Red Sea at Noon

This week’s flash fiction challenge is courtesy of Chuck Wendig.  I had 1,000 words to incorporate the following: Weird Tales, Besieged by the enemy!, Beneath the Sea, An Ancient Curse.  Enjoy!

 

 

“Captain, there’s something that demands your attention.”  The young seaman saluted neatly as he waited for his captain’s response.

 

“Can’t someone else deal with it?”  The Captain didn’t even look up from the stack of papers that filled her small desk.

 

“No ma’am.  The Bridge requested you specifically.”

 

Captain Mariana sighed and rose from the hard metal chair.  “Alright, lead on sailor.”

 

It took longer than Seaman Anderson would have liked to maneuver through the tight passageways that led from the Captain’s office to the Bridge.  Even after two months on board, the confined nature of the sub still left him feeling claustrophobic and it was with a sigh of relief that he finally emerged into the relative expanse of the Bridge.

 

“Captain on Deck!”  Everyone within the room stood with a clamber and saluted, an action which the Captain waved aside with one hand.

 

“So, what was so important that you had to send a dog to drag me away from my paperwork?”

 

Anderson’s mouth dropped, but he said nothing.

 

“This, ma’am.”  The Lieutenant in command said with a wave towards one of the small portholes.  “We just entered the Triangle an hour ago.  I fear we’re going to have to place our search and rescue plans on hold.”  Anderson didn’t have to move from his spot to ascertain what had caught the crew’s attention – an eerie red glow seemed to be pulsing through the porthole.

 

“Red sky at night; sailor’s delight.  Red in the morning; sailor’s warning.”  Captain Mariana muttered to herself as she stared through the porthole.

 

“Respectfully, ma’am, then what does a red sea at noon signify?”  The crew turned to stare, mouths agape, at Anderson’s insubordination, but the Captain merely smiled.

 

“It means war, Seaman.”

 

Although nobody laughed, Anderson knew that this must be some kind of ritual hazing of the new crew.  Frankly, he had expected something like this weeks ago.  “War against whom, ma’am?  The mermaids?”

 

When the Captain whirled to face him, Anderson knew he had said something wrong.  “What do you know about such things?”

 

“Only what I’ve seen in Disney films, ma’am.”  Surely this was part of the hazing, although the Captain might be taking it a bit too far.  “You know, the one where they sing all the time, except for the one who has to give up her voice to find true love?”

 

The Captain laughed and motioned Anderson towards the porthole.  “Is that what you think you see outside?”

 

 

“But when the Seaman looked through the porthole, all he saw were horrible green-skinned merfolk with sharp teeth, holding spears that glowed red and gold.  The sub’s torpedoes could not slow them and they swarmed the submarine in mere moments, spears able to pierce even the thickest of steel.”

 

The Cruise Director stopped and regarded his shivering audience of youngsters with satisfaction.  Horror Hour was almost complete, and he would need to hustle to make it to the costume competition on the Lido Deck, but he took the time to enjoy the terrified noises of his young audience.

 

“But if they destroyed the sub, how do you know what happened?”  One of the older ones asked, clearly feigning bravery for his younger sister.

 

The Director turned on the glowing prop that he had been holding behind his back and brandished it towards the boy.  “Because I was one of the ones on the attack!”  He shouted with a malicious laugh.

 

The room soon emptied and the Director chuckled to himself as he walked along the deck towards his next obligation.  Children were so gullible, he almost couldn’t stand it.  He had to admit that the cruise company’s idea to run a Halloween cruise over the cursed Bermuda Triangle had been brilliant – half of the passengers were already on edge and easier than usual to scare.

 

“Red sea at noon, indeed.”  He muttered to himself as he climbed the metal stairs up to the next deck.

 

If he had bothered to pay attention or look down, he might have heard the enemy crawling slowly up the side of the boat or seen the red glow underneath the ship in time to sound the alarm.

Welcome to the Batcave!

… okay, not really.

 

But since NaNoWriMo is on the way, I thought I would take you on a quick tour of my writing lair/office (I prefer lair).  Mark and I have been preparing the house and our lives for November, so I actually spent the last few days tidying it up and making it workable.  I expect I will be spending a lot of time here over the next few weeks.

 

Here we go!

 

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My office!  From the doorway you can see (from left to right) the cat house, my shelves, my cupboard and my desk!

 

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A closer view of the shelves and all the books that I have (not so many as you’d think, and recently pared down) and some of my precious treasures.

 

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My desk, with my bulletin board of writerly motivations.

 

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My crafty zone (with all my knitting) and my sewing machine (mostly used for now as a holder of tea things and, apparently, my lightsabre).  Also, my filing system that needs a better home.

 

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And my cleverly hidden printer and writing books!  The drawers are filled with more craft stuff and other things that still need a home.

 

And that’s my lair!  I hope you like it as much as I do.

A Big Decision – Redux

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 Image from Dreamstime

 

Last week, I spoke of a decision that I had to make.  At the time, I couldn’t talk about it, but I can now.

 

On Monday, I quit my day job (but not, as I mentioned, to be a full-time writer, I have another job lined up).  It was a difficult decision to make, as I’ve worked there for the last four and a half years, and I really enjoy and respect the people that I work with.  But I haven’t been as happy there as I once was, and I feel a little like I’m stagnating career-wise (mostly because of a lack of work in the last few months).

 

Today I packed up my worldly possessions (three boxes, 9 plants, 1 fish) that I have gathered at my job over the last four and a half years with a slight sense of sadness.  I will really miss my co-workers and the flexible and fun environment that I have gotten used to, but I think that this change will be good for me.  It may not be the ideal job, but it will be a change and will force me to learn some new skills and strengths.  And definitely new experiences to include in my writing (judiciously changed, of course :-).)

 

I want to thank you all for your support and encouragement after I posted my last entry.  I really appreciate it and I’m excited for this new adventure.  My last week at work will be bittersweet, but I’ll be looking forward to new experiences too, and I’m glad to have you all along for the ride!

A Big Decision

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Image from Dreamstime

 

I have a big decision to make that I can’t really talk about.  I know, I know: way to be vague, Candice.  I promise that I will share the details as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I ponder.

 

Well, that’s not true, I know exactly what I’m going to do, I just need to convince myself that it’s really the right answer.  And sadly, it doesn’t involve whether I should quit my day job to be a full-time writer.  Maybe soon, though.

 

It’s a decision fraught with emotion that’s been sapping away my energy for writing and has made me second-guess everything that I thought I knew about myself, everything that I thought I knew, and everything that I desire.  And that’s hard too: to try and re-recognize what you really want and what’s really important.  And it definitely hasn’t been easy: that’s why I’ve been so quiet lately, and making so little progress on the writing front.

 

But soon, things will be settled again, and I will start to become productive.  And hopefully that will happen sometime before November!  I do know that, as I come closer to actually making the decision, that the overwhelming uncertainty that I have been feeling is starting to subside, only to be replaced with grief at the things I will be losing.

 

I need to do what’s right for me, I know that.  But what’s right for me isn’t necessarily the easy thing.  In fact, this decision is one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.  And I’ve had to do a lot of difficult things in the last couple of years.

 

I hope that you’ll all cross your fingers for me and wish me luck and strength as I make this choice.

 

How do you process difficult choices?

“Real” Writer – Part Two

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Image from Dreamstime

 

So… I have an update on my last post (delay courtesy of Thanksgiving weekend!).  I heard back last Monday from the editor and learned that my story wasn’t accepted.  I’m trying to see this as an opportunity to send the story to another market and maybe hear back more quickly, but it’s my first rejection and I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a little upset.  Still, all I can do is move on and keep trying.  One day, I’ll get my first yes.

 

Fortunately, I didn’t have to think too hard about it over the weekend, as I spent some time with my parents, helping them build a deck and playing with their new dog Gypsy.  She’s six and was rescued from a broken home, and she’s the sweetest little girl that I’ve ever met.   Only time will tell if she gets along with my cats (they have yet to be introduced).

I am a “Real” Writer

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Image from Dreamstime

 

I forget where I read it, probably because I’ve seen it in several places, but I’ve seen lately that “real writers ship”.  Which means, to send writing out into the world, to be read and to change lives.

 

Well, I haven’t shipped very much to date.  I’ve submitted to a couple of contests, but otherwise, nothing.  Fortunately, that changed last week!  I’ve been working on  a short story for an anthology that I heard about in July, and on Tuesday, I sent it out!  I’m proud of the little story, although I have no illusions that it will actually be accepted.  I think it’s a neat concept though, that I can recycle or re-use if it doesn’t get accepted.

 

In the meantime, please cross your fingers for me!  I should hear by the end of the year, and it will be my first “real” published piece (and will pay!) if it gets picked.  If not, I might just share it here!

 

Are you a “real” writer?  What have you shipped?

I’m Writing Again!

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Image from Dreamstime

 

 

I am writing again!

 

I know, you probably think that’s an odd statement for a writer to make, but I’ll level with you: I haven’t been writing very much in the last three weeks.

 

There are reasons for that, of course, but they are really more like excuses.  Sure, I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo stuff (helping to re-write the ML Guide, for new and returning MLs, planning this upcoming year, working on a new Calgary NaNo Website), with my house (finishing a two-year renovation that is SO VERY CLOSE to being done, organizing and tidying, purging), and with my day job (that is finally keeping me busy again – woo!), but there’s been a lot of time left for writing.

 

So why haven’t I been writing?  That’s a good question.  A part of me needed a break from Camp NaNo and from things going on in my non-writing life.  A part of me has been re-focusing on critique group and a couple of short stories that I am submitting for publishing (cross your fingers for me).  And a part of me hasn’t been sure what to write, exactly, given that NaNo is coming up and I am still hoping for a winning idea for a new experiment that I want to try in November.

 

But really?  I’ve been lazy and unmotivated.  I think I have been overwhelmed with the sheer amount of STUFF that I have to do before November (both writing-wise and house-wise) and I’ve let the things that revitalize me slip.

 

But this weekend was the break/wake-up call that I needed!  My partner and I went camping for three days, where there is power, but no internet or cell reception, and it was a glorious three days of writing, reading, knitting, sleeping-in, and watching the leaves fall.  Autumn has never been my favourite season, but it is slowly becoming so: I love watching the colours change, feeling a slight nip in the air, and needing warmer clothes (some of which I have knit myself).  It was a great break from the day to day at home, especially on a year when I feel like I have completely missed summer!

 

I returned from camping last night with renewed determination, and have finally turned the heel on the second sock of a pair I have been working on for three years.  That’s kind of sad, really.  But they will soon be done (I’m knitting them toe-up and they have a short cuff, so only about an inch and a half of knitting to do) and presented to the ever-patient partner, who has nearly worn through the last pair of socks that I knitted him.

 

I have also been doing some editing and have worked through 4.5 chapters of Fighter One.  That’s more writing in one weekend than I’ve done all month, and I can feel things starting to come together on the story.  There’s lots of work left to do, but they won’t get done if I don’t work on them.

 

All in all, I’m somewhat pleased with what I have done lately, and feel much better having dedicated some time on the things that make me happy.

 

Now I just have to keep up that pace.

 

What makes you happier than anything else?  Do you make time to do that?

Preparing for NaNo

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Image from Dreamstime

 

A lot of people prepare for NaNoWriMo.  I do as well, only my preparations are a little bit different from everyone else’s.

 

Of course, I plan a novel to write.  I didn’t use to (when I started NaNo, I was a committed pantser) but I’ve learned recently that NaNo is much easier with a plan firmly in place.  Shockingly, that’s the easy part of preparing for NaNo.

 

Yes, I just called planning an entire novel “easy”.

 

For me, the hard part is getting ready for my Municipal Liaison duties.  As an ML, I work with a good friend to plan various and sundry local events, write and send out weekly pep-filled e-mails, and generally act as a cheerleader for the local group of crazies… I mean writers.  No matter how well we plan, it’s exhausting and usually knocks me out for most of December (I recover just in time for Christmas!)  But I wouldn’t change it for the world!

 

I don’t want to talk a lot about what’s going on this year, because I know some local Wrimos read this blog and I don’t want to spoil them just yet, but here’s a general schedule for what we do to prepare.

 

 

July – start to get excited: only three months to go!

 

August – get together and plan approximate event dates and locations, working around work schedules, my trip to San Francisco, and other time constraints.  There are six major (newcomer’s night, kickoff, midnight kickoff, midway bash, twelve-hour, and TGIO – Thank Goodness It’s Over) and eight minor (weekly write-ins) events, as well as eight online events.  That works out to nineteen events in thirty days (not including kickoff, newcomer’s night, and TGIO, which happen in other months.  And that’s a small load for a region of our size.

 

September – Order stickers for the locals, brainstorm ideas for the yearly theme, and start on any prep work that we can do.  This includes the “survival kit”/goody bag for kickoff, pre-writing as much of the weekly e-mails as we can, planning the midway craft, brainstorm fundraising ideas, ‘standard’ forum posts that always go up, posters, press releases, etc.  Of course, here’s when we start to confirm with venues and beg for space that we need, prizes for TGIO attendees and superstars, and generally begin to freak out.

 

October – Pray that stickers arrive in time.  Wash hideous yellow ML shirt (I would include a picture, but it’s not photographable.  Seriously, you’ll thank me for this).  Finalize dates with all venues.  Finalize all written information.  Print out what needs to be printed and put together goody bags, craft supplies, and all necessary other goodies and supplies.  Try not to panic.  Host newcomer’s night and prepare for kickoff.  Host kickoff.  Prepare for midnight kickoff, and get ready for another wild ride!

 

November – I cannot describe NaNoWriMo to you.  It’s a month filled with joy, sorrow, stress, creativity, inspiration, perspiration, and general insanity that can only be experienced.  In my case, I will be spending a week in San Francisco for the annual “Night of Writing Dangerously” write-a-thon/fundraiser for NaNoWriMo.  I’ll return the night before our twelve-hour event.  Yes, I am completely insane.

 

December – Host TGIO.  Try to find any remaining energy to be peppy.  Sleep for two weeks.  Wake up and prepare for Christmas.

 

 

And that’s it.  Then I rest for eight more months and start the whole crazy process over again.  It’s a wild ride, but the day I have to quit being an ML, I’m pretty sure wild horses will be involved.  A whole herd.  With the requisite thundering and snorting and pawing of hooves.

 

Anyway, there will be more NaNoWriMo information incoming as we get closer to the month.  I’ll try not to be too boring but it’s about to consume my life for the next few weeks.

 

T-45 days until NaNoWriMo!  Are you ready?

 

What do you do to prepare for NaNo?  Any MLs care to weigh in on their process (or lack thereof)?

 

An Organized Life is a Happy Life

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Image from Dreamstime

 

 

About a week ago, I got a bee in my bonnet.

 

Not literally; I don’t wear a bonnet.

 

I finished Camp NaNoWriMo and suddenly realized that my house was a disaster.  I’m sill working my way out of the aftermath of a renovation, not to mention having ignored my home during both June and August.  It was time to make a change.

 

I’ve spent most of my free time since then tidying, organizing, and cleaning.  I’ve spent way more time and money than is probably healthy in the local dollar store (buying baskets/cleaning gear/equipment/etc.) and the house is finally starting to approach a state of livability that it hasn’t seen in months (okay… years.)  It’s not done yet, but it’s coming along.

 

I have a bad tendency to focus a little too much on my current project, and Camp NaNo has been no exception.  In fact, I haven’t written anything since I started the cleaning wave.  I’m not sure if that’s entirely healthy (I do need to learn ways to focus on more than one thing at a time) but it’s what I have to work with right now. Things are going to get busier in the next few weeks (the start of fall means work will start to pick up and then NaNo will start) so I’m taking the time now to make sure things are in order.

 

As much order as my life ever sees, anyway.

 

Do you find organizing things gets a little difficult sometimes?

Reflections on a Year

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Image from Dreamstime

 

 

I don’t know if I’ve posted about it before, but just over a year ago, I started tracking how and on what project I was spending my writing time.  This includes everything from research/development, to editing, to critiquing, to career research.  My ultimate goal is to get to 2,000 hours written total, which is the point at which one is considered “proficient” in a craft.  10,000 hours of work means one is a master.  Given that I’m at 1626.5 hours to date, I’m close to proficient, but far from a master.

 

Another benefit of tracking is that it’s ended up teaching me a lot about how and when I work and where I spend the bulk of my hours.

 

On August 13, 2012, I completed my first year of tracking.  In that time, I have:

  • Done 118 hours of research and development (including outlining)
  • Spent 185.25 hours on first drafts
  • Spent 45.75 hours editing
  • Written over 195,000 words
  • Spent an average of 6.7 hours/week on writing or related tasks

 

Of those hours, I spent:

  • 208.5 on novels
  • 34.5 on short stories
  • 34.25 on critiques
  • 18 on blogging
  • 16.25 on my April Screnzy graphic novel
  • 6 on flash fiction
  • 31 on other writing related projects

 

I think it’s pretty obvious that I need to spend a little bit more time editing, so I expect to see those numbers creep up over the next year.  I also want to start spending more time on short stories (which kind of means that I need to start writing more of them), although I am generally pleased with where I’ve spent the rest of my time.

 

I was a little surprised by the total number of words and especially the weekly hourly average, given that it was about 5 hours/week a few months ago.  Clearly I’ve gotten that much more serious in the last few months!  It’s interesting to see how I was rather slow the first few months, but that quickly picked up in the months that followed.

 

Theoretically, in less than 400 hours (about a year at my current rate) I should be close to ready for publication.  That is and has always been the ultimate goal, but I think that a little more dedication, much like I’ve been putting in recently, will really help.  Of course, the time I put in can only do so much – it needs to be quality time too.  And that’s the real struggle, isn’t it?

 

How do you track where you’re at with your career?