Huh

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised.

Back in… April? (it’s been a while) I submitted two short stories for a contest. It’s open only to people who are attending a local writers’ and readers’ festival/convention. My amazing husband submitted last year and was shortlisted. He didn’t place in the top three, but he did get his story published in a little chapbook and they did an event at the convention where the top ten writers read a bit of their submission. Afterwards, all the writers signed each other’s books and then the judges announced their overall thoughts of each finalist before finally announcing the top three winners.

They offer a critique of your work whether you win or not, and I figured: why not give it a go? So I polished up two short stories that I’ve had floating around for a few years and emailed them off to the editor for this year’s contest. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

I’m not very good at waiting. I had some consolation, though, in that two of our friends and my husband had also submitted. I had mostly forgotten about it until it was pointed out that, last year, my husband had heard back by late June. Then the waiting got even harder. Together we checked our email multiple times daily, waiting in agony, asking each other at least weekly whether any of us had heard anything about the contest at all.

Finally, a month later than we expected, we heard something. I found out on Saturday that one of my two short stories was among the top ten! I was pleased, but not really surprised, because I figured both the stories had a solid chance at placing. (And yes, I did jump up and scream and hug my friends and call my parents and all that when I found out).

What surprised me was the story that placed. Of the two I thought that the one that was selected was the weaker, and it was the one I suspected might not be chosen. Lucky for me, I was wrong! I guess there’s a home for every story and the second one might find its place elsewhere. In fact, I’m sure that it will.

But now, I have to write a biography for my first little short story to be published! Let’s hope that it’s the first of many.

And… Done

Well, it took months, so long that I can’t even remember how long it’s been, but I’ve finally completed the re-plotting of Fighter One and the four potential sequels.  Now that I know where the story might go, I can be sure to leave just the right foreshadowing in the first story (the only one I’m likely to write, unless it’s as good as I hope/think it is).  I’m actually very pleased with the way that it turned out, and the plot even surprised me until the very end.  My subconscious and I are apparently a very good team.

 

Now all that’s left (hah) is to update my list of scenes and edit the novel.  It’s in pretty good shape already, but there are a few minor changes that I need to make and some things that I want to add/show.  All told, I’ll probably add 10,000 words.  Which brings it up to well over the length of a typical YA novel, but then I’ll cut it back down.  Or I might just leave it as it is – I’m starting to think the story is more NA than YA, though it would probably fit each category fine.  I guess I’m going to have to do some research!  (Boo hoo, I have to read a lot of books in the name of research, how sad).

 

Next on the list though, is sending what I’ve prepared to my critique group to make sure the plot is as solid as I think it is.  I hope it won’t be a huge blow to the ego!

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Normally, I’m pretty good at computer shortcuts.  I use them all the time, both for writing and for work.  It’s one of the reason my more… ‘senior’ coworkers think I’m so fast on the computer.  I’m pretty good at realizing when I’ve made a mistake and fixing it.  Control-Z is my friend.

 

Sometimes, I admit, I do struggle to switch from my work (Windows) machine to my home (Macbook) one.  Usually I try to hit control instead of command (or alt instead of control, depending on where I am and how hard I’ve been working).  It usually doesn’t work but doesn’t screw anything up, so I laugh and move on.

 

This weekend, I screwed up.

 

It wasn’t funny.

 

I had just spent two hours working through the plot summary (step 6 of the Snowflake method, if you’re curious) for my novel’s potential sequel.  It was brilliant, it was witty, it was even charming.  And I promptly accidentally deleted it (I won’t go into cutting versus copying and why I should have done one and not the other).  And my trusty command-Z apparently doesn’t work on Scrivener.

 

I was crushed.  Just ask poor Mark.  Weirdly, I was more angry with myself than sad, which is a nice change over crying in the corner for a few hours, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant.  It was hard to admit that I’d made that kind of a boneheaded mistake.  But I did.  And now I know that cutting in Scrivener (at least my version) can’t be undone.  So LEARN FROM ME PEOPLE!  DON’T FOLLOW IN MY TRAGIC FOOTSTEPS!

 

All it will do is keep you up to 2 am re-writing what you lost.

 

[Which, oddly, only took about 25 minutes.  Apparently there’s something to re-writing it right away.  It lost some of the sparkle, but the function is all still there.]

 

What’s the silliest computer mistake you’ve ever made?

Big Enough to Drive a Truck Through…

I think I mentioned that I’ve been working on re-plotting Fighter One.  It’s a good storyline, I just needed to do some major surgery to make it all work the way that I wanted it to.  I’ve switched events around, moved the whole thing further forward in the timeline, and played with point of view.  I actually finished the latest write-through during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

And promptly returned to my Snowflake.  You see, although this is a standalone novel, there’s the potential for a five book series, and I wanted to plot that series out before I went much further.  A lot can happen over four additional books, and I want to ensure that I leave the cornerstones of the plot and story world that I will need for those books.

