Magic of the Everyday, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 10/25/17

Out the window: Clear blue skies, sunshine, and gorgeous coolness. Fall has landed with a thud on north central Florida. Last night the temps were in the low 50’s, tonight should plummet into the 40’s! That’s a far cry from the 90+ degrees of only a few days ago. And I’m soooooo glad.

On the desktop: Other than the plain green tea? A big old mess, quite honestly. Post-It notes trail off and sprawl everywhere, as I attempt to tame and structure a short story that’s had me flummoxed for over a year. I know the basic plot, and the story arc, but it’s still missing that certain spark that will lift it above “meh.” At least I found the obvious structural flaw that was killing it before, right?

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  The novel with the working title “Unspoken.” What with having been gone nearly 2 weeks (and this shortly after having started the novel), I thought I’d have a hard time diving back into the work. But honestly, I haven’t.

The first day back to writing (and yes, after traveling I took the weekend off to recuperate), I re-read the most recent 3,000 words, just to get back into the flow, and to find my protagonist’s voice and emotional state. Apparently it worked, because I wrote that next 1,000 word scene as easily as anything. And the following day, the next scene of 1800 words flew from my fingers onto the keyboard! It was a combat scene, so the action practically wrote itself, and I felt glorious, so accomplished and good!

Spousal Unit said, “Well, that’s because you stopped writing at a great point, leaving yourself an interesting place to dive into.” To which, I replied, “Well of course! Because it’s ALL interesting. I’m leaving the boring parts out of this one.”

Honestly, I’m trying really hard to conquer STRUCTURE on this novel, both on a macro and micro level. I want the final shape of the book to more than vaguely resemble the first draft, you see, because I’ve learned that nothing kills me deader than a really HUGE, HARD revision draft. (I feel tired and cranky just thinking of that!) Enervation seeps from my pours like a late August sweat at the prospect of such an edit. So, you see, I really needed to do something. Studying my craft (as usual) was the answer.

And Another Thing: How is Halloween just around the corner? If the weather cooperates, I’m going to dress up like a living scarecrow and flop on my porch swing to hand out the candy, freaking out (in a good way) all the kids that come by. So, hope and pray for good weather, okay? I’m feeling devilish! 🙂

goals, Paradise Lost, Writing Workshops, Year in Review

Welcome, 2017

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a lovely, peaceful holiday season, and are ready for the challenges and hopes of the coming year. Husband and I celebrated quietly, at home together–the first time we’ve done so in our adult lives. It was a marked change, and honestly, this year was a welcome one, as well.

In addition to celebrating the holidays, I kept writing, and I am pleased to announce that I met my goal of finishing Book Two of my YA urban fantasy trilogy on December 30th! Hurray! We celebrated by eating dinner out that night (more hurray!). Since then, I’ve taken a “vacation” from writing, simply enjoying long naps and late mornings, walking the dog and conversations with friends and family. Very nice. Even the weather has cooperated, staying partly sunny and above-average in warmth, so sitting outside feels perfect.

Later today, I start on Book Three, which is outlined and ready to go. And so am I! I’m excited to get on with Jess’s adventures, seeing and living the world through her eyes. She’s a witch, and one of my favorite parts is exploring her magic–how it works, what it does, how it feels. So much fun!

Once Book Three’s first draft is done, I get edit them all (as soon as I typed the final words on book two, my mind started thinking, “hmm, you know, I should really punch that up back there, and maybe over there, too. And if I only tweaked that, then this will really shine…”). And then, lo and behold…I’ll get to send them off to my editor, after which, I’ll edit again! 🙂 Eventually, though, they will be available–my goal is by the end of the year, but I’ll be sure to update you here before that point.

In addition to all this fun, I’ve started playing around with an idea for my next novel, a stand-alone secondary-world fantasy, currently using the working title of “Unspoken.” AND, I’ve registered for the Paradise Lost Writing Workshop, where I’ll not only see lots of writers I know from Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox, but get to meet other writers while we all work on our books and stories. I get a lot of “creative energy” out of these things, and really hope that Paradise Lost will help me plot-break “Unspoken,” so it’s ready to begin once the Jessamin Stow books are finished.

I’ll make my annual year’s end summary and new-year’s goals posting soon–probably later this week. But for now, I’m easing back into a normal working life again. Which means I need to get writing.

But first, for the coming year I wish all of you comfort in your souls, strength in your wills, and health. Blessings on us all.

Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise, Writing Workshops

It’s That Time of Year Again.

