Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gross blogligence

Blogligence strikes again. I get so caught up in writing books and staring into space that I forget the blog even exists. I neglect it. One day I realize I don't even remember where to find it.
At least it's for good reason; I'm approaching my final round of edits on Captain Millicent & The Black Pirate, but I've been avoiding it pretty actively. My first draft of Steam Dragon is two-thirds complete and every time something interrupts the flow it takes me days to get back into it. I actually had my first epic bout of writer's block (brought on by a combination of factors) and spent three days reading Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles 1 and 2 (BTW I am dying for book 3) and four of Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century books. Most people think that's insane. It may well be, but it did the job. Cracked the block and got back to it. Part of my trouble is that there's more intensity in book 2 than in book 1, and it's exhausting. In my actual life I go out of my way to avoid drama, but when I'm writing it's one drama after another (as well it should be, why would anyone read it otherwise?).
So I'm reluctant to deliberately put Steam Dragon aside to go back and finish touching up Black Pirate. Because I know I'll lose the thread. I was really on a roll for a while there and feeling rather smug.
Goodbye to the smug. Back to the grind.
I've been toying with the idea of self-publishing but in the end, I'm just not up for it. I've been an administrator and an executive assistant. I know how much work is involved in administrating a business. While I did those jobs, I didn't write a single word; there's a reason. And there's a reason why agents exist. They exist because someone has to do the hard work of getting the book out there, and let the writer do the writing. I just want to do the writing. That's the whole point, isn't it? I'm a writer. An agent is an agent. Some people can do it all for themselves - but in my case, just because I can doesn't mean I should.
So I'm about to embark on the terrifying adventure of submitting to agents, with the hope that someone who actually matters will see the potential in my books that I do.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tiny lessons

1. Just sit down with the computer and put your hands on the keys. You probably won't even notice when you start writing, and by the time you stop you'll have done something. Which is better than the nothing you would have had, if you'd still been flopping around thinking of reasons not to write.

2. Sometimes you have to bribe yourself in order to get it done. Yesterday I was in the unusual position of having two things to do that I love, at the same time, and I was avoiding both of them for reasons unknown. I couldn't decide which was the reward and which was the work. One was writing, the other was paddleboarding. Both activities make me happy and give me a rush when they're done. Both require stamina and hard work. One is all physical, the other is all mental. I really, seriously could not decide which one I wanted to do more. Or less. By default I ended up writing because in the end, writing might lead to an income. Paddling won't.

3. It's not the worst thing in the world that I'm a little zoned out during periods of intense writing. After all, I'm creating a world that doesn't actually exist. You have to be a little crazy and detached from reality to make a convincing alternate reality. I think. I hope. It's happening, anyway. Sometimes I just feel like I'm floating, untethered to the ground. I usually wake up feeling re-tethered. So perhaps the answer is always sleep well.

4. A seriously long walk is a great idea when the brain gives out. Fresh air, birdsong, and physical distance from the desk. Good idea.

5. Always back up your work. My laptop spontaneously rebooted itself today and told me it was updating Windows. I didn't tell it to. I went inside to get a glass of water, and when I came back my computer told me to wait. Then it went black. I didn't panic. I rebooted twice and finally things went back to normal. At which point I immediately copied my latest draft onto my flash drive. Now I'm turning the computer off before it freaks out again. Maybe it just needs a vacation too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A room of one's own

Everyone knows Virgina Woolf's idea of what a writer needs - basically, money and a private space. Well, I don't have much money - but I am now the proud inhabitant of a gazebo, now known as the Writing Pod.
I was having trouble writing in the house because it's a relatively new house (built ten years ago) and it has no character. I grew up in an old farm house and I've always chosen apartments and houses based on their age, style and personality. A house has to have stories just like people do. At any rate, where I live now doesn't have any stories to tell yet. The gazebo was transplanted a few years ago from my sister's property out in the country, and it's been languishing in the garden unused since my parents bought a cottage and are now away during the summers. So I swept it out, added a marvelously oversized chair, et voila!
It's the perfect space for me, and I started Book Two (title TBA) a few days ago. Three chapters in and I'm feeling the thrill again, so that reassures me. I was nervous going into this one, afraid that this was going to be another of my famous one-offs (I'm notorious for doing a thing extraordinarily well once and then flopping on the sophomore attempt) but I think because it's a continuation of the story and characters, it's not like starting an entirely different project. I'll worry about that sometime in the distant future when Captain Millicent has run her course.
Yesterday my dad and I cleaned out the fish pond in the garden - it was so thick with algae and muck that you couldn't really see the fish. That's no way to live. So we drained it, scrubbed it, powerwashed and refilled. Maybe some people think fish don't have feelings, but it's obvious to me that happy fish now live here:
Last night we had a tremendous thunderstorm, complete with hail and tornado funnels, and I was trapped in the pod (alas, for the wine was in the house). I've never been a storm-lover, and since having a dog for six years who had severe anxiety during thunder and fireworks, I like them even less. But I could appreciate the ferocity of Mother Nature in that short outburst (and not having a panic-dog with me certainly helped). The sun came out again after. That's spring in southern Ontario for you.
Speaking of spring in southern Ontario, the apple trees have blossomed and the smell in the air is intoxicating. I stopped on the way home from town to take a picture at my favourite orchard:

And today the sun is hot but the wind is still cool - no paddling yet for me, but I think I'll go out on the trails for a long hike, to see what's blooming and growing. Walking helps me percolate too, so by the time I get back I might have a few more ideas.
Every day I'm grateful for my decision to return home from Whitehorse. I'm sure it's beautiful up there right now too, but I love my life here.
It's good to know where one belongs.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Editing progress and feline assistance

So after another round of editing (completely by accident I assure you - it started off innocently with "just a few tweaks before sending it to the readers") I finally took a deep breath and sent the first third of the novel to my readers.
I realize in retrospect that I should have provided a synopsis of the story, or at least the blurb I intend to put on the cover. But I haven't done that yet. Last night as I lay in bed, sunburnt from the cottage and feeling slightly bedraggled, I ran through the cover blurb in my head over and over. I wanted to write something down but I forgot my notebooks (all of them) in other places and couldn't motivate myself to get up to find them. "I'll remember it in the morning". HA! Good one.

Now sitting in my usual chair with my laptop and the cat is helpfully taking up most of the lap part of things. I have extraordinarily long legs so I can accommodate both a mid-size feline and my computer, but it's awkward and sometimes her butt causes the mousepad to act in unpredictable ways.

I've been eager to get out on my paddleboard but the weather is refusing to cooperate. No one with any sense ever suggested standing on the water during a thunderstorm, so my board is strapped to my car, waiting for a sunny break. Typical middle-of-May bipolar weather systems.
Anyway, writing-wise it's time to get on with editing the next section of the book so it will be ready when my readers are finished with the first part. My ideas for Book 2 are percolating merrily. Did a little research about Victorian-era Canada for my CanPunk literature ambitions.
All right. No more procrastinating...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing life on vacation

I’m at the cottage on the lake. I arrived about an hour ago and have been fussing and fidgeting and restless, having trouble getting over the “I should be doing something” mentality of the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a champion at sitting still and gazing out the window while in the throes of writing or editing or avoiding one or the other of those things. I love gazing at nothing and thinking deeply. But I’m not ready yet.  

I’m annoying to myself. I think I should drink something, maybe have a snack. Pick up a book, put it down, pick up the iPhone, set it down, get dressed to go out, sit down, open the fridge, close the fridge, look in the cupboard, watch the waves, turn on the computer, pick up the book, invite people over, decide to go to the cheese shoppe, decide I’ll go tomorrow, sit down again…Lord. If I lived with me I’d have knocked me over the head with a lamp by now. 

And I know in about an hour I’ll be over it. I’ll settle down, curl up happily in the chair with my book, listen to the waves and enjoy not having to go anywhere or do anything for the next 24 hours. I’m going to edit, but I have to chill out first. There will probably be wine involved. 

Yesterday I was singing at a church and during the sermon (twenty seconds after it began, to be precise) I started looking for a pencil. I found a stubby little golf pencil in the pew in front of me and used the service bulletin to jot down notes that were suddenly coming to mind for Captain Millicent Book 2 (title tbd). According to what I can decipher, I’m looking at blackmail, mining, a book virus and a dragon. Fantastic. Just having some vague notions makes me feel productive. I don’t know what the minister’s message was, but I made use of his time wisely.

The lake is rough and there’s a cool wind, which occasionally flickers some rain onto the deck. I want the sun to push through the clouds but they’re just a bit too thick. My plan to walk to the cheese shoppe was thwarted by drizzle (although I could drive, but that just seems ridiculous when it’s only a few blocks away. See? What did I tell you? Annoying

 It’s an hour later and I’m good. I decided to walk to the cheese shoppe despite the rain, and it was closed. I forgot that most of Dover is closed on Monday. That’s fine. The gluten-free bakery was open and I picked up a couple of dessert bars for tomorrow’s lunch-and-cocktails date with a friend. I decided to be a grown-up and cook my own burger instead of going to a restaurant. Good for me. So I fired up the grill, only to discover that the burners wouldn’t turn up. I tried to wait it out, but I was already drinking and this is my vacation, so I decided to screw being a grown-up and go back to the restaurant.

An adolescent raccoon was waiting by the barbecue when I got back from buying my dinner, so I gave him some of the unneeded bun, and after another half hour of waiting for the grill to heat up, I said “screw this” and left the burger for him too.

It’s raining steadily now and the gulls are congregating at the shore as I get quietly tipsy. The sound of drops on the cottage roof and deck is one of my favourite things. One of my other favourite things is when the lighthouse at the end of the pier goes berserk because of the humidity, and starts moaning and honking like a dying cow. It makes me laugh aloud, and heartily, every time. Even in the middle of the night when it startles me awake, I think it’s hilarious. It’s supposed to make a typical WOO-ooo foghorn sound, but when it gets really worked up it’s more of a WHEEEoooooo-UUUUOOOOoooNK. Cracks me up every time.

Tonight’s wine of choice is a delightful Riesling-Gewurtztraminer from Small Talk Vineyards in Niagara ( So far it pairs very nicely with onion rings, peanut butter and chocolate, and medium cheddar. I’ll likely be testing it later with Kit Kat ice cream, because that’s what I found in the freezer.

And there you have it – writer’s vacation, day one. Now I’m going to stare out the window until everything grows dark. 

This is the life.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Small victories (more wine please)

I finished Round One Edits on Captain Millicent today. I'm feeling a combination of relief and anxiety (more wine) - it's time to send my manuscript out to my beta readers. I'm encouraged by the number of people who have volunteered to be part of my school of betas - at least there's an interest, and if no one beyond these twelve people ever reads the book, I've still succeeded at putting it out there. But obviously my goals are somewhat larger (just shy of world domination) and I'd like the world to meet my characters and be interested in their stories.

I'm not aiming for life-changing or prize-winning or Oprah-stickered - I just want people to read it and like it (and want to read the next one).

I need a cover. I met an epically talented artist at the Masquerade last week and am hoping for a collaboration. Obviously I want my cover to be unique and attention-grabbing - but I also want it to be a vehicle for promoting the artist.

Hold that thought...steak just came off the grill....

And I'm back. As I was saying, I want to promote a local artist by using her work on my cover. I'm not anticipating that Captain Millicent is going to be a blockbuster and I'm going to be famous and make millions on the film rights. My thought is, if even ten people read it and one of them is looking for an artist and they like what they see, I've succeeded at helping a fellow artist.

So, arriving at this stage means I can stop worrying about this manuscript for a little while, until the readers start sending feedback, and I can move on to Book 2. I took some photos yesterday of some beautiful abandoned silos and I feel like they belong in the next story somehow.

And spring has arrived in southern Ontario, with peepers peeping and birds of all colours and sizes calling out to one another. Tomorrow is supposed to be lovely and warm, so I'm planning to take my stand-up paddleboard out for my first paddle of the year. If it rains, I'll get started on my outline for Book 2.

This weekend is also the artisan fair Definitely Not the Mall here in Waterford, and I'm hoping to sell some of my steampunk-style gearwork jewellery and leather bags.

Never a dull moment, and thank God for that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What to do when you're not writing

If you're me, which can be a lot of fun when you're not wigging out over something ridiculous, sometimes you get the chance to put on your steampunk on Friday for a Masquerade (fundraiser for a local yoga studio),

act, sing, tell stories, and hang with your theatre peeps on Sunday (fundraiser for local theatre);
Me and Michael backstage
finally surpass the halfway mark on your first round of edits and put in a shift at your retail job on Monday (looking like a normal person with no costume or makeup);

and on Tuesday get everything ready for the upcoming artisan fair where you'll be peddling your gearwork jewelery & art and salvaged leather handbags.
Meanwhile I have Novel Ideas percolating in my overstimulated brain. I want to start writing book two of Captain Millicent and I also have an idea for a dystopian CanPunk novel (I'm trying to make this a thing: CanadaPunk or NorthPunk. I think I can make it happen), but I REALLY want to finish editing CM & Black Pirate. So I'm going to keep ruminating and let the ideas roll around until I give them the attention they deserve.

Exciting news from Whitehorse, my sweetheart is coming home for a week in June! And I'll have the family cottage then while my folks are traveling, so I'm pretty excited about getting out on the water with him for a few days before he flies out again.

Add to the mix my need for a good workout and some time on the trails (really wishing I had a dog right now, this is the best time of year for hiking!), and you've got a good idea of a typical week in the life of Yours Truly.

So on that note, I'm going to hit the trail. In my next blog I hope I'll be announcing my completion of Round One Edits....