Tag Archives: author

Winter Elegy

My father passed away eleven years ago this week, at the tail end of an unusually frigid winter much like the one we’ve just had.

I don’t know which season was his favourite, but he relished each of them. He didn’t fear or curse the cold — he took us cross-country skiing and walking in the snow whenever he could, until that last winter that he spent sick, in and out of hospital. We drove on icy roads and trudged in winter gear from the parking lot to visit him.

I wasn’t thinking about it then, but I suspect that’s when I began to hate winter.

For a long time he didn’t know it would be his last, only that he was very sick…and he was never sick. But he knew the possibility was there. He was not afraid.

When I was young, I used to love playing in the snow. Building forts, sledding, pretending I was an Arctic explorer or a princess in an ice castle (the budding writer at work). Later I tried skating and snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing was always my favourite, the clean sound of the skis in the snow, the glorious sensation of flying, the sleeping trees and pure white all around. I’ve done some of those things since he died, but nowadays I mostly just trudge.

On the day of the funeral, the winter finally broke, with a sky of clear Alberta blue, meltwater running in the cemetery. I like to think it broke for him, but then he didn’t mind the snow. Maybe it broke for us.

Even now, at this time of year I get melancholy. I still like a clean snowfall, crunchy snow and a clear winter sky, but as the season wears on, it wears at me too. I wait out the last cold days, just enduring the late-winter storms. Waiting for March to pass and spring to arrive, and life to come again.

 

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

It’s blog hop time! I’ve been tagged by the lovely Aussie writer Ellen Gregory, who adores both fantasy and travel (sound familiar?). The idea with this one is to answer four questions, then tag three other awesome writers to answer the same questions on their own blogs in a week or so. If you’re the sort who loves to read about the writing process, then do be careful or you could be lost down the rabbit hole forever….

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently editing a YA historical fantasy novel, with plans to query agents once it’s done. I’ve also just finished a serial story set in a fantasy version of Thailand (the fifth and final part of the serial will be posted next month). My next project will be to revamp the serial into a single (longish) short story.

What I’ve mentioned so far happens to be fantasy, but I also write other types of speculative fiction — steampunk, science fiction, Gothic — and sometimes even non-genre fiction.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

One answer is that I often write at the border between YA and adult. (New Adult, I guess you’d say, except that NA is usually contemporary and mine usually isn’t.) Another is that I think my writing has an essential optimism that shines through…the sense that yes, your place in the world is out there and you will find it, even if you have to cross the world or fight your way through larger events or live through years of your adult life to get there.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because speculative fiction makes my heart sing.

Because when I say “I wish I could write like that” or “As a reader, I loved that book to pieces”, it’s usually speculative fiction I’m talking about.

Because it makes my inner 12-year-old happy, and she’s important to me.

Because making up worlds, genre-bending, and mashing elements together to see what sticks…is fun.

Because I want to see more like what I write. Much as I love medieval Europe, there are whole other civilizations out there, and I want to see them in fantasy too.

Because I love the moment when I stumble on a genre mash-up, or a crazy worldbuilding thing, and think, “You can DO that?!” (Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere blew my mind back in high school. So did discovering steampunk, sometime later. So do most of my favourite writers, even now.)

Because I love the tropes of the genre.

Because the sky’s the limit.

4. How does my writing process work?

I like to say I’m a reformed pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer) or headlight writer (you can only see as far as your headlights). My short stories are often still written that way. And I’m gradually moving from longhand to typing, even in the brainstorming and outlining stages…which were the last to go.

For longer works, I usually start with a lot of brainstorming, research, backstory, and character development — not via questionnaires or “outtake” scenes or dialogues, just jotting down lots of notes. Then I develop a very broad outline with the opening/setup and major turning points (act breaks). There’ll be some one-liner descriptions for scenes in there too, mostly in the first quarter of the story, getting nebulous very quickly. Or, in other words, more or less what Ellen said.

When it comes time to start writing, I prefer to draft quickly so I don’t lose the feel of the story or the overarching plot. NaNo works great for this, even if it means that what I end up with is rough.

And what happens after that? I do have some trusted critiquers, but I’m still working on finding a process for editing that works for me. If you have any advice, please share!

Tagged

And the tagged writers are…

  • Erin Zarro — writer of science fantasy, and of poetry
  • KD Sarge — writer of science fiction romance, with shenanigans
  • Kit Campbell — