Oathmaker

Swear some days that if everything wasn’t changing all the time I would not recognize my life one whit.

So, essentially, EVERYTHING is happening in the next three months. I’m moving into my own apartment, I’ve landed full-time at the Cinderella job, I’m committed to the Surrey International Writers Conference and I’m going to pop in for the Saturday at VCON, Vancouver’s local SF convention (the writing track there being marshalled by the capable and talented Sandra Wickham of Inkpunks and writerly fame).

I’ve also, after some twists, turns, and lucky timing, landed one of the SIWC Pitch Sessions with Donald Maass. Cue the happy freakout. Setting my expectations really low, of course, because I have never pitched before and I am sure the learning curve is steep — especially with the two novels I have ready right now that, at least to my ingenue sensibilities, don’t summarize neatly into a log line or elevator pitch. But then, that’s what I’m there to do, learn from agents what to do and how best to do it. I’ve been told that there are often additional pitch sessions available on site during the event and will try to hit as many as I can, providing that the agent in question reps what I’m writing.

Because that’s a potential problem, too. What I write (if I may poke fun at the title of my blog) is pretty different from project to project. Of the two completed novels I have right now, one straddles YA and is a solid urban/portal fantasy. The other is a secondary world, no-magic but with non-humans and a proto-steampunk sensibility with a 17th Century tech level. The stuff I want to write, having either started drafting or just in the planning stages, includes a contemporary horror with a twist, a weird western, an urban fantasy that tiptoes into magic realism, and a few science fictional things I can’t even nail down yet.

Who the hell is going to want to take on all that?

It’s a concern I keep coming to, though I realize it should be the least of them.

I expect, after I tuck away the last pumpkin of Halloween, that I will look back on the three months so newly behind me with November’s foggy sense of mystery. Just how did all that happen, anyway? What sorcery was that?

I’m excited, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I will need more of an army at hand than I have. Once more unto the breach?

Speaking of war, I’ve made a promise to myself: when I sell my first novel, I will buy myself a sword. It had the heaviness of an oath when I thought the words, and my skin goose-bumped.

I have always wanted a sword of my own like I have wanted few things in this life; the vow feels right, and true. I mean to keep it.

Ahoy! Strange Waters Ahead.

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The Disney Cruise! Much more lively than the other cruise ships. MUCH.

If my life circumstances didn’t change every thirty days, I probably wouldn’t recognize it as my life. So, allons-y.

Since last we met, dear readers, I have a new job that I’m super excited about. It’s an assistant Admin and HR position in a growing tech company. Part time to start, but I’m hopeful down the road they will pick me up full time. Meanwhile, will spend those alternate days at the old job — seesawing back and forth between the two. Will try to keep my 5:00 am wake up routine and spend the extra time writing in the mornings.

The new job is in an office that faces North Vancouver, and cruise ships dock on either side of it. It’s delightful getting to walk to work and the weather has been perfectly summery each day. This is unlike all my other jobs. Normally, I am a wreck before starting a new job — not an “oh, she’s just nervous” kind of way. I mean full freakout, breakdown, panic. Yet, going through the job interview process, I felt confident. Taking the job, even with the uncertainty about the hours, didn’t stress or play out endless what-ifs in my head. First week, nervous, but felt good. Felt very unlike what it’s always felt like before. Minor freak outs about clothing, of course, and new shoes deciding my ankles are tasty, but overall it’s been terrific. My co-workers have a productive, chill, geeky vibe I could really get used to. A sleek new computer ordered just for me. It still feels like a Cinderella story and I hope I can make good.

And one of the first things I did after my that initial week? Booking my spot for the Surrey International Writing Festival. It’s about an hour off by subway but I’ve booked hotel rooms for the core days of the event anyways. Will take the editing workshop because, hey, I’m sort of living there at the moment, and signed up for both a Blue Pencil session with author Chuck Wendig and a Pitch Session with agent Mandy Hubbard. Plus, it’s a hard deadline to shoot for, and I do so much better with external pressure. Roomie talked me into booking the full package, so I will be attending the luncheons and the banquets. You never know who you’ll meet, right? Hoping to connect with some twitter-folks, too. (Also, any locals or non-locals flying in that might want a room buddie? Let me know!)

Oh, that’s right — I didn’t write an entry for May. I’d pretty much had it at the current job. Not for staff reasons, my co-workers are quite cool, but it wasn’t a job that was going to grow into anything else and I couldn’t depend on it for regular shifts. Pissed off, I started hunting hard for work and it paid off but just before I’d landed the job, I had declared that I would have the revisions on STAR DOOR done by the end of June. It pleased my sense of symmetry, since that was my hard deadline for the draft reworking last year, and I made it, flying out here to visit Michael as a precursor to the move. I was also prepared to abandon the novel if I didn’t meet or make significant strides in the revision. Like SHERLOCK SQUARED, I was prepared to walk away.1 Both those deadlines had worked before, and I was ready for them to work again based on my then-circumstances.

But I have to be somewhat realistic now. I expected June would be as patchy with shifts as April and May, and would have extra, full days to work on the revisions. Now, I will, with luck, be full-time for the month of June between these two jobs (first time ever since I moved out here) and I need to spend some time getting up to speed on the industry I’m working in and the tools we use on a regular basis. Not that I am giving myself a free pass — I’ll be hitting the WIP every day and trying to build a new routine. I’m also shooting Chapter Two of that other WIP, BLOOD OF WOLVES, at the writing group this week and I am still working on putting together a separate, Clarion-style writing group (but not so sure if it’s going to gel). End of July for the revision is more realistic. I hate moving the goalposts, but I don’t want to blow another deadline and risk a hit to the self-esteem. That ship’s patched up enough as is.

Another post is brewing, too, about natural writing lengths. Wednesday last week, sandwiched between two short story rejections, I had a good sulk/think about how I spend my writing time between novels and short stories. My moan on Twitter became an @reply fest and boy, do I mention enough how much I love my Viable Paradise classmates? Not enough, I guarantee. They are awesome and invaluable and I am so very grateful for each of them.

To cap off this crazy week, I got the chance to see WICKED performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, my first Broadway musical. I know the story backwards and forward, sing along to the soundtrack, but to see it performed was marvelous. The song Defying Gravity was my mantra around this time last year. It still is.

And, I think, it’s working.

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Right before the curtains rose and the dragon starts breathing fire. Taken at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver!

1 Confession time: I did give myself a week extension for that project because I was so close and I had the ending ready. I was willing to do the same if I had made major strides in STAR DOOR but not if I had faffed around and wasted all those days. That’s what’s gotten me here so far, and that’s not an acceptable practice anymore.

University Study on Sexism In BBC’s Doctor Who (Infographic)

Steph:

Terrifically interesting.

Originally posted on The Life and Times of an Exceptionally Tall Mormon:

In April 2014, I completed a study, with several other students, for my Media Research Methods class, which we then entered into BYU-Idaho’s Research and Creative Works Conference. My group’s research took second place. Many have asked to see that, so here is the final report. 

IS DOCTOR WHO SEXIST-01 2

Is Doctor Who Sexist?

Back in 2010 Steven Moffat took over as head writer of the cult classic British Sci-Fi Doctor Who from Russell T. Davies. Davies had headed the reboot of the show back in 2005. When the switch happened many fans began voicing problems they were having with the new direction of the show. One of those problems was sexism, or at least that is what people were claiming. However some fans of Moffat said people were being overly sensitive and just couldn’t let go of the RTD era. So which side was right? We sat down and watched all of the…

View original 1,594 more words

The Persephone Effect

I celebrated my six month anniversary (or Vancouversary, as Andy put it) on April 17th. Technically, had flights not been delayed resulting in a night spent in purgatory, i.e. Toronto, that date would have been the 16th, and so this week it’s been on my mind a lot.

I left mid-October, leaving snow in my wake. Snow, I should add, that’s still there. It’s been one of the longest and harshest winters that my home town has had in at least a decade if not longer. More like the winters of my youth and worth fleeing. It’s put me in mind of the Persephone myth (though without the abduction and rape at least).

Vancouver is hardly hell, of course, unless you count its drivers. I am increasingly humbled by its zealous verdancy. How’s that for fancy vocabulary? Seriously, it’s green here, technicolor green. Even in what passes for winter here, you get greens and then in what passes for spring here those greens go fractal starting in February. You can’t count ‘em all. Vancouver is the visual artist’s paradise, offering up a botanical palette that is anything but stingy and it so often grows despite this city and its inhabitants. It’s hard not to grab people, and flail, “Why don’t you understand how beautiful this place is? Whhyyyyy?”

My gratitude and bewilderment at all this teeming beauty still catches me in the throat. So I take pictures instead of accost Vancouver locals. I hoard those pictures, too, worrying that this lushness will end, and post them irregularly, fearing hometown reprisals. (Only half kidding, there.)

If it’s not the underworld, then, it certainly doesn’t feel like real life. There are the pantomimes of real life — a job with long hours on my feet and work that cuts my hands to ribbons, bills to pay with those meager earnings, weather to plan around, cat boxes to muck out, laundry to do — yet all these things have sidestepped the progression of time. They happen all at once in an undifferentiated existence. And it’s down to not having a winter. I’m sure of it.