 

I knew from the beginning of the process that there was a problem with the last two books, but not what exactly.  I had a vague idea that the last two books would reveal a sweeping and epic problem that would lead to an awesome climax and end the series with a metaphorical (and possibly literal) bang. I just didn’t know what this problem was.

 

I figured it out on Saturday, at what I would have thought to be both the most and least likely of places.

 

Saturday I attended When Words Collide, which is a local writers/readers con.  I learned a lot, like I fully expected, but I was sitting in a panel that I thought would be relevant to my main character(s) when somebody said something that made me think about my own story.

 

And then I realized exactly what the central crux of the whole series was about, and it wasn’t what I thought.  The plot hole wasn’t big enough to drive a truck through, that’s an exaggeration, but it was quite large and it had been bothering me for a month or so.  To have it sorted out was both a relief and exhilarating.

 

Of course, it totally changed the course of the books, so I have a little bit of re-plotting to do now.  But it’s totally worth the extra work to get everything figured out!!

 

Phone The Media

I’ve been writing again.

 

Newspaper of New Zealand

 Photo from here

 

Slowly, to be sure, and not terribly effectively, but I’m writing again.

 

I haven’t talked about it much here, but I’ve actually been really struggling to write lately.  I haven’t had the mental and physical energy that I’ve needed to really devote myself to the task.  In part, I think it’s because of the day job, which has some really unusual hours right now, and often gets me home well after 7:00 three days of the week.  After then, by the time I eat and settle in, it’s bedtime.  So those days aren’t writing days.

 

But I’ve also found it hard to settle into a good sleep on those days (only having two hours at home isn’t what I’m used to).  Since the long days are usually Monday and Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday and rarely Thursdays, that means I’m exhausted by the end of the week and I need Thursday/Friday to catch up.  Then comes the weekend, which will be very busy now that it’s summer.

 

I’m probably not struggling with anything that’s terribly unusual to most of my colleagues out there, but I’m finding it difficult right now.  I’m also training for a 5K run at the end of June, trying to lose a little of the weight that I put on over the last few years (the side effect of some medication that I really needed), and attempting, however ineffectively, to spend some time with friends.  Writing time is at a premium these days.

 

Which is par for the course for summer, really.  I should be used to it by now, but this year it seems to be more of a struggle than usual.  All the same, I did a little bit of writing/editing this weekend.  It was mostly planning, since my motivation was stronger for that, and getting back into working again on something that I was motivated to do seemed logical, but at least I did it.  Now I just need to sustain it.  I should be good at this, since squeezing in bits of writing is all I preach during November, but I’m finding it harder to just edit for fifteen minutes like I could if I were writing.  What I’m working on needs a bit of conscious thought and sustained effort.  So I’m just going to have to experiment, I guess!

 

What are your tricks for writing when you don’t have much time?

 

 

 

 

Surprised by my own Skill

I’m having trouble trying to decide where to start this post.  Mostly because I was at work for nearly 12 hours today and doing something resembling work for at least 10 of them (I can call the other two “team building, right?).  I’m tired.  And hungry, even though I just ate.

 

But I’m not here to complain.

 

Not about the long hours, anyway.

 

You see, something unusual happened to me this weekend.  It was a long one for me (my company gives one Friday off a month) and I spent the Friday doing house and grown up things that need to be done when one is a grown up with a house (called insurance company about last year’s hail claim, mowed lawn, took out trash, called doctor, etc.).

 

 

Some of that is unusual.

 

But that’s not what I want to talk about.  Friday night I joined my parents and their dog on a jaunt out to the lake, as it was Mother’s Day. We had a nice visit, hung around in the sun, did some shopping for plants, visited with my cousin, her son, and his puppy, who is only three months and adorably tiny (unlike the baby tiger below – added for visual interest).

 

 

 

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I even read a book or two.

 

 

Okay, so it was a newer Clive Cussler that my dad left on his bedside table.  Nothing fancy or terribly thought provoking, but it was a fun read for a few hours.  Brain candy is sometimes healthy, right?  Anyway, there was a scene in it that involved a husband and wife in mortal danger, which reminded me somewhat tangentially of a scene in the possible sequel to “Fighter One” (which I drafted during a NaNoWriMo a few years back).  I was curious if my memory of what I had written was correct, so I re-read the draft.  And ended up also reading the draft of the next in the series after that.

 

 

The strange thing?  I couldn’t put my own books down.  It was kind of like when I read “The Hunger Games” after having watched the movie: I knew how it ended, but I was compelled to keep on reading just to be sure.  And it was enjoyable.  Much more so than reading the first in the series is right now (after I’ve torn it completely apart and put it back together backwards… twice).  I actually really enjoyed reading the books.

 

Now, they aren’t the pinnacle of literary brilliance, I know that.  They’re first drafts, and NaNo drafts at that.  But the potential is what amazed me.  And, more than anything right now, I desperately want to re-write those two books, and finish the series (I know exactly how it will end.  It’s wonderful and poignant and circular and beautiful, and the changes that I’ve made to the first book will only make the last one better).  Which means finishing the first in the series, but I’ve been looking for the motivation to do that for a few months anyway.

 

The big problem?  The darn day job!  I really wished the weekend had been a few days longer so that I could have capitalized on the wave of motivation that I felt.  Since that cannot be, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself of the feeling until I make the time to actually sit down and write again.  Maybe over the (next) long weekend.

 

Have you ever completely surprised yourself with your own talent?

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I do this to myself in the offseason?

So on Saturday, The Office of Letters and Light had their first annual Camp NaNoWriMo marathon.  Eight hours of writerly goodness interspersed with livestreams by NaNoWriMo staff, and I sat through all eight of them, which let me catch up on the writing I was behind by, and was a lot of fun.

 

But woah, was I tired by the end of it!  I don’t usually spend that much time straight working on much of anything (my day job entails a lot of getting up and talking to people) and it was mentally and physically exhausting.  Which is funny, because I’ve done 12 hour write-ins as an ML (which means being peppy and loud and organizing a bunch of people who don’t always want to be organized) and I don’t remember being that tired.  Then again, I deliberately dedicate a lot more energy to things during NaNo time so that could be throwing off my perception.  Maybe it’s just a different kind of tired.

 

It was nice spending time on what I’ve heard referred to as my “heart job” and I really like that phrase as a description of the work I feel called to do.  I can see myself spending long days like that on writing in the future, although I do think I will split the time up between writing and editing.  8,000 words in one day is excessive, even for me, to continue on an ongoing basis (note to any cyborgs who might read this – your mileage may vary).  But it will definitely be few and far between while I still work the day job (unfortunate, but a reality of life, I suppose).

 

On the plus side, said day job is going very well, and despite the 8,000 words I was behind in camp, isn’t sapping as much of my writing energy as the last job did (no, this time it was two colds in a row).  Only time will tell how things go in the future though.  The biggest thing for me is to have a good mentor/supervisor, and I have that at this job for sure.

Writing is…

…rewriting is rewriting is rewriting.

 

I have no idea who first said that, although I probably should know.  That’s a familiar cycle, though, that I’ve been stuck in for the last year or so on “Fighter One”.  It’s all for a good cause, of course, as it’s making the story better and better (and better).  But it doesn’t make the actual work any easier.

 

Let me back up.  Over the summer, I spent a significant amount of time reorganizing the novel, making it more streamlined, more believable, and generally less shitty.  It was good work, and I was pleased with it.  I finished the actual edits just before the end of the year, and it sat in a digital drawer, until the beginning of February, when I re-read it.

 

That was an adventure all on it’s own.  For the most part, I actually enjoyed reading the story, and had honestly forgotten parts of it.  Of course, there were parts that I absolutely loved, and some that I loathed.  Most of it was solid, plot wise, but not as strong as I might have liked and there was a definite mushy middle.  But I did manage to “close” the book with the smug sense of satisfaction that I only get after finishing a really good read.  Admittedly, part of that might have been because this particular read was drafted by yours truly, but nonetheless, I thought there was some potential to the novel.

 

There’s also a lot of truly boring parts.  And that’s what I’m trying to fix right now: the incredibly boring parts, especially the mushy middle that needs to be propped up with a tent pole.

 

I have a deadline of the end of the month, so that my fabulous beta reader (also known as my almost-husband) can read it over our vacation.  That’s put me under the gun to fix quite a few things in the next two weeks, and the final result definitely won’t be polished, but I hope it’ll be ready for his plot-related review.  I got 8 chapters edited this weekend (out of 29 total), and some of them definitely needed a lot of work.  I’m confident that, outside of the middle, the rest of the book won’t need quite so much effort, so I might even make my end of the month goal.

 

I wouldn’t be a project manager if I didn’t tell you that I had it all plotted out on a calendar on my wall and I’m crossing each chapter off on a list as I complete them. So I will tell you that.  Only under duress of course.

 

And now, I have a few other things to do before I retire, and tomorrow I have work and then a birthday party, so I think I’ll be off!  Until next week!

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.