I have to maintain 3000 words a day to make the goal for the month.  That's not a big word count, but that's a big daily word count, if that makes sense.  My writing schedule has been so disrupted I'm a bit worried that I may be out of practice of the daily writing thing.  

Which is one of the reasons why Nano is so awesome--daily writing habits are refreshed and reinforced.  If I didn't do this every year, I'm fairly certain I'd be a much lazier writer.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Flashed by Writer's Block

Steve and C.S. brought fun show and tell books to the Washougal library combined writers and Nano prep meeting.  They included two of the really kewl Writer's Block books and a book on 45 character archetypes.  I ended up making tons of notes on my Nanowrimo novel project and wrote a flash.  That's one heckuva productive meeting right there!

It was a good time to get out of the house, otherwise I probably would have gotten zilch done in writing today.  Unfortunately I'd miscalculated the time of the OryCon 30 meeting and missed it. 

In other news, I've had a story accepted for publication.  I'll post details when I'm cleared to do that.  Also, my honorable mention certificate arrived from Writers of the Future.  It's gorgeous and hand-signed.  Definitely something I'm going to frame for the office or maybe the I Love Me Wall in the stairwell.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Autumn INK Sightings.

WooHoo! INK meeting tonight. Wide assortment of topics to be discussed.

INK at Library Saturday with NaNoWriMo brainstorming immediately afterward.

INK meets again on the 24th. Prep for NaNo plus outlining/writing time and looking ahead toward OryCon 30 and beyond are topics.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Farewell.

It is with great sorrow that INK bids goodbye to Carissa Reid, one of INK's founding members. We wish her the best of luck in all her future writing endeavors.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You Want Me to Write for FREE?

Thanks to Jim Fiscus for sending this article out to the Lucky Labs and by default, me.  Here's the scary part.  The blog owner, who is soliciting non-fiction articles, is so very insistent that she's not asking for writers to provide articles for free.  Payment, to her, is promotion.  
If it were a very prestigious and high-volume blog where I know the owner isn't getting any $$ from the articles, I would probably do it.  But, a very prestigious and high-volume blog that gets advertising money and whatever all else--you'd think that they'd be able to afford to pay the author, even if it's a tenth of a cent per hit or something like that.  And if it's not prestigious and high volume, then huh?  Why would this be worth a writer's time and effort?
The promotional opportunity here?  Zilch.  Again, if the blog owner hopes to build prestige and business through the blog, she should cut the writer in or, less painfully, cut them a check for a flat amount and have done.  
Or maybe I should simply say yeah!  What Ms. Hoy said!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Backup

This is hopefully a timely reminder for everyone to back up your data.  Now.  You have time to surf the web and read blogs, so you have time to back up, obviously.  

Well, I guess you might be at work reading this.

But still, back 'er up!  If you don't and something happens to your data, don't come whining to me.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No future for me

Looks like I didn't make it into the finalists with my Writers of the Future sub.  There's still a small chance I'll get an honorable mention.  One more box.  I hope!  It would be my very first one!  If not, I guess I'll get the form answer in my mailbox shortly.  I wonder if I made it pretty far or if I was just at the bottom of the stack.  I'll probably never find out.

The good news (kind of  stretch, I know) is that I can start sending this story out.  I've been eager to do that for quite a while now.  And I can send in my next WotF submission.  I probably could have done that all along, but I was hoping.  Ugh.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

How Flashy are you feeling?

Apex Book Company is having its annual Halloween flash fiction contest.  Scare them with Election Horror in a thousand words or less if you dare!  Former INK guest and writer extraordinaire Jay Lake is the celebrity judge.  

And if you can include housework, you'll kill two birds with one stone, meeting C.S.'s latest challenge.  

The winner and second place get SFWA-qualifying pro rate payment and publication in Apex Digest online.  The deadline is Oct. 15.  Spooked by close deadlines?  Face your fears and embrace the terror!  After all, it's for Halloween, er, elections, er ... just write the darned story already!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another one bites the dust

Got another blue slip of death from Realms of Fantasy.  I'm actually enjoying getting them--not as much as an acceptance, mind you--but they're apparently infamous and besides, they're kind of pretty.

Why are they infamous?  Your mileage may vary.  Writers are imaginative people and they come up with all kinds of reasons that they don't like or like something.  I've heard/read that the slips are particularly impersonal, that you get them regardless of writing quality and so there's no hinted feedback at all.  I've heard/read that the small size makes the writer feel small.  The content is very general, and lists some of the reasons why both poor and good manuscripts are rejected--again, giving the author no feel for where their story may be on the scale.  And there's a number on them--the average number of manuscripts received in a given period.

Me?  I like them.  I like the color.  I like that it's an efficient size--it fits perfectly inside a legal envelope, no muss, no fuss, no folds to straighten when I file them.  I like that my story and the date it was viewed is hand written on the rejection, and that so far, I've never had someone else's rejection come to my mailbox.  And I like that they make the editor's job easy.  That means she can go through more manuscripts faster.  That means quicker responses so I can return my manuscript into the marketplace where it may find a home, and hopefully it's less likely that the editor will burn out.

So, although it was disappointing not to get a fat envelope with a contract in it, I still smiled.  Another pretty blue note to add to my collection, and I didn't even have to date or put the title of the story on it before I filed it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Way-yay-ting is the hardest part!

I hate waiting.

I try not to wait.  I try to keep writing and editing and looking forward.  I try to build my story portfolio and keep things in the mail.  But there's a certain contest I'm very eager to hear from.  Every time I load the page I think why, oh why isn't it updated?  It's been ten days since their big to-do.  Isn't there even a teensy eensy batch of new results?  Is anyone calling anyone to let them know they're on the honorable mention list?  

It's all part of the writing thang.  The anticipation is part of the 'fun.'  

Done with whining, back to writing.

Whine!

Okay, done now for real this time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

OryCon 30 Writer's Workshop


Don't forget to submit!  The workshop deadline is sneaking up!

I've got my submission all put together.  I just have to wait until email starts to behave again.  For some reason the server is being a pill.

Update:  Got a nice rejection.  Sent that baby right back out.  We're at 43 subs and 31 rejections.  Keep going, INKers!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another One Flies In and Flies Back Out


I got a rejection back today.  The comment puzzled me--I'm not sure that adding another scene to a flash humor piece would work.  I guess it would, maybe, but then it wouldn't be flash and the humor wouldn't punch, it would whiffle.  Maybe (trying to read between the lines here) it didn't quite end for the reader.  Or maybe it didn't have a climax, or the reader wanted a twist.  Something wasn't there.  Anyway.  I hunted around markets to see where to send this next (I love sending rejected stories back out the same day) and came across some guidelines that made me look at the story in a new way.  I didn't end up sending to that market because it didn't pay pro rates and I want to exhaust my pro markets before I go to semi-pro, but I did tweak the story a bit.  I think it added needed depth without sacrificing the humor.  Or so I hope.  It added a few words, and I took away a sentence that I thought wasn't carrying its weight.  

When working at a short length, especially flash, a whole sentence can create a surprising amount of change.  A paragraph that drags can shine when the chaff is removed, or an unimaginative passage can become enriched by a single, sensory-bright description.

One thing that I think is lacking in my marketing at the moment, and that only time and more depth of work can change, is I haven't been able to send in very many second submissions, much less thirds.  I've submitted to Flash Fiction Online more than anyone, but they've only looked at three stories so far.  Technically I've sent quite a bit to F&SF, but most of my subs were from long ago.  I've only sent them one recently.  Part of that is due to the fact that there are a lot of wonderful places to publish out there and I try to fit the story to the market as much as I can.  I know (or educate myself about) what they publish and some stories are closer to a particular style than others.  But part is that I've spent the past many years writing novels and I refuse to send old stories unless they've been rewritten from scratch.  I don't think editing old writing will bring it up to my current skill level.  I think it'll just turn to mud.

What was the comment in the guidelines?  They wanted characters that they cared about.  A lightbulb came on.  Now, hopefully, the pov character is someone special, someone human, something more than an archetype for me to use to poke fun with.  It's the difference between the three men who walk into a bar and Fat Albert.  I want Fat Albert.  If I have three men walking into a bar, it's not a story, it's just a joke.  So, thanks, commenter.  I didn't take your advice, but I think I ended up in a good place because of you anyway.  

INK Author Series Continues with Ken Scholes.

As part of the 2008 INK Visiting Author Series, I am very proud to announce that Ken Scholes and his amazing wonder-wife Jen will be visiting us on Friday, September 19th to speak about his journey from writer to author (and most everything in between).

Ken, besides being one of the best speakers on writing process I personally have heard to date (his Norwescon Writer's Workshop was fantastic!), is well published, is currently working on his five-book series for Tor beginning with "Lamentation" due out in just a few months, and is an absolute delight to read and listen to.

This will be a evening to remember.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clarkesworld

For those of us with stories in Clarkesworld's slush pile, do not despair!  Rejections (and acceptances!) will be forthcoming.

I'm just doing my part to spread the word.  Don't pester them with queries even though it's probably been more than the 50 days they recommend prior to querying, they'll get through the slushpile in due time.  If you need your manuscript back sooner rather than later, they're being very readily accessible for that purpose.  Details here.

Unfortunately it looks like the days of personalized rejections are over.  Alas, this is my first sub to them so I'll never get to experience that.  However, that wasn't my motivation for submitting to them, so I won't miss it.  

I never expect personalized comments, nor do I think some stories 'deserve' personalized rejections if they're good enough or whatever.  Editors are busy and I don't think they should have to explain their decisions to potential authors.  If I get a note I'm thrilled, especially if it's something that I can use to bring the story to a whole new level, but it's not the job of the editor to help me write the best story I can if that editor doesn't intend to publish it.  It's my job to learn how to write effectively, and I have lots of resources to exploit to that end.  And when I someday earn my place in a publication, then I'll be able to enjoy the process of working with an editor, including the suggestion/rewrite process with their experience and skills to help me make the story shine.

Someday ... soon!

Oh, and a shameless plug for my blog:  I just wrote an entry about prologues.  Hopefully folks will find it useful.  If the INKers would want that, maybe we can dump it in the Toolbox or repost it here or both.  If not, you know me, I don't get offended or feel rejected.  I'd have a much tougher time breaking in as an author if I did!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Critiquedit

I enjoyed a very good critique session today that could have only been made better if the folks currently at Worldcon were present.  I'm ready to put the short story in question into something approximating final form.  

The thick stack of paper I end up with after a critique session used to daunt me.  I'd begin the process of procrastination by setting it somewhere not-my-desk, where it would fester for a while.  Every time I looked at it I'd think I should get to sorting through that, but first I have to scrub around the kitchen faucet with a toothbrush.  Right now.  Just like a cat that has to interrupt crossing a room right now to lick itself, I'd feel a compulsion to get busy doing something unrelated to going over the written critiques as soon as possible.  

But, no more.  A lot doesn't get said during a fiction critique.  No one wants to point out every single little grammatical error or the fact that when the character teased out a nosehair you laughed so hard you blew milk out your nose, and you weren't even drinking milk at the time.  So going over the written comments is important, as is going over the notes you write during a critique.  Don't give me that look.  No, you aren't supposed to file those with the copies of manuscript into your to-do pile.  Your sex partner goes in the to-do pile.  The manuscripts go on the desk, so that when you next sit down to write (not blog or surf the net) you have to move them in order to get to work.  I'm a firm believer in not letting manuscripts that have been critiqued stew.  They've stewed already.  They've stewed while you waited to hear back.  The longer I wait, the more good ideas I lose as the short term memory is taken up by details of daily life that isn't going to be important five minutes later.  I don't need to utilize the fact that I had pizza for dinner.  I need to utilize the expression on a critiquer's face as she detailed the impression my work had left on her.  I need to remember what "Yes to Sara and C.S., go with the bastard" means.  

With that, I'm off to edit.  Cue music!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Action!

So, I've hit my one and only combat scene in the script.  I get to write magical combat with zero special effects.  I'm pretty sure of how I want to do it, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.  Yes, this is going to be a low budget very short film done by a high school student with the help of his friends and the drama department.  Yes, it's probably going to be, ahem, of emerging quality.  But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to set this up so that they have the best chance of succeeding.  So I'm keeping the melodrama down to a minimum, and this combat, when it happens, should give the director, actors and cameraman the best opportunity to make the fight look creepy and wonderfully nasty.  This is going to require quite a bit of thought and planning ahead, so that when it comes time for the director to shout 'action!' it won't turn into a silly, messy headache.  Or, if it's going to be a silly, messy,  headache, it won't be because the script called for something beyond the reach and scope of the project.

Now if we had $68 million to play with?  Oh yeah ...

Of course that sort of attitude is bass-ackwards.  It's still best to write it simple and tight.  After all, special effects may save an otherwise bad film, but no one will be fooled.  They'll always say, gee, it would have been so much better if the dialogue and the acting and, well, pretty much everything was at least as high quality as the CGI.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Swamped

I have to leave much of August open, but that doesn't mean taking all of August off as far as writing is concerned, either.  My happy medium--since any day now I'll get the reading list for the master's course set for next spring, I'll include reading how-to books as part of my August goals.  I think I can manage writing a story too.  When I can I'll write on one of my novels.

August isn't usually a slow writing month for me but I've got a lot going on.  I still may use the hot part of the day to write or read and the cool parts to garden, but a lot has to happen in the month.  I've got a dead-deadline coming up for office remodeling, a big yearly party to plan and execute, have to move all the downstairs furniture and books and clutter out and tear out all the carpeting, and Gilder to frame for it.  I'm swamped!

I know, if I haven't got my health, I haven't got anything.  Right now I'm feeling pretty stressed and nauseated and I had a nasty headache last night (almost certainly from stress) so I've got to tone things down.  Writing goals are not usually my pressure valve.  I always write.  But things are especially pressed right now so I suspect that my ability to do all work, including writing, will be depressed and I'll have to scale back across the board.  While meeting major goals.

It should be an interesting month.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Budgeting for writing time

It's Tuesday again.  That means I'm going to be cranking out the words, enjoying some (mostly silent save the keyboard tappety tap) writerly companionship and drinking weird combinations of tea.  My favorite mix is mint and chamomile.  I have to grab an extra lid and not steep the mint as long or it completely overpowers the chamomile.

When I first started going to these writing meetings it was to get my writing out of my office.  Then I thought it would be good to get out of the house and socialize in general.  Now I'm having to actually budget my week to make sure I can attend.  I never, ever thought I'd be this busy.  I thought quitting my day job would vastly open up my schedule.  Ha!  That'll learn me.  More free time = more work time.  And my list is growing daily, so it makes writing time that much more precious.

I really have to get the mulch out of the back of the pickup truck soon, though.  There's huge dandelions growing out of it now.

On the good news front, I haven't heard anything yet from Writers of the Future.  Wish me luck!  And congrats yet again to C.S. for her Honorable Mention!  Woot!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Phone call from my calling?

"Hello...Oh, hi! Good to hear from you! It's been a long time...where on Earth have you been?"

I know I've spent plenty of meetings yapping about my angst around my writing and I apologize to all of you for having to listen to all of that pablum. Over the past couple of weeks, thoughts of writer support have been flowing anew through my noggin, and I find myself thinking that (perhaps) my calling was one more of providing tools to support the process of being a writer.

I've investigated a number of writing software packages and while there are some good choices available, they are (for the most part) pretty tailored to limited usage. I certainly know that there's no such thing as a magic story maker, or at least that any attempt to create one would create atrocious output,

My software background shows me that tailored software solutions is the right answer and logic informs me why there are relatively few of them. But I also know that a limited number of tailored software packages leaves a lot of space for more tailored software packages.

I do have a couple of ideas for possible tools that would help in some of the situations I've found myself stuck in, but what I'm wondering in here is whether my fellow INKers have ever wondered about software solutions around particular research, planning or writing tasks/problems. I know the biggest tool is the word processor for pounding out the story, but I'm wondering about organization, preparation and planning tools.

Thoughts?

Fighting Crime with Radioactive, Magical Mosquitos

At the Fireside today I plan on hand writing again.  I still haven't had any valuable insights about the process.  The thing that I keep coming back to is that it's slow.  Is slow more careful, deeper writing?  So far, not to my experience.  Is transcribing cool?  Does it add a special layer that I can't get through normal editing?  Not that I've seen, yet.  I'll hang onto that yet for a bit longer under the assumption that I'll still be learning more about the process over the next four weeks. 

 I don't have much choice as far as handwriting or not at this point because my options for Fireside writing are, well, let's see, hand write or pout, and I'm not big on pouting.

We do have a laptop in the house, my son's, an old powerbook he inherited from me.  Recently, somehow Snape ended up with a problem--the OS went bye bye for reasons unknown.  So, my original reasoning of "I'm not going to abscond with my son's computer every Tuesday for my own stuff" has become "and even if I wanted to, I couldn't use it."  So as a gift I'm going to take the poor Mac to the mighty techs and see what they can do with it.  

Tech voice in Kami's head:  Did you try starting it with a bootable CD?
Little kid sulky voice:  Yes
T:  Did you remember to hold down the c key?
L:  Tried that.
T:  What about the CD reader, does it sound like it's spinning?
L:  Yes!  I'm going to pout now.  See my lip?

I'm sure the boy would loan it to me if I asked, especially if I showed my lip, but this is good for me.  At least, I think it's good for me.  Is this just a case of me being stubborn?  Why do I want hand writing to be different, better, or at least teaching?

I guess because I haven't published yet and I want a magic radioactive writing mosquito to come along, annoy me by whining near my ear, land a couple times so I swat at it but it escapes with blinding mosquito speed, and then zap!  It bites me where I can't get to it and infuses my blood with that special something that turns me into The Belly Avenger!
Hey wait, I wanted a writing--
The Belly Avenger, mild-mannered housewife and goat wrestler by day,
Stop, no, I wanted--
Superhero by night, she fights crime with her hypnotic belly dancing, helping the helpless, saving the savingsless, and bringing jerks to justice.
Oh I give up!

Time to head to the place of all things good techie, Power Mac Pac.  See ya at the Fireside with my pen, paper, and apparently my hidden powers of belly dance.

Structure and Style.

I'm deep into reading about story structure and style, something I didn't know anything about. Three-act structure? Uh, what's that all about? I get that now though I'm still struggling with how exactly one goes about accomplishing it.

In an amusing moment, I discovered what structure style I use, one completely un-taught, the one I had always gravitated toward writing: The Slice of Life. I already knew what this was called but had always been told it wasn't a real writing style. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that outside of the westernized world, it's a preferred story structure. Apparently, it's accepted, somewhat loved even, in parts of Europe. Interesting.

To help me internalize the traditional three-act structure, I printed up a cheat sheet of steps and requirements. Whenever I find myself straying from turning points, temporary triumphs, reversals, and final obstacles through to climaxes and resolutions, I'll slap my hands and delete all that Slice of Life nonsense...until I'm no longer a newbie writer and can get away with writing in my former, preferred style once again while getting paid for it. But for the time being, it'll be all about identifying each in stories. Easier said than done.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Huzzah!

I'm being bad and jumping the gun to congratulate C.S. on her amazing honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest.  Awesome work, C.S.!  

It's nice to have my opinion of how great a writer she is reinforced by some very high level judges.

Results are still coming in, so for those of us who are potentially still potential honorable mentions, semi-finalists or (gasp!) finalists, good luck!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Respecting the Story, and the Perils of Poetry

A discussion on Flogging the Quill about author voice and respecting the story worth checking out.  I encourage INKers to join in.  This is an area of critiquing that's been on my mind lately and I don't think it's looked at as much as it should be. 

I've decided that I'm terribly undereducated about how to critique poetry (and how to take critiques of poetry) so I found this which will supply me with reading material for some time.  I thought I'd share because it looks pretty extensive and potentially useful.  On my initial perusal there appears to be a lot in common with prose critiques, but I noticed there's more emphasis on maintaining/supporting the poet's voice.  Prose critiques are expected to support an author's voice too, but that isn't talked about or constantly reinforced like I see in the poetry critique advice.  

I've got to learn to shut up more and listen more when getting poem critiques.  Not that I expect to write a lot of poetry.  It's a complex art form and I've already got my creative attention divided in too many directions.  But when I include a short poem or a partial song in a book I want to be sure (as sure as anyone can be, seeing as poems are even more subjective than prose) that the eye-roll factor is kept to a minimum.  I've seen poetry in fiction that's done well, but a lot more that's done very poorly and I don't need the reader distracted from the story.  It's supposed to add atmosphere, lyrical voice and immediacy, not make the reader feel like he has to squint and squirm in his chair or inspire someone to skip ahead.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stretching

As of two minutes ago I've set a personal record for number of manuscripts out.  Six manuscripts is not a lot but it's a big number for me.  I think I'm going to strive for double digit submissions and see how long it takes me to get there.  For now I feel like I've just massively increased my odds of getting something into print soon.  I'm excited to get more out there but I'm keeping myself reined in so that I don't, in my haste to submit, start mailing out stories that aren't my very, very best work.

Maybe I should have used six verys in that last sentence, like a six gun salute or some such.

I hit a point like this with my artwork (which is languishing at the moment) where I had a deep enough portfolio of current (as in created within the last year) work that I actually had choices about what to put up in the art shows I attend.  It's more than a feel-good moment.  It's a sign that I'm getting my act together as far as creative production.  

Speaking of production, a long time ago I had a discussion with someone about the commercialization of one of my favorite musical groups.  Had they sold their souls to become commercial successes?  I thought not.  I think they grew and improved from their early, if passionate, days.  I still hear that passion in their music but without the raw and, I feel, unrefined quality.  As far as lyrics and political messages I still see lots of compassion, philosophy and, yes, politics in their music but they're no longer whacking their listeners up side the head with a 2x4.  When the message is clear its still artful, not screaming for attention.

Although I may worry occasionally about  'production' and whether I'm just cranking out words because I can (or because I want to get paid,) I only worry about that when I examine my overall volume or how many subs I have out.  When I'm actually writing instead of handling the business part of writing, I'm fully engaged in the story.  I care about the characters and what happens and what means what and pay attention to whether I'm connecting with the reader or not.  When I stop caring, then I'll be in trouble.  I think when a writer stops caring their stuff becomes less compelling and less publishable, and we see less and less of them in print until they fade away.  Same with artists.  

Part of caring is striving and stretching limits.  If it's comfortable, it's not my best work.  When I'm struggling with those words, or the paint, I know I'm trying to achieve something that may be beyond my skills and I really focus.  That focus shows on the page or canvas, for better or worse.  Maybe that's an element of my older work that has staying power--I tried to write something beyond my skill level and although I didn't quite make it, that struggle and passion ended up on the page and became memorable.

Well, it's back to the creation part of my day.  Time to produce, and strive, and struggle, and reach for something that may be beyond me.


And Snap! The job's a game!

I booted a new flash fantasy out the door tonight.  It feels good to be submitting on a regular basis.  I can hardly remember what all the fuss was about, but when I go deep I can connect with the anxiety and stress that comes from offering work for publication.  

It's rarely about whether or not the story will hold up, although I do spend time beating my head against the first line/first paragraph/first page wall.  It's all about that darned cover letter.  When I get my first pro sale, though, I'll finally have something to say other than here's my story, thanks for your time.

At the INK meeting we listened to some great podcasts about writing.  One thing new I picked up that I hadn't thought about much before is the sorting process that incoming manuscripts go through.  The podcast speaker (the wonderful Gardner Dozois) said that many (not all) editors sort the incoming manuscripts into piles which then get the following treatment.  The slush pile, being the largest, gets the most cursory look.  Sometimes all you get is two lines.  It's a slush pile reader survival thing.  Yes, perfectly good stories get passed up but that's the nature of the beast.  If the reader gets to the end of the story it goes on the okay or maybe pile.  The semi-pro and pro (sometimes they're on two separate piles) get a much more 'fair' shake.  Still no guarantee of publication, of course, but the reader will probably give them a whole page to distinguish themselves.  

One way to get out of the slush pile and into the semi-pro pile is to have something interesting in the cover letter.  A sense of personality in the cover letter is a bonus too, as long as you don't make yourself sound like a crazy person or come off as obnoxious.  A professional credential, no matter how tenuous, like if you studied sea stars in college and the story is about intelligent sea stars taking over the ocean, sometimes helps too.  The fact that you met the editor at a small press party and you had fun discussing fine wine and cheese pairings can help, but you'd better be sure that the editor had fun and bear in mind that some editors don't like things like that mentioned in cover letters unless the editor invited you to send in a manuscript.  Now why would this last item help?  If the editor had fun talking with you then that editor knows that you're not crazy, that you're polite, and you might be easy to work with.  Given a choice between two stories when one is written by a known pain in the you-know-what and the other enjoys the same single malt scotches as you and is respectful without being cultishly in awe, the scotch drinker will get the sale, right?  Right.

Another podcast (this one by Shawna McCarthy) discussed the odds of getting published.  I've heard the numbers spelled out before but this time I was heartened.  90% of the stuff in the slush pile is unpublishable.  That's great news!  I don't believe I'm unpublishable, though of course I could easily be deluded.  The point is that if I'm right about where I'm at on the scale of all things slush, I'm really only competing with 10% of what's in the slush pile.  That's much, much better odds.  Out of 300 manuscripts a month, for example, I'm only vying to get into the okay pile with 30 of those.  I can live with that, and I don't feel badly about not out-competing those so far.  Actually, I can't say that.  I've been blessed with the knowledge that I've made it into the pile for the final cut before.  That's even more heartening.

So I'm feeling better about cover letters, I'm happier with my odds, and I'm looking forward to submitting on a regular basis.  It's a different kind of persistence than I've felt before.  It isn't something I force myself to do.  In fact, it's kind of fun!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Many, but not infinite markets

I got a rejection from Realms of Fantasy Magazine today.  Ah well, time to ship off that story to another market.

As another INK member noted earlier during a conversation, there are a lot of publications on hiatus right now as far as being open to submissions.  That makes it a little tougher to submit, but not impossible.  It may take a little longer to find a place to submit, especially if a story has made the rounds, but there are lots of fun places to publish that aren't on the main lists and it's just a matter of hunting around.  Luckily I still have lots of options with my current story.  

So here's a thought--what if a story has really been to every conceivable market and you're sure (based on unbiased reader and critique group feedback and gut feeling) that it's really a winner.  What then?  You can try contests.  

Some writers, if a story has been published and the rights have reverted to the author (often after one or two years after a magazine publication) will post the story on their website as an example of their writing skills.  I like that idea a lot, but before I put an unpublished story that's made the rounds up on my website I'd want to be extra, extra sure it was a good idea before I post it.  After all, if a hundred publishers have seen the darned thing, unless there were a lot of personalized or glowing rejections, I'd have to wonder if it wasn't in fact flawed in some subtle way that makes the story good and yet not memorable or strong.  I wouldn't want to advertise with anything except my very best.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I can rest on my laurels when I'm dead

It's been an intense couple of weeks on all fronts.  I'm holding it together with one raw nerve.  Thanks for listening.

In writing news I've got my energy focused on one short fantasy and one flash fantasy that need to come back from critiques before I send them out.  I'm very tempted, especially with the short, to send it out as is.  Although I always welcome critiques and I truly believe that I come out with stronger stories after I've heard what tripped people up and what they took off running with, I have just enough confidence (or is it arrogance?) in my writing to feel that the stories do okay without the critiques too.  

I think unpublished writers really have to make their stories extra tight and compelling before they'll make it into publication.  My goal as a writer is to write that irresistible first published work and then keep writing tight and well-paced stories and novels throughout my career.  I don't ever want to become lazy and rest on my laurels.  Yes, it would be very nice to relax.  There's a part of me with a silken, seductive voice that says once you're 'made it' then readers can sit back and really appreciate every thought, every sentence as it comes to you unadulterated by hair-tearing revisions and word by word editing.   They'll be amazed by your brilliance, Kami, you'll see ...

Stupid voice.  Shut up!  The goo goo goo that babies make is only awe-inspiring to their parents.  Let's go put some words together and then make them shine with careful editing!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Writer Want Ads.

Okay, here's something for your brain. Using this Want-Ad post create your own writer want ad. How would it read? What would you look for in a market, an agent, editor, or publisher? How about what you'd want in your own platform and your readers? Will you open your soul to your desires? Will you surprise us with something no one but you knew wanted out of your writing career? Will you be truthful? Or will you hold something back for reasons only you and your potential agent/editor/publisher/reader would understand?

So many directions this could go...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dancing the Dance of Draft Completion

After several days of hard work I finally finished the rough draft of a new story.  I don't know if I'll polish it in time to submit it to the market I have in mind, but there's another market I think it could fit well.  It came in at 6700 words and I'm hoping to edit out about 2000-3000 of them.  Although I'm eager to work on it, I'll make myself go outside and water my poor, parched garden before everything withers to a pile of dry leaves and let it stew.  I might even leave it alone for the next few days if I discipline myself.  There are definitely other things to work on--Signet, Mayhem, Sin--not to mention I've got some pleasure reading to do (market research, I'm calling it market research so hush) and I've got a novel to finish and critique.

But the new story is so shiny and attractive!

Back away from the sparkly, Kami.  See the Do Not Touch sign?  Besides, it'll be even more shiny and attractive tomorrow.  Trust me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bookkeeping and Guidelines

Rather than have centralized control of the subs/rejections, would INKers kindly add their subs and rejections as they go out/come in?  I think this would be easier than recounting from scratch each time.  I just added my two subs and I'll be sure to add the rejections when they come in.

Yesterday while researching markets I found this little gem as part of the poetry guidelines (usual disclaimer, guidelines change, errors are mine, yada yada) for On Spec:

Naturally you're thinking, well, that's just his personal taste.  You bet.  All editors have their own personal opinions of what they want to see.  I'm no different.  If you don't like it, send your poetry to another magazine.  Better yet, start your own magazine.  You'll soon see you're no different.

Having said all this and making myself sound like a cranky old fart, please send in your poetry.  I want to read it.  Really.

In an earlier part of the guidelines he notes (paraphrased for brevity):  If you want examples of the kind of poetry I do admire here are a few names: [lists almost twenty names.]  Have you at least heard of some of these people?  Do you admire their work, or at least relate slightly to it?  If you haven't and don't, then don't bother sending me your stuff.  I'm probably not going to like it.

He also notes that there are certain kinds of poetry he's not interested in.  His challenge--if you can write better than Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Alfred Noyes, Li Po, Mallarmi, Baudelaire who perfected the kinds of poetry he doesn't want to see, then naturally he'll publish it but unless you've published extensively in magazines devoted to those forms you're probably not the genius you think you are.

This is true for prose too.  If you insist on sending stuff to editors that they don't want to see, you're going to get rejected unless you're an effing genius, and if you're not extensively published in places that actually want what you're trying to ram down the throat of the editor that doesn't want to see it, you're probably not the genius you think you are.

Well said.  And now, back to writing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear that? That silence? That would be the sound of me finally caught up with my writing tasks.

Not to say I don't have several more to work on, but the big ones, the main ones I've been fretting over for the last few weeks, are done.

Short story edit: check
Submit to INK: (late but) check
OryCon Writer's Workshop website info put together: check
Website info sent to webmaster: check

Whew.

And now on to the new goals.

Two short story edits
Two short story submissions
Some novel work

It's all good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Throttled by the Wire

I didn't quite make the INK deadline Friday. I worked a solid five hours on my story and got up to the last few pages, but then the story took a needed sidestep which included adding a new scene. And by ten minutes to midnight, I knew I was in no shape to write a new scene, so I tossed in the towel, emailed INK with mea culpas and a request to submit late, and went to bed.

I am, however, pleased with the story. It is shaping up nicely, and depending on what INK does to it at our next critique session, it might be my best short story to date.

Which isn't hard when I only have three completed.

But still, three!

Today I'll be finishing off the story and doing one last read through before sending it off to INK. And then I'll let myself relax for all of five minutes and pick up tomorrow, hopefully with my novel. It's been over a month since I worked on it last and it is calling my name.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Under the Wire

I'm actively working on my submission for the next INK meeting. It's going to be a hustle, but I think I might get in finished in time. Did good work on it this morning. Have more time to work on it tonight. And then lots of time tomorrow, so I have no reason not to have it submitted by the midnight deadline.

I have to admit, getting Kami's submission today was a nice kick in the butt.

I'm looking forward to hosting the meeting in the Secret INKcave. And I have a new kind of pretty tea to share. I received one of those glass teapots for flowering teas, and the flowering tea to go with it for Mother's Day. INK will have the first chance to see it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Door

For those of you with novel or short story openings that you're pretty settled on, there's a fine opportunity on Flogging the Quill right now.  He's whittled his openings down to a spare few and is requesting more submissions.  In a writing world where there are long queues and daunting slush piles, this is a great time to hop in before everyone else notices there's a call.

Even if you don't submit an opening remember to check in and please comment on those openings.  Writers need all the reader feedback they can get.  Besides, as always, by dissecting and commenting on someone else's opening, the flaws in your own become more clear.  Yay learning, yay comments, yay to everyone growing and improving!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

INK Summer Schedule?

I would like to propose an INK "Summer Schedule" meeting venue in which INK would get together for its regular 7 p.m. meetings around town beginning with the June 20th meeting until we go back off Daylight Savings Time. Coffee houses, bookstores, cafes; places that would be conducive to writers and writing, where we can meet, talk, offer advice, and include group exercises.

Thoughts? Or is this just a bad idea?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thinking About Critiquing

I've been thinking about critiques lately. Since my last ones, actually, which I felt were a little too rushed. My own fault, there. I just didn't give myself enough time.

This isn't the first time I've dwelled on my critiquing skills. As a matter of fact, anyone who has known me long enough knows that I quite often struggle with this. It is simply that I want my critiques to match my thoughts of the piece, and for all that I'm a writer, I find it quite difficult to make the two match up like I'd like them to.

As I was reminded today, critiques are a balance of recommendations and constructive criticism, and the wording is everything. I tend to feel passionately for not only what I'm reading but my thoughts on what I'm reading as well as how it compares to my own training and experiences, and this combination has a tendency to make my comments come across too authoritative. What I tend to forget is there is no 'right way' of writing. My opinions on a piece are just that, opinions based on my own preferences and biases and skills. But rather than present my opinions as opinions, I think quite often I state them as The Rule.

What rule? Whose rule? Mine? Little, unpublished, over-schooled me? The rules of those I've read, that fairly small smattering of books of a rather narrow slice of reading possibilities? The rules of my writing professor (and let me tell you how the 'no -ly adjective' rule has stayed with me)?

The other realization I've come to is that familiarity can truly breed contempt. Not that I find anyone I critique contemptible or their work contemptible. Quite the opposite. I tend to become emotionally invested in a piece, no matter what faults I find in it personally. But my language tends to become contemptible the more of one person's work I critique. Being friends with a fellow writer is all well and good, but that doesn't give me carte blanche to word my critiques with a familiarity that could read as snarky and mean. How useful is that, anyway? Whatever point I'm trying to make gets lost behind the snideness and the sting. The only person I'm amusing, and rather cruelly, is myself, and critiques aren't for me, but for the writer whose work I'm reading.

Thinking back, I can see my tendency of snide familiarity in just about every writers group I've been a part of, and quite frankly, I'm a little ashamed of my presumption and arrogance. What else could inspire such behavior? I know I've been pretty arrogant in my day.

Well, I'm starting a new chapter in my critiquing life. One based on humility and recognition of a work for what it is rather than how it matches my idea of what a work should be. And to do this, I think I need to get in more critiques than I do now. So I'm giving serious considering about joining Critters in addition to my critiquing for INK. I'm also thinking about trying out for Lucky Labs as well, though I think I need to double check their meeting schedule against my summer camping trips to make sure I wouldn't miss too many meetings if I was accepted to the group.

I'm rather excited about all of this, even given my rather harsh interpretation of my own critiquing skills. One of my goals of being a member of INK was to improve my critiquing skills, and I think this realization goes a very long way to doing so.

So, here's to improvement! Because becoming a better critiquer helps those I read as much as it helps me!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Daily Writing Course available, free!

Ever have trouble with plots and subplots? Characterization keeping you up at night? Having issues with suspense and tension?
You can read a ton of books, take writing courses, get critiques like you always have, or you can spend a couple of hours a day for a few days or even a week watching the work of writers who have mastered all these skills.  Infamous for their ability to suck in a new viewer, sneered upon even more than romance writers, you gotta hand it to them.  Soap opera script writers know what they're doing.

Their plots and subplots are written very well and are extremely well-balanced.  They have to be.  Remember, they have to keep an audience interested enough that they'll wait through some of the most obnoxious commercials aired on tv, second only to late night infomercials, to continue watching.  During the dread commercial break a viewer can easily switch to a different soap or plug in a non-commercial-laden DVD. 
 
Their characterization is strong.  The viewers may know who the bad guys are, but not all the characters do know who the bad guys are and that makes for a lot of fun.  (Take a lesson from that right there.)  They write bitches like no one else and put honey in their mouths when those bitches are a wooing.  If you have trouble writing good guys that aren't boring, look no farther.  Each character has a distinct voice, goals, agenda--they're well-rounded and unique.

Suspense and tension?  They've taken it to extremes that have become laughable in the tv screenwriting industry, turning the cliff-hanger into a cliche' and drama into new heights (or lows, if you prefer) of melodrama.  What's beautiful about it as far as learning how to do it from a writing perspective is that the snippets of plot are broken down into very short frames and you can examine the tension arch in bold relief.  

The writing has to be good or there would be no audience.  In matter of fact they have a huge audience, one any writer would envy.  They have to be able to pull in a new viewer in just a few seconds in the middle of the story, with no recap because they never know when a new viewer will come in.  That alone I find fascinating, that the writing can bring in a viewer into the story even though that viewer has no idea (initially) what's going on.

I bet you think I'm joking but I'm not.  Give it a try.  Just remember, they are addicting.  Whole magazines and forums are devoted to them.  There was even a paranormal one I came very close to becoming addicted to when I last had the flu.  It's worth the risk for a quick, dirty and efficient lesson in effective writing techniques.  

Friday, May 30, 2008

Moving Forward

Today, after feeling a little guilty for working on Signet, I decided boo to all that.  I need to move forward in the series.  In fact, if I want to give Signet stewing time I'd better get hopping.  In the unlikely event that I sell Masks this year, Signet better be ready close behind and, well, if I haven't finished writing the rough draft I may be looking at a rush job.  The idea fills me with horror.  Over the years I've shortened up my editing time considerably on novels, but it still took me a good 2-3 years to get Masks into decent shape.  So, forget the reward system.  I'm going to write me a novel!  Yay!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Critiques

Heya, gang! I hope you've figured out how to get together tomorrow night for the INK meeting!

I sent out my critiques through email last night, and this morning find that I cannot get into my email inbox (grr, Comcast, very annoyed with them right now). So if you didn't receive them, or you had questions or comments, I won't be able to do anything about it until next week. I apologize and I hope the critiques were received.

I'll be thinking about you all as I'm toasting s'mores in front of the campfire with the reservoir reflecting stars behind me!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Book in a Week?

Who needs a kick start to get themselves writing again?

I was reading about writing a book in a week on Broad Universe and something clicked.  No, absolutely I'm not going to write a book in a week.  I've got too many books I've written in a month that need my tender loving editing care to write yet another, especially since I'll probably do Nanowrimo again.  But when I got to the part about heroines of straw I thought aha!  That's something valuable to observe.  The author focused on lack of preparation leading to her failures but I thought her mention of her characterization was a bigger clue to her underlying issues.  Or not.  She was writing about her process, not mine.  

I wondered, can you prepare a character?  Technically, I guess.  You can decide their hair color and eye color, if they were molested as a child and how that makes them act out, if they drive a Cadillac or take the bus, and so on.  You can even 'motivate' them.  "My character wants, more than anything in the world, to travel to outer space."  Is that going to be your climax, then?  She finally gets to go to outer space?  Or is that just the beginning?  With the first choice, you've got a whole lot of empty to get her there.  With the second, you've got the deadly 'now what?'

So I thought about characters and what happens when I've got a good one.  And I realized that my favorite characters are strangers that I connect with and learn about as they grow in the story.  They're people when, as our eyes meet for the first time, I get this tingle.  I want to get to know them.  Maybe it's a shallow impression.  Man, is he hunky, and yet he's so shy!  Or maybe it's that moment of we're all in deep doo doo and she looks like she knows what she's doing.  I may be wrong, but my instincts say she's going to get me out of this mess alive where no one else can.  

Hopefully you're getting that idea.  I think this is yet another situation where 'write what you know' gets a lot of writers, including myself, into a little trouble.  I can think of a novel in particular where I put so many of my own insecurities and philosophies and everything else into the character that she didn't have much going for her.  Well, she had about as much going for her as I do.  I can be pretty entertaining and I have a lot of friends, but for a character to carry a novel I think she needs to be surprising, uncomfortable, edgy--something (even if it's just one thing but hopefully several things) that's not me.  I don't want her to be predictable and always react the same way I'd react if I were in the same situation.  

I'm not saying characters have to be larger than life--not at all.  But think about the first time you met your best friend, the love of your life, the teacher that changed your life, someone who impressed you even when you didn't know that much about them.  I propose that a character needs to pop for you the same as real people pop out of society's swarm and instantly become individuals.  Great actors can make even the most mundane secondary character interesting.  You want to get to know them, even if they're bad guys (or maybe especially, if you think that way.)  

The strongest short story I've recently written had this fun voice.  I didn't know much about that character's history, but I immediately wanted to get to know her.  She was a pistol.  I think I'm going to try to write something like that again, about someone I'd want to really get to know.  I think she's going to make a fabulous first impression on me.  I'll combine it with the garden challenge, I think.  Doesn't really matter, as long as I get to write about her.  I can't wait!

Storm

Hey, what did you all think of the storm that blew over us yesterday evening?  It went right over our house.  The hail tore the plants to heck and the lightning was intense.  Rory and I watched it come in under the deck gazebo and then came in when it started to get dangerously close (as in wow, that lightning hit right there close.)  A few minutes later the hail started, and we had sheets of rain, lightning blasting directly overhead and terrified dogs.  Everything smelled like we were in the midst of a logging clearcut operation.  We brought all the dogs in (after a little drama with Finn) and gave them all baths and they got to lounge about the house until about 2am.

I thought, gee, Carole must be writing on a great story idea even as we speak.

I sent off for info about the Dean Wesley Smith/Kristine Kathryn Rusch and guests seminars in Lincoln City.  I've heard nothing but great things about these seminars.  Yes, they're expensive, but not when you consider that you have a place to sleep on the coast (woot!) and instructional time with masters of the industry.  If I could scrape together the funds I'd be all over the master's course held in spring 2009, but I think that's out of my reach financially, even if it was possible for me to get in based on my writing.  I think I'm better off staying out of debt by taking the novel and the short story courses, with the accompanying less time off of work factors (assuming I'm still working retail then.)  

My writer's demon is bouncing up and down trying to get my attention and squeaking, "that's what credit cards are for, dope!  C'mon, let's go!  You've always wanted to!"  Yes, well, I've always wanted a horse, too, but you don't see one grazing out on the acreage, do you?  "But this might be just what Masks needs to become saleable!  You can pay off the credit card with your advance!"  You know, that--I don't even know where to start.  I don't think that's even worth a response.  "What?  Aw, man!  Please?"

Pardon me while I stuff him back into whatever dimension he slipped out of.  

Thanks for the heads-up from our friend, Jeff!  And you can totally snag a ride with me to the coast, assuming I can get into the class.  Just get yer kilted butt up here to the Pac NW and we'll head out toward the sunset.  Road trip!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Announcements Part Trois

Thank you, Cheri and Kami, for all that wonderful information! You've both been so productive.

My announcement is that I haven't done one blessed thing.

Writing anyway.

I have, however:
  • watched several PBS movies based on Jane Austen's novels
  • gotten quite far in a new cross-stitch design that I've been wanting to stitch for some time now
  • gone for a long walk with Beau and Kate during a break in the rain and marveled at the sound of the water dripping between leaves while the birds chattered
  • finished reading a wonderful novel by Agatha Christie
  • read through far too many magazines
  • realized that the perfect foil to my Creepy Frenchmen is not a German (how cliche) but a Swede (love the accents)
  • added a Pretty French Interpreter to give Gus someone to smile at (because Creepy Frenchman does not smile)
  • reworked the opening of Trinket Box (in my head)
  • toured my garden in the rain
  • put music on both my blogs that I listen to obsessively when online
  • realized that I prefer apple pie cold as opposed to warm out of the oven

So, while no actual writing is going on, I've done a lot of it in my head in the midst of all the other daydreamy-type things I've been doing. Oh, and a few dishes. Not nearly enough dishes, but they aren't going anywhere and the iris blooms will last only so long, you know.

Announcements Part Deux:

I have been meaning to announce the pub of my new e-book, Plan Well, Write Well: The secret to crafting your best plots, characters, and settings for an age. It is a downloadable e-book designed to help fiction writers plan their way to successful stories. Plan Well, Write Well is loaded with brainstorming, freewriting, and visualizing techniques that can be used before and during the writing process for both short stories and book-length fiction.

If any INK readers, would like to learn more, feel free to visit my site at http://www.stirlingediting.com/ebook1.html

Also, I will be teaching three workshops for the Southern Chapter of Willamette Writers at the Medford Public Library in Medford, Oregon. The first workshop, "Outlines for People Who Hate 'Em," is free to members of Willamette Writers and $5 for the general public. The two afternoon workshops are $25 each or $40 for the pair:

Rhythm: A study

Adding sound and style to your writing is essential to breakaway fiction, and subtle techniques can help you hone your prose to a musical high. By studying the masters of rhythmic fiction, we will sharpen our own prose to the grindstone of their techniques. Bring examples of your own work.

Fiction from film

Film writers are known for their skillful structure, their pithy dialogue, and their eye for the visual. This workshop will teach you how to employ these powerful techniques to raise your fiction to another level. Bring examples of your work.

For more information or to register for the afternoon workshops, go to http://www.stirlingediting.com/workshops.html

Thanks all! Jumping off the bandstand now . . .

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Announcements

First announcement:  I just made a short story submission, which completes my goals for the month.  Yay!  I guess I have to go back to writing now.

Second announcement:  If there's anyone interested in joining the Lucky Labs, contact me.

The who?

No no, not The Who, Lucky Labs, aka the Lucky Lab Rats.  This writing group has historically gotten members via OryCon schmoozing (this was news to me even though that's exactly how I was invited) but after pub food and some hat whacking the consensus, as I understand it, is that I can ask my beloved INK members if they'd like to join.  

Lab Rats:

*Write speculative fiction.  SF/F/H or genres that make wet, intimate contact with SF/F/H only, please.  If you don't write it, read it, love it, you won't like how the Rats smell.  
*Meet every three weeks.
*Want people who want to learn how to write better, get published more often (in my case, more times than zero,) critique better, and who won't cry if Jim tells them their story is crap.  If everyone says your story is crap it's okay to cry but you have to hold it in and say you need to use the bathroom, and be sure to wash your face before you come back.  
*Want people who submit writing on a regular basis, and who write on a regular basis.  (Hat whacking  and virtual finger pointing over this issue occurred during the meeting.)
*Want stuff I don't know about because I'm a new-ish member.
*Want world peace.

I've observed that a thick skin is helpful with the Lab Rats.  They're never cruel or mean, but they tell it like they see it.  If that includes "scrap this one and write something else," you'll hear it, maybe even in those exact words.  I've also observed that the Lab Rats are inclusive rather than exclusive.  They're all about the writing.  And the publishing.  And the improving.

In the past a former member repeatedly submitted a first chapter to a novel, hoping to polish it into white rice, I suspect.  The fact that they started with a potato probably wasn't helping.  Anyway, it inspired a rule--six months between re-submitting same material.  It's generally a good idea to keep writing and submitting new stuff to keep from inspiring more rules.

We discussed a member cap.  Because we don't seem to be overwhelmed with submissions the consensus was that there is no member cap until we need one.  If that makes sense.

Anyway, after the rats get a membership story sub we discuss it at the next super-secret meeting at the Lucky Labs pub on Hawthorne at 2pm (next meetings are  June 7 and June 28) and then the idea is that the prospective member comes to the nearest following meeting they can attend to critique whatever's on the table and hear the critiques.  If they don't run away screaming and everyone is good, we end up with a new member.

So send me an ms if you want to play with rats and, since this isn't being done at an OryCon schmoozing session, it may be helpful to the Lucky Labs if you include a wee bit about yourself and your writing goals.  This isn't a cover letter thingy by any means.  We're not that formal (as evidenced by puns, sarcasm and other bad habits.)  I'd just tell them about you guys myself but then I'd feel weird like I'm pitching you.  Not the stuff that comes from trees, or throwing you like a baseball, the other pitching.  No, not throwing you in the garbage!  Oh, I give up.

Yammering About Writer's Groups

After Lucky Labs a few of us discussed how writer's groups are not for everyone. We came up with two categories of people for whom writer's groups are bad. One is the sort of writer whose soul is sucked out by critiques. These writers come out of critiques wanting to set fire to their story and never speak of it again or, worse, with a writer's block that even Hercules couldn't lift. If a writer's group meeting doesn't make you want to dash home and write lots, it's not doing you any good. The other kind of writer is one who is uncertain about the hearts of his/her stories. If the writer is willing to make any kind of modification suggested, or all of them at once, because they have no commitment or passion or inspiration they're willing to trust, a writer's group will destroy the integrity of their voice. The fiction they produce may be serviceable, and readable, but it will be missing that spark that makes editors want to buy a story at best, and turn to ashes at worst. Ashes are really bad. Well, except when C.S. writes about them.

Anyway, the plight of the uncertain author seems like a conundrum. If you go to a critique group for expert, or at least respectable, opinions, shouldn't you listen to them? Of course, but you have to own the story, love it, believe in it. Sometimes a story you love isn't salvageable and you need to let it go, but you have to realize that, believe it, and trust that. Never take apart a story based on someone else's say-so if you're not absolutely sure they're right, even if they're All That. By absolutely sure, I mean you have an aha moment, a realization, a heart-felt feeling of oops when you see your story in a new light. You're not absolutely sure if your gut says, "Gee, Jim said he wouldn't wipe his ass with it, so I guess it's no good," or even, "Everyone had such valid things to say about the weaknesses of the story, it must not be worth fixing." You wrote the story for a reason. It's not like marriage at all, except in this: If you loved the story enough to write it, do what you can to keep that story alive. If it's time for divorce, so be it, but make sure you believe that in your heart, not because your mother told you he's no good for you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Zoo of Factets

I had a great time both with David's talk at the INK meeting and also David's reading at Powell's.  It helped yank me out of a brief but unpleasant writing slump.  I didn't so much have writer's block as a writer's anxiety attack.  Step away from the manuscript, Kami, and keep your hands where I can see them.

I submitted (TBA) to the Writers of the Future contest, so that's another short story submission.  Also need to add on another rejection, this time from the Swivet.  Courting agents is hard.  Can I get back to writing now?  Oh, wait, have to market.  Poop!

I have one more short story submission to make before the end of the month to make my goal.  I think I'll try to find a home for Calling In, but I'm really not sure where to send it next.  Harumph.  I'll make that my project on Friday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

INK Meeting Update

INK had a great meeting with guest David D. Levine last Friday. David talked about how he writes and answered questions. He had wonderful advice for us. I'd go into more details, but I can't find my notes. I may have left them behind, so more on that later when I reconnect with them.

What I do remember is David emphasizing persistence. Have to keep writing, keep editing, and most of all, keep submitting.

He spoke about endings, too, in how to get to them and what to do when an ending doesn't work. It makes perfect sense, too, that it isn't the ending not working, but something in the middle that is throwing the ending off, so look to the middle of the story for the problem.

He encouraged us to continue working on short stories, since they are a condensed form of the writing process. Most of us have dived into the short story pond, and now I think the last of us is ready to get her feet wet, too. So it will be interesting to see what comes across the critique table in the next few months.

I believe most of INK will be attending David's reading and signing at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing. If you are in the area, come join us. It's tonight at 7:00.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Happy Day

I found this in my inbox this morning:
Dear Carissa,
Congratulations, you made Honorable Mention for your story The Spirits of Iceholm for the second quarter.
Join me in a Snoopy Dance?

And thank you, INK members, for helping me make this my best story yet.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weather Report

Since Carole and Kami both asked.

I haven't done much in the way of writing lately. I've been picking myself up from the utter failure that was Script Frenzy, which is rather like trying to get back on a horse that just threw me and is rolling its eyes and flattening its ears in promise of another rough ride.

I do have a couple of story ideas, one in answer to the Garden Story challenge Carole and Kami issued a few months ago. The other is from a dream I had about the same time that has nothing to do with gardens, but quite a bit to do with West Texas, and since I just returned from there the story is nudging me.

I think today is the day when I might venture to swing back into the saddle. I received my first issue of Victoria magazine a few days ago, a newly reinstated magazine that disappeared about four years ago and had once been my favorite. While most of the issue is about china patterns and the joy of blue and white in decorating, there is an article by writer Jan Karon. I haven't read her books (she writes the Mitford series, among others), but I might be looking them up soon because the article is so lovely in its imagery and tone. Moreso, however, Ms. Karon has this to say:
When I write, I dive headlong into the work as into a river, where I swim for my life or, depending on the tenor of the story, float on my back, gazing at clouds. I inhabit that river for five hours or two minutes, ten, or thirty, whatever the day may yield. When there's nothing more to say, feel, or conjure, I make my way to shore, trying to separate fiction from fact, and get on with the business of living.
I love this quote, not only the imagery of writing as a river, but the idea of not holding myself to a certain time frame for writing or a certain word count. This idea, more than anything, is coaxing me back to writing when I have so much else tugging at me to do and see. I know I could fit five, ten, fifteen minutes of writing in a day amid dog-walking, weed-pulling, child-playing, book-reading, journal-writing, and all the other things I like to do during the day. Half a page or six pages, whatever comes out. I could be happy with that for now, just to get back into it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Flash Fiction No Go

I got my (kindly) rejection from Flash Fiction Online today.  I guess that means I'm still immaculate!  Gotta look at the upside of these things, especially with two rejects so close together.  And yet I still feel like making headway.  Isn't the definition of insanity to repeat the same actions over and over and expect a different outcome?

In other writing news, I'm getting that next chunk of Masks edited.  I'll probably email it out in the next couple of weeks for critique either at the end of May or into June, depending on when INK thinks it'll be best as far as reading the chunkaroo.  

In other other writing news, I plan on cutting tile soon, the next step in the great office tile-o-thon.  I've got one three-sided cut that I'm dreading, but the rest of the cuts are straightforward singles or doubles, so hopefully it'll come together quickly.  Then my office will be free, free free! of the under construction signs.  Well, except I'm going to reshelve my closet.  That's a big ugh project, but not nearly as involved as the tiling.

Any other submissions in the works out there?  How's the weather?