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. December 1st (or January 1st) is when many writing workshops open their application period for the following year. I’ve been to two workshops: Viable Paradise in 2013, and Taos Toolbox this past summer of 2016. Both have been wonderful experiences, and I’ve met wonderful people–classmates as well as instructors–at both. If you’re looking for a workshop experience, I highly recommend either one of them. So, how do you decide?

Viable Paradise is open for applications Jan 1 – June 15, and the workshop this year is Oct 16-21. It’s held in Martha’s Vineyard, MA, and lasts one week. Both short story writers and novelists are welcome. At VP, a whole bunch of instructors are there the whole time, and a couple special guests, as well. You may think, “Well, what can anyone learn in one week? That’s just not enough time.” And you’d be wrong. That week is intense. It’s filled to the brim with lectures and laughter and bonding and critiquing and reading and writing and food and fun and the Horror That is Thursday. You will arrive one person, and leave someone else. Maybe not obviously different, not at first. But fast or slow, you will be changed by your journey across the sea and back again.

Recap: one week; lots of instructors the whole time; no before-hand reading prep.

Taos Toolbox opens for applications on Dec 1, and has a sliding payment scale based upon when you applied (so it helps to apply early if you can). This workshop lasts two weeks, and is located near Taos, NM. It’s mostly novel-focused, but short story writers are welcome, too. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress are the co-instructors the entire two weeks, and guest lecturers came in for an evening of extra instruction. This year’s three guests are George R. R. Martin and Steven Gould and E. M. Tippets, so you’ll certainly find something to your tastes there! Two weeks is twice one week, but the pace here is a bit slower, since there is more time . Also, we got reading packets before the workshop, so we read and critted one another’s novel excerpts before arrival (mostly, at least!). There was a free weekend inside the workshop, too, when many of us explored and did fun things (I hiked down Angel Fire Mountain with two other classmates–how often do you go hiking above 10,000 feet, after all?–and most of us went on a group tour of Taos Pueblo). We wrote, we read, we critiqued and learned the joys of “plot breaking” and talked writing until bats swooped into the skies, distracting us. We learned and learned and learned more. The desert skies changed us, and our words.

Recap: two weeks; two co-instructors and a few 1-day guests; lots of pre-workshop prep.

Of course, these are not the only workshops available. The big six-week workshops are Clarion, Clarion West, and Odyssey. While I’ve heard good things from those who’ve attended them, I haven’t gone to these, so I’m only linking to them for your convenience.

Of course, no one has to attend a workshop in order to become a writer. No one will look down on you, and your career as a writer won’t suffer if you never attend one. But if you can and want to attend, it’s a fun way to learn, to make friends at your own level, who’ll go on to crit and hang out afterwards, both online and in real life. And those friends can see you through a world of ups and downs relating to writing and the writing life. They can make you feel less alone in the isolation of writing from your desk, wherever it may be. And that is never a bad thing.

If you can, I recommend you apply.

Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing, Writing Workshops

The Sound of Writing

There’s always a lot of conversation about what one listens to while writing: movie soundtracks, tunes that evoke the mood of your scene, classical, absolutely nothing at all…the list goes on and on. Basically it comes down to “whatever works for you,” of course. And here’s what works for me: anything without words I understand, or with a presence that will pull me out of writing-trance. In other words, nothing intrusive.

Sometimes, that means “nothing at all” is perfectly fine; I’m at home, the world outside is all birdsong and insect drone (or rain patter and wind moan), and I can write without interruption. Other times, however, I need to drown out the world–loud coffeeshop conversations (or crappy coffeeshop music), or the annoying whine and scream of leaf blowers and chainsaws, or whatever. At those times, I have a couple of options.

Option One is a playlist I’ve made that contains “background music” that I enjoy. It’s an eclectic mix of classical, new age (Enya, Marina Raye, and Anugama), and classical that has “nature sounds” mixed in. It’s soft, soothing, and lasts a long while. And it doesn’t require internet access, if I’m traveling. Perfect.

But sometimes you get tired of the same old thing, right? And I don’t want to spend all my writing time looking for something to listen to. So in the last year or so, I’ve been tuning in over at Tabletop Audio for ambient music. Originally created for RPG gaming sessions, there are looping soundtracks for your every mood: creaking winter woods, steamships, spaceships, elven glades, underwater, underground…you name it! And they’re always adding more. A couple of my favorites are Strangers on a Train (very soothing, that sound of clacking rails; kind of like clacking keys, right? Get clacking!), MiddleEarth: Dawn, Swamplandia, and The Long Rain. But there are so many I haven’t tried yet!

And while some folks have a fine time with Pandora, the ads really annoy me (so LOUD!), and I’m not coughing up the cash for an ad-free experience. So, I hop on over to Tunemark Radio, where I can listen to streaming radio from around the world. Remember that part about not understanding the language? This totally works, even when the broadcasters cut in and chat. And many of the stations are online only, with no announcers or ads to worry about. (A word of caution: it’s kind of addicting and overwhelming at first, and it’s easy to waste hours just flipping around listening in to places around the world. I know; I did this. :-/ But it is fun.)

OK, time to get listening. Tabletop Audio for me today, I think, as I’m reading and critting a whole lotta words in anticipation of Taos Toolbox (just over 2 weeks!). Happy listening!

Personal Life, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 1/20/16

The desk is on vacation today! I am writing from the dining room table, and earlier I sat outside in a sunbeam on the lanai, which meant the dog slept on his cushion in a sunbeam nearby–his favorite place. While it was warm in the sun, I was still wearing a sweater. But, um, yeah. It feels pretty decadent for this Ohio-born girl to be sitting outside mid-January without a hat, coat, mittens, scarf, Thinsulate boots, woolen socks, etc.

Out the window: Full sunshine and blue skies of that intense shade that hurts your eyes if you look too long. After last night’s hard freeze (26°F–brrrr!) and this morning’s etchings of frost on the palms and covered garden plants, it’s really nice to feel the warmth the sun brings back in the afternoon hours.

On the desktop: Or, um, the table, as it were. A teapot of Jasmine Green Tea, and a large cup (not a mug) with stylized Asian dragon in blues and gold on white to drink it from. An empty glasses case (glasses on my face). A purple tablecloth. A change of scene.

Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m editing the first draft of my Jessamin Stow urban fantasy series’ first book. Nearly halfway through–hurray! The really messy parts were the opening scenes and the upcoming ending scenes. I’m not sure if this says something about my writing or just about this story in particular, but I’m pretty pleased with how the opening has changed after my beta readers gave me the long and the short of the mess I’d made of it first time around. Sheesh! This is exactly why you should never compare your first drafts against another author’s published novel–all those in-between drafts are really necessary!

I also finished up reading the Codex Weekend Warrior contest submissions for my division–26 flash stories of 750 words or less this week. Once I posted my comments, I got to see how my own dear story was faring. Not bad! Not first place by a long shot, but also not the bottom. And I’m getting great comments on how to gussy it up (with additional words, of course!) and get it sold, so you can read it! That’s the real “win” of the contest: more words written, more stories to send out. Wheeee!

And Another Three Things: 1) I will have good news to share with you later, and I’m very excited to do so, but right now I have to sit on my hands and be patient.

2) Soon I’ll have my very first guest post here, which I’m really excited about! You should be, too–it’s cool, and very fun!

3) And finally, I will probably go oddly quiet here now and again. Another family health crisis–2016 isn’t starting off very good that way, and it’s been hard to juggle all the parts of life with another heavy wrench thrown into the game. So thanks for bearing with me.

Keep thinking warm.

food, Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 6/3

I’ve got nothing else exciting going on, so here: look at my desk!

Out the window: A vivid aquamarine sky with white puffs of clouds. Palms swaying in the gentle breeze, and a hummingbird getting annoyed by my motions. Why can’t I just hold still and let her (no red throat) feed?

On the desktop: A mug of water, as usual. Sen Cha Green Tea Mints (gluten free!). And a really terrible sugar cookie with “key lime” icing. So sweet! So bland. But I’m eating it. (sigh)

Today’s Work-in-Progess: Editing short stories, written during the novel’s first draft and then left to languish, into something resembling submittable forms. Today I’m focusing on two, both of which started life as flash fiction, and only one of which will remain flash (maybe). The other will be closer to 2,000 words. I love them both.

One is SF, the other fantasy. I love both sub-genres within spec fic, and can’t stick to just one. I’m still not sure if this is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing that will have no bearing on anything. I’ll let you know when (if) I find out.

During this year so far, I’ve written (but not edited to submittable) ten short stories. My goal is 12 edited and submitted. I also finished the novel, am planning the short novel series that I’m hoping to begin writing later this year, and will start editing the novel in late July or August. So, while it sounds like I’m so far ahead and how amazing is that, really, I’ll barely have time to get it all done if I don’t get my tail in gear.

I realize that I really missed getting short stories out for submission during the novel’s writing. Finalizing a short story and sending it out for beta, and then onto submission rounds, feels like “instant accomplishment.” Writing a novel? Delayed gratification. Neither is better, but I think I need a balance of the two to prevent myself from getting too ansty. Next time, I’ll do better. I promise.

And Another Couple of Things:  Dasher’s swimming has progressed to the point where he sometimes goes in for a swim just because he can. Or because it’s hot and he wants to cool off. And he swims like a champ, not a rock. Sometimes he launches himself off the step, chasing the frisbee with such enthusiastic force that he makes a wave, and leaves a wake. (Insert proud dog-mom face here)

Also, the garden is going gangbusters. Tomatoes like…um, delicious ripe tomatoes. And more basil than I can keep up with. I’ve already frozen some pesto for when it all goes limp and gives up (sometime in August?).  At the farmers’ market, there are eggplants to make you weep. Can you say “eggplant parmesan?” Yum.

Which brings me to dinner. Off I go. Happy June, everyone!

Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 2/16

Since my mind is a blank, I’ll show you my desk.

Out the window: Strong breezes rattle the lady palm, making it sound like soft rainfall. Further off, dangling Spanish moss sways and dances from the oaks’ limbs. Earlier it was partly sunny, but now it’s mostly clouds, in preparation for tomorrow’s (very welcome) rains. As yet, it’s warm (about 70), but cooling quickly. Which is making me sad.

On the desktop: A sprawl of papers and maps and notes. A written list of blog topics to write about, should the brain go numb for too long.  A cup of Japanese green tea, and the remains of a gluten-free apple cinnamon  toaster pastry (cinnamon-mmmmmm!). Beside the desk, the dog is curled into his bed, sleeping snugly.

Today’s Work-in-Progess: First, a bit on the novel. I need to finish off this scene, and segue into the next. As the tension ramps up, I’m finding there’s less I can do in a single sitting. I have to get up, move around, release some adrenaline in some way, before I come back and try it again. (Or, in some cases, get distracted by something that absolutely needs to be done at this very moment or the world will end–AKA, cat vacuuming.)

Then I want to edit a short story written last month. It isn’t working as it reads now, and I think I know why–but I want to be sure before I chop and hack it up. This may be a slower edit than I’d like. Heh. What else is new?

And Another Thing:  There’s a new feature over at Fantasy Scroll Magazine. A podcast! The first episode is “The City Dreams of Bird-Men” by Emily B. Cataneo, and is read by Rachel Aronov. I think it’s well done, and well narrated. What say you?

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Writing

Writing Update, February 2015

It’s been awhile since I’ve been posting here regularly. The dog’s health and other family matters, along with my own writing, have been great distractions from this place. I hope that I’m safe in saying I’m back to more regular blogging here. Cross your fingers for me on this?

While I haven’t been here, I have been busy. In five weeks I’ve managed to write six supposedly-flash stories. “Supposedly” because, while I shoe-horned them into 750 words or less (as the contest required), my feedback was regularly that the stories “need more words.” Proof of two things: my utter distraction, and my struggle to write good, solid flash fiction. (If you write flash well and easily, I admire and slightly envy you!)

These stories will be edited and lengthened in the coming weeks, and with luck will be making submission rounds shortly thereafter. That, too, will be a good thing. My current submissions have fallen to an embarrassingly low number. I needed to restock that well.

I have not been writing on the novel. I know, I know! But let me assure you that I’m back at it now, and it feels really, really good to be there again. While the new dog was having surgery and seizures and such, the novel became too much for my sleep-deprived brain to deal with. Ergo, flash fiction writing. Fast, fun and quick writing–all things my brain craved.

In addition, I’ve been spending more time both outdoors, doing piddly bits of gardening as the weather allows, and in the kitchen. Dasher the dog enjoys being around me when I’m doing either. In the garden, he can chew pine bark mulch and chase tiny lizards into hiding. In the kitchen, as food is prepared he dreams and hopes for bits to come his way, and it sometimes does. We’ve discovered that he thinks ice cubes are like gifts from the gods, all crunchy and cool and fantastically fun. Um, okay–really cheap treats. Also, I’ve started dehydrating sweet potatoes slices and storing them in the freezer, and he thinks these are even better than ice cubes, if perhaps eaten quicker. At farm market prices, these are a great bargain, too.

Just after the new year, I purchased one of those small foam pads for kitchen use. This one is just large enough for a person to stand on, and is intended for those at a standing desk. Well, my kitchen has a raised bar, just the right height. With this padding my feet from the hard tile-over-concrete floor, I now have a “standing desk” in my kitchen that disappears in a flash. Except…the dog likes the pad, too, and tries to curl onto it around my feet. Sigh. Don’t even try coming back after a bathroom break–he’ll have taken it over. Then I clean up and go back to the “sitting desk” in the other room. Ah, well. I did want canine companionship; I’m getting it in spades! (And–really–loving it.)

Wait, what was that sound? Ah, it’s the novel, calling me. Whispering a sweet, come-hither song into my ear. I’m off now, into another world. One day, I hope I can share it with you. Until then, happy reading, and happy writing.