Winter is inevitable and no one from Northern Ontario needs George R. R. Martin to tell ‘em that. It’s something you dread and reluctantly prepare for, buckle down and suffer through, and its inevitable demise finally celebrated. Add a notch, you’ve survived another one! A year has passed, one that you have either seized or let slip, and they keep coming, years and winters, pulsing under the skin like the sound taiko drums.

Without winter, it feels like I’m still dancing after someone cut off the music. I’ve had to find my own beat again, so I’ve been quiet, been thinking. Been doing, too, and getting better about it. Trying on several beats, see which fits me best.

It strikes me that I write a lot of these getting better posts. I do, and am, but looking back I see a pattern of small steps up a very long staircase. I listen, I learn, I internalize, but I am very slow to process and make changes. I can know something intellectually, but being brave is harder. But I can see so much more of the stairs behind me than in front of me now, and I’m not afraid to hold the railing as I go up anymore. That’s what it’s there for.

I am my own Persephone, and it is time to return to the summer lands.

Unexpected (and Unwanted) Downtime

I’ve just had a very expensive vacation. Two weeks off work because my spine had decided, rather aggressively, that it was through with all this bipedal shit and was going to let me know in the most painful way possible. Add to that prescription meds (which never killed the pain entirely) and physiotherapy (which is worth every penny), and February is pretty much a complete write-off. Wrote in snatches here and there but little of it useful, and managed some reading. I’m not happy with the productivity dip, but no point haranguing myself, either. (At least, that’s what my rational brain tells me. I’m not very good at listening to her.)

It has been expensive and frustrating. Jury’s out on whether or not it’s a nerve or a disc at the root of the problem, but overall things are slowly improving. I’ll take better. I’ll damn well take better over tears, I tell you what. Hell, I can sit now. There was a week of no sitting. Sitting is fantastic.

Any thoughts I’d had about applying to Paradise Lost — something that, frankly, holy cats could I use right now — are dust. Next year’s dreams.

As for submissions, while I’m sure this will seem modest or quaint to some, I’ve hit a personal best. I have five stories out at various places and recently got a very nice rejection from C.C. Finlay, editor of the upcoming Fantasy and Science Fiction August 2014 issue, on that unsellable story of mine. (Some day, story! Some day! *shakes fist*)

My goal this year is to beat the number of submissions I made last year by a wide margin. I’ve only been submitting stories since 2009 and generally it was one story here, one there. On a graph it would be a very flat, horizontal line. Then it bumped up to maybe 4 or 5 a year and never more than two stories. Last year I submitted eleven times, and so far, halfway through February, I’m sitting at seven submissions. (I’m taking the Until Hell Won’t Have It motto to heart.)

Today’s efforts will be to add a sixth story to my submission roster (and it’s gotta be now, as the deadline for this one market is tomorrow!) and I am hoping that after next week’s writing group meeting, I can bump that number up to seven. Looking at the numbers, I guess I’m on track for a 1 Sub/1 Week pledge, tho’ I will shy away from making it official.

Do better than last time is all I can ask of myself right now.

Rules to Work By

I am writing this on my laptop.

Not an unheard of thing, you might think. I do like my new-to-me MacBook Pro, which I purchased from a friend about a year back to replace my battery-swollen original MacBook. The Pro is my little go-to buddy, the one that gets to go outside, because the inside computer is my lovely iMac in all it’s 27-inch glory.

The iMac is currently convalescing in the Apple Store after its third failure within a month. Hard drive replacement. Getting it there was uncannily like bundling up a recalcitrant pet for a visit to the vet. I’ve known this was coming for a while — increasingly frequent failures that required me to rebuild from backups — and I’m happy that the worst is over. It’s fixable, it’s affordable, and soon I’ll have my desperate, grubby hands all over it. Better, once it’s fixed, I can trust it again. Its absence, even with the laptop playing pinch hitter, has been felt deeply, which is a reminder to me to not get so knotted into my routines that I can’t be flexible.

In the meantime, new mini challenges for myself for the year ahead!

  1.  250 words of writing every day — no excuses.
  2. Rejected stories go back out within 24 hours (i.e. next day).
  3. Critiqued stories must be edited before the next event (generally two weeks).
  4. The to-be-read pile will be obliterated this year; no new books purchased until then.

The writing must be fictional, preferably on a WIP (novel or short story), though I will allow writing exercises as substitute if I really cannot brain that day. (And sometimes, such non-brain, non-WIP exercises end up being rather fruitful.) The 24-hour turnaround is a modification of an Uncle Jim rule, which is never to let a story stay overnight. It’s not always practical for me to get it out the same day as a rejection, but I was good before the move about getting out the next day. Back to that habit again. (Still have two out, very long time, but with the markets in question I have no idea if it means anything, and a third sent out earlier this month.)

