Category Archives: writer life

Busy week

Whew. It’s been a busy week with a fast trip to Portland for Orycon and early Thanksgiving. Tired but wanted to get something up. I’ll have more mindful posts later…especially Orycon, which was a very good convention this time around. Sold books, had good panels, saw lots of friends…all worked out pretty nicely. Then we went to Clatskanie to harvest more carrots and parsnips, and managed to pick a nice batch of chanterelles. Unusual for this late in the season but it’s been a mild fall with no frost.

And now we are back in Enterprise. I have a lovely new back massager that is making me very happy.

Me fall over now. Well, after I jot down the side story about what happened to Vered during the events I’m working on right now in Challenges of Honor.

You know it’s been a good convention when you come back itching to start writing.

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Writing short vs long

One thing I’ve really noticed about my writing process this year is the difference between writing short and writing long. When I write a short story, it seems as if it’s a struggle to wrest 500-1000 words out of my brain and onto the page. I end up making a lot of erasures, eliminate pieces, and often can’t see my way through to the end of the story in one sitting.

On the other hand, when I’m working on a novel, I can easily go through 1000-2000 words a day. Right now my current goal is to get 2000 words down on one novel, 1000 words on a second one. If I have several hours to work, it’s doable. When I’m working on a novel, it’s usually in 700-1000 word scene chunks and it just seems to unfold much more easily.

In part this is because my natural writing length is that of a novelist. Many of my short stories start out reading like the first chapter of a novel and need a LOT of pruning to eliminate that aspect of the story. I like complex plots with lots of twists and turns, but…you can’t do a lot of that in a short story (note the phrasing there; short story complexity often is not plot-driven but theme and character-driven).

Additionally, the novel can sprawl while every word in a short story has a purpose–sometimes even multiple purposes.

This year I’ve written four short pieces and am working on a novel. Of those shorts, one is a 6k word self-published short (Inconvenient Truths) tied into my Netwalk Sequence world and coming out on July 4th. Truths was intended to be a submission for one of the many new anthologies out there reacting to Donald Trump’s election. It didn’t fit (well, I thought it did, but I’m not the editors) and, since it was a Netwalk Sequence story, I decided that it could go out on its own.

(We won’t talk about why I’m finding it extremely difficult to write political fiction without placing it in the Netwalk Sequence world and evoking Sarah Stephens. Let’s just say that it’s my head thing and leave it. I could write several–many–political stories, but that would be violating the trust of people I know. The perils of being an ex-activist….)

Needless to say, I hadn’t really planned for Truths to happen, though it illustrates a crucial turning point in the Netwalk universe.

Another story, Exile’s Honor, is a Goddess’s Honor novelette that was somewhat planned for, and lays a foundation for elements within the current Goddess’s Honor novel, Challenges of Honor. I tend to use short stories as means to explore the series I’m writing, and Exile looked at an important development in Goddess’s Honor.

But then there are the other stories. Both are somewhat solicited, in that they’re aimed at anthologies that I was invited to participate in. One’s somewhat goofy and not at all political; the other has political elements but doesn’t move into territory that makes me want to revert to the Netwalk Sequence. Still, I agonized over both of them, and the goofy story requires more attention from me before I send it out. 500 words a day was the best I could do on either story.

Ironically, when it comes to publishing, short stories fill most of my traditional credits. Part of that reality is market-driven. Even in today’s tight publishing market, there are still more options to sell short stories to a legitimate publisher than there are novels. That’s just the way things work. The shorts may not earn me a lot of money, but they do earn something, which is what the novels (except for Pledges of Honor) don’t exactly do. On the other hand, given the amount of time it takes to produce a short story (especially on spec, where it can take anywhere from 2 months to 10 years to sell), I’m better off working on the longer works. For whatever reason, I find that the older short stories in my portfolio are the ones who sell.

So it is a puzzlement at times. Short stories earn me visibility and a shot at higher recognition. But they require a lot of energy, attention, sweat, and blood for me to make them work. Really, I need to write them, then shove them in a closet to marinate and mature before I send them out. I can’t count on them to be easily saleable, especially when writing a spec story instead of a solicited story.

Novels, on the other hand, are a lovely unfolding of a story, a pleasant ramble through the tale (even when I’m trudging through the midpoint of the novel). I can get them written, put them aside for a few weeks, then spend another month in revisions which creates a clean usable draft for editing purposes. It takes me about six months to turn out a decent 90,000-100,000 word novel from rough draft to final independent publication. But given the realities of today’s novel market, I’m better off marketing them directly to the reader (which requires production, cover work, editing work, and a lot more effort) rather than to publishers.

That said, one reason I’m working on two stories at once right now is that I am crafting one novel to send out to small and mid-level publishers. It’s a high-concept idea that has a nice little tagline and quick elevator pitch, and it might just be quirky enough to fit the demands of today’s market–or not, depending on what Marketing thinks. There’s only one way to find out, though, and that’s to send it out. I’m not planning to hit the Big Five with this one because I don’t feel like wasting my time waiting for it to take two to five years to work its way through the slush pile. But I would like to find a decent mid-to-small press where I could market some of the quirky standalone ideas I have.

The series stories? Not ready to market those elsewhere yet, especially since I want the freedom to be able to sell related short stories and the like. But the quirky standalone books? Oh yeah, if I could find a market for those…that would be a different tale.

So we shall see where this takes me.

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Fishtrap, day 1.5

The last way you want to start out a week of writing workshop is to wake up at oh-dark-thirty the morning before with a case of food poisoning. Epic though it was, however, once I had paid my respects to the white throne and went back to bed, I was okay other than feeling drug out and tired. Not sure what the cause was, or if it was even just a case of irritable bowel rebelling, but…whatever it was, I was grateful. But I’m still paranoid about food right now. Carbs are my friend, anything fatty or spicy gets eyed with suspicion, and…yeah. Bland is good. Fortunately, the Safeway in Enterprise has dairy-free yogurt, so I was also able to get things settled somewhat.

The other good piece was that formalities at Fishtrap didn’t start until late afternoon so I had plenty of rest and recovery time. So about mid-afternoon, in the face of a driving rainstorm more typical of March than July, I hopped in the Subaru and drove up to the lake.

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Yeah. Shucky darn. My commute for the next week is gonna look like this. Fishtrap happens at the head of Wallowa Lake, in a church camp nestled between two great ridges. This time of year the mock orange is still in bloom, deer prowl the camp, and even when it’s pouring down rain it’s gorgeous. Morning workshops run from 9-12, with afternoon panels and readings, and an evening reading.

This is the first conference I’ve attended where it’s about the writing–actual workshopping rather than a pitch conference or all lectures. It’s also more literary than any other conference I’ve attended before, with much less focus on marketing or self-promotion. Fishtrap’s emphasis is on Writing and the West, so much of the conference focuses on writing that evokes a strong sense of place. I’m doing a workshop on the uncanny with Marjorie Sandor, and so far I’ve found it to be productive. We did an in-class exercise this morning which led organically into a discussion of how physical setting can produce a sense of the uncanny and the meanings of various spaces.

For whatever reason, it often seems that I stumble into craft stuff just when I need it. Right now I’m nibbling at the initial outline, worldbuilding, and planning for Netwalking Space. Much of what we discussed this morning will end up going into shaping what I do with the building blocks for that story. It’s amazing how that works.

Tired now and realizing that I am writing jerky and nonflowing prose. Rather out of pace for a writing conference report, hmm? Oh well. Something is better than nothing.

Onward.

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Clam digging, writing, and online teaching

For the past few days I’ve been at a friend’s house in the Coast Range for the clam digging tides at Astoria. We’ve been working on building up a supply of fresh razor clams to keep in the freezer to nosh on the year around for both fried clams and chowder clams. The razors are the most flavorful and tender of the clams available on the Oregon coast, at least in our opinion, and while using the clam gun (a metal tube with a long handle and suction hole) is easier than digging bay clams, it’s still a bit of work. But oh, the flavor…

The other thing I’ve been doing while down on the beach is collecting whole sand dollars and pretty rocks/shells to use for art projects for fall and winter craft shows, combined with lots of leftover bead stuff. I have more beads than I’ll ever use in jewelry for sale, so I’m going to be doing art stuff with them. Crafts will happen in the summer, when I can sit under the pine tree in the shade and work on them.

Meanwhile, I’m still letting Beyond Honor sit and will get back to revisions sometime next week. In the meantime, I’m wrestling with a cozy-type gnome story that is being difficult. I don’t normally do cozy OR gnomes, so that’s part of the problem. But I started this for a theme anthology and sidelined it when other deadlines took precedence. Now it’s time to dust it off and get it finished. The conflicts just seem so small compared to what I usually write. Deep sigh. It counts, it counts, it counts.

I’m also putting in twelve hours a week monitoring PE and Health students working through online classes. It’s been a big learning curve for me, but it’s also been an opportunity to see how this type of teaching operates. I have opinions, but I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out by the end of the term before I say more. I will say, though, that in my opinion this sort of opportunity can be golden for some students but absolutely worthless for others. But we shall see.

At this point, I’m looking forward to the end of clam season and the frequent runs to the Coast (which will become garden runs) and the end of the school year, which will allow me to pick up some more projects. I’m hoping that things will settle down and I can focus even more on writing and editing. Keeping my fingers crossed that life doesn’t throw me any more complications…..

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Work, Beyond Honor, and thinking about Netwalking Space

So. I can haz part-time Day Jobbe. I got a call from the former employer because they got (temporarily) overloaded with kids who needed special ed testing. As it turned out, their timing fit my timing, so for the next 2-3 months I’ll be doing some work for them as a substitute for about a week or so each month. It’s nice getting back into harness, at least for a limited taste of it, but damn. Either I’m really rusty or else the stuff does take longer to do. It also leaves me mentally tired at the end of the day, so the writing has chugged to a slower pace. I don’t think this is reflective of how things will be in the future, though. I’m already contemplating strategies so I should be able to keep writing while working.

As a result of figuring out the processes now, though, the writing of Beyond Honor has slowed down. On the other hand, this is a good thing. I’m having to think very hard about how I bring Inharise, Heinmyets, and Alicira together. Right now I’m thinking it is Inharise who takes the lead, and so I’m considering how she manifests her magic. I’m happy with how it twisted and turned up to the point where I left off due to work sucking up my brain, though, so that is good.

I’ve also been thinking about the last Netwalk Sequence book, Netwalking Space. I suspect I’m going to be using flashbacks to Sarah’s secret and how it ties into the shadows at the heart of the Gizmo. To some degree, too, I think I’m getting a better grasp of the reasoning and the thought patterns of the Freedom Army, thanks to all the sovereign citizen information coming out in the wake of Malheur. That’s the mentality I want for the Army, and some of Sarah’s past history. But I’m postulating that the Army somehow made common cause with the Gizmo, and bringing out that history will also open up some of Sarah’s past ties, as well as the nature of the Gizmo.

So one of the threads will be What does the Gizmo really want? Why is it here?

Another element is going to be Melanie faltering and Bess picking up the pieces. Even ten years after Marty’s death, Melanie’s still reacting to it. The nature of his death gnaws at her on the tenth anniversary and she still questions why. Bess is forging her own way, but what she wants is not what Melanie wants.

And wherever Bess goes, Alex goes. He’s an enigma in his own right…son of Melanie’s first lover, grandson of Sarah’s long-term lover, lost to the Freedom Army at an early age. What pieces of Sarah’s history intersect and shape the role that he plays in the events of Netwalking Space, and how does he overcome his own shadowed history? How much of what he deals with affects his brother Don? And what would the Army do to get Alex and Don back in their fold?

How do these revelations impact Bess’s cousins Rick and Chris? What role do they play in the unfolding events, and what does the Gizmo want from them? To what degree do the bonds built through involvement in a creche cohort hold them together, even though Rick and Chris’s connections are shallower than the others due to not becoming part of it until their teen years?

So yeah. Things are ticking. I also need to knock off some new short stories on spec as well as possible anthologies. I think that might take a priority after I wrap up Beyond Honor, then go on to Netwalking Space and then Challenges to Honor.

Busy times, busy times. There’s also some other stuff in the fire right now that I can’t talk about yet, not until things get further along. And now I’d better get to it. This morning I hope to have the boys busy and out of my face as I write.

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Whew. Webpage updated

I’ve slowly been working on updating my web page over the past week and–whew–it’s finally DONE. I changed the theme, added pages including one for the Goddess’s Honor series, a page for anthology appearances, and updated my bibliography and the Netwalk Sequence page. Now it looks somewhat respectable–I think. Perhaps not as good as it would if I hired someone to design it, but right now, the publishing budget just doesn’t allow for design. So I’ve simplified the navigation and things should be reasonable to find…now. For whatever reason, this blog shows up as the front page, which is okay, really. In any case, I can cross “update the webpage” off of the list of things to do for this month.

Dang. Besides that, I also put down another 1,000 words on Beyond Honor and started revising “Glorianna.” That short story is getting thoroughly overhauled, including a change from first person to third person. So far it reads better. Add in some errands around the house involved with unpacking and putting things up on the walls, as well as a quick run out to the barn to check on a horse for the barn owner…and it’s been a busy day here in Enterprise.

Now it’s time to go relax.

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WIP notes

OMG, the current work in progress is a complete pantser frolic. Or at least as pantser as I can get these days. While I have a rough outline sketched out on paper and a length limit in mind (which means I’m watching word count as a part of my pacing), the rest of it—characterization, names, settings—is completely freeform and random except for occasional notes scribbled down when traveling. I don’t know if it’s because this particular story demands this style or if I just needed a break from the tight structure of Netwalk’s Children. Either option is possible.

I don’t even have a solid name for this story yet. It started out as Welcome to Klone Lane, and then part of it became Welcome to the Mudhole Gathering, and now it’s operating under the working title of Klone’s Folly. I wrote part of it as first person, part as third, and spent a day rewriting the third to put it back into first. Originally the setting was going to be pretty much mundane with intrusions from the supernatural, but now it’s in a world where the presence of elementals and cryptids are accepted…and where such beings might be an ill-kept national defense secret. How does it work? I dunno yet. Right now the back brain wants to go on an absolute, total romp of a story and I’m cruising along for the ride.

I needed this. To be honest, I have some stories planned that are just this sort of thing—a total pantser rip—and others, like Children, where I’m working with complex themes and structure.

So I’m having fun with the adventures of Reeni Dutta, special education teacher on the run from a possessive blood-sucking elemental ex-husband and his coterie, tutoring an unruly group of cryptid kids who may be getting trained to be weapons in a mysterious war of mages—and aren’t what they seem, either. I call it Jane Eyre meets Frankenstein’s Monster.

But oh, the rewrite and beta reading is gonna be tough.

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Writing and the New Life

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally setting into a work process here in Enterprise. The biggest challenge is finding the time I need to write while doing the other stuff we want to do. I finally had to reach the place where I realized that some of those other activities were more time-dependent than the writing. Writing can go anywhere (unless I’m editing a novel, and then that’s a bit more complex) and be done anytime in this new life where I’m not beating my brains trying to solve kid learning problems.

It also helps to have a nice office setup. The smallest bedroom in this house is my office (and when I say small, I mean small by US standards. A queen mattress effectively takes up the whole room). Still, I’ve managed to set up a computer desk area where the desktop lives with a side desk working area, a vertical filing cabinet, a second desk for editing/hand work/jewelry design, a couple of supply storage cubbies, and four bookshelves. Once I got the office set up, the brain cleared out and I could write.

Timing is a bigger challenge. Some activities such as fishing or woodcutting are time-dependent. But I’ve figured out other ways to handle them. Woodcutting is an excellent writing opportunity. Right now we have to get up and hustle out to the woods early in the morning due to fire restrictions which require that all chainsaws shut down at 1 pm (otherwise known as “hoot owl” logging). We leave the house to drive about twenty miles to where our permit lets us cut. The ideal is to have a location scouted out where we can cut several loads worth according to Forest Service restrictions—dead trees, can’t be any green needles, no ponderosa pine live or dead, no whitebark pine (but we’re not cutting at that altitude). That means we’re cutting lodgepole and red fir mostly, with the occasional prized tamarack (Western larch).

When I don’t have a sprained ankle, my primary job in the woodcutting endeavor is helping load the pickup. DH does all the chainsaw work, so my secondary job is to be around in case of problems. Granted, the most I could do is administer first aid, then haul him into the truck and drive as fast as I dared for help because there’s no cell service in the woods, but that’s the way things go. It helps that he’s experienced and careful.

While he’s cutting up wood, then, I have time to sit somewhere with notepad and pen to scribble out work. Between dust and sawdust I don’t really want to haul the laptop out to the woods, and this way I don’t have to worry about charging. I’ve found that the pickup tailgate makes a nice workplace, along with assorted dead logs on the side of the ridge (usually the forbidden ponderosa pine).

I’ve completed planning on one story, revisions on another, and cranked out the rough draft of an essay while doing this. The breaks to load the truck end up falling in the right sequence to keep the creative juices flowing, and the occasional interruptions to look at wildlife such as the fledgling Northern Goshawks near our first multiple load site turn out to be quick breaks.

Happy sigh.

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Of Writing, and Thanksgiving, and Horses

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

You’d think I would have remembered all the hard-earned lessons from selling jewelry online in the 90s and applied them to the hybrid writing life. Plan for the Christmas season. Have Christmas promotions and product ready by September. Do not be scrambling to produce work in the middle of the season. But I was locked into teacher brain, not retail artisan brain, and so instead of scrambling throughout the summer to make sure I had my seasonal book production lined up, I was decompressing. It’s really only been the past few weeks, since just before Orycon, that I’ve been scrambling to get the writing finished and either published or submitted, much less run through beta editors.

Well. This is the last year that’s gonna happen. Next year I will know what my holiday season books will be and have them ready in plenty of time, instead of just in time. I’d also been counting on a small press publication which appears to be going nowhere. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I’m getting the last piece of the book I hope to have out by mid-December wrapped up now. It was supposed to be a short story. Now it’s careening recklessly toward novelette territory, and could spin off into its own novel. Maybe I’ll premier it as a serial story, and publish subsequent installments over the course of this next year. Hmm. Could publish it separately for free as well…Hmm.

Thanksgiving is going to be low key. I get up in the morning, go ride horse, come home, get cleaned up, cook gluten-free dressing (already made blueberry crisp and spelt biscuits), then go to a friend’s house for restrained debauchery. If I’m lucky I’ll get time to wrap up the story tomorrow.

Horse is definitely in rehab mode. While most of our work is still in walk and mostly in straight lines, I’ve thrown her a sop in the form of four laps of working trot (about a half mile, two laps per direction) and four long side of the arena canters (again, two per direction). We’re also doing haunches and forehand turns, as well as backing in circles. That’s enough to keep her happy, as she does seem to get tired of doing nothing but walking. She perks right up when she gets to think about using herself, and I’m up in two-point while doing it.

But at least the writing is moving along, the horse seems to be improving, and perhaps we’re getting more movement on other things going on in the life.

Onward.

 

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Call for beta readers–Alien Savvy

Well, the rewrite/expansion of Alien Savvy went to nearly 22,000 words from 5,500, and it feels pretty much complete now, not truncated like the short story was. Lots more depth, lots more flow to it. I like the little bugger. I guess it really did want to be a novella.

But. I need beta readers, especially betas who remember 1962 and can spot potential anachronisms. Anybody want to read a sf-western crossover with lots of horse action in it? Free copy of the final version and reader’s choice of any of my other books available for those who want to volunteer.

And now it’s on to a couple of other stories, plus the beginnings of Netwalk’s Children. Kicking off my sorta NaNo following with around 2000 words today, gonna shoot for that consistently throughout the month.

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