The critiqued stories, particularly short stories, are my shame. I have a half dozen things I’ve gotten feedback on but then I let the stories sit un-edited. No longer. Under the new rule, it gets two weeks to be polished/revised and then it starts getting submitted. Or I get second set of eyes, and then it gets another two week reprieve. We’ll see how this works.

And my books. Oh lord, all my books. I want to be able to say, “Why, this book by so-and-so, newly released, sounds delightful. I would like to read it this instant.” But the guilt. Oooh, the guilt. I can manage the TBR pile, I think, over the course of this year. (I will be ruthless, though; if I don’t like it, I won’t slog through it. But there’s a lot in that pile to be excited about, too, so I’m hopeful I won’t have to do that often.)

These are all the little rules, put in place so I don’t have to think about what has to happen next. Small steps forward I can work on every day because I have big projects that need all the mental muscle. No more hiding behind the move out here, or computer failures, or waiting to finally “settle in.” Recommitting to the writing, 100%, is the act of settling in. Nothing else will serve.

What does that mean? I will start querying STAR DOOR in the next couple of months, so the final edits must be completed, query and synopsis written, and agents researched. And if I’m serious about Taos Toolbox, I need to get that application together pronto. All other writing and editing will all work around those primary goals.

One more thing — every time I get an email notification telling me that someone has favorited or commented on the stories I’ve posted to Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own, I beam. Huge grin, leaves me floating. It’s a long fic, it’s multi-fandom, and it’s not to everyone’s taste, so when people do read it and like it, especially so long after it was posted, it totally brightens my day and adds a drop to the confidence bucket. Thanks. Smooshy hugs to all of you.

All Those Sexy Books

My reading took a hit this year.

This is true if you look at the books read. I set a modest goal of 40 books, and beat it by six. On the whole the list was nearly split 50/50 with fiction and non-fiction, same for gender. It felt like a lackluster year for books, but I’m not sure how true that is. Here are my standouts, books I would gladly recommend?

Looking over my list, the year started off bright — Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanna Clarke was frankly brilliant. It didn’t feel like a huge book, while reading it I mean. It’s the size of two bricks, yes, but reading it is a flurry of enjoyment. Watership Down by Richard Adams, right on its heels, was immensely moving. A rough patch followed, until I hit the non-fiction book that read like fiction Between Silk and Cyanide, written by World War II codebreaker turned screenwriter Leo Marks. I suppose it’s a cliche to be fascinated with this period of history, but here I am. Stieg Larson’s The Girl Who … series took over my brainspace for March in a weird and wonderful way, and I can’t even tell you why. A few more speed bumps and then I hit House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. That was a book I ran round raving about, pushed on to unsuspecting friends. Still will, if given the opportunity. Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin brought her series to a fantastic conclusion. Book of Tongues, book one in the weird west series by Gemma Files, hooked me (I’m on to the sequel now). Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine utterly, utterly had me. Loved that book and had I read in the year it was published I would have been hard pressed to say which I liked more, it or Jo Walton’s Among Others. (I love both, but they are very different books.) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was very good, and started a spell very similar to my Stieg frenzy. To Write Like A Woman by Joanna Russ was, as expected, profound, powerful and maddening, though I did like How To Suppress Women’s Writing more. Rounding out my favorites were Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl and Steven Brust’s The Sun, The Moon and the Stars, a gift from a fellow writer that I would recommend to every writer even though the characters are all artists. Hell, because they are artists, you should read it.

But the one thing that list on GoodReads tells you is how much unpublished short fiction I read between May and October. I have no idea if it would be a lot compared to others who slush all the time, but for me it was huge, over three hundred stories, some only a portion, that squeezed out my free reading time for those months. It was probably more short fiction than I’d read in the last two years combined. (Maybe more — I love anthologies but rarely squeeze in what’s currently being published.)

So, there’s the year in review — better than I thought. Normally I keep an up-to-date list of what I’m reading as I go, but after the move I fell out of the habit. The poor page hasn’t been updated in a couple of months (though I am current in GoodReads, of course) and I am wondering if I just shouldn’t leave that tally there and only discuss particular books here that I am all Muppet-flaily about. I’m leaning that way — it’s not like that page gets any traffic, either the live one or the archived ones.

The goal, as ever, is to have a balance of fiction, non-fiction, and how-tos. Currently, I’m on to A Rope of Thorns (File’s Hexslinger #2), The Ramen King and I by Andy Raskin, and Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer which is, indeed, a wonder.

Not a bad start to 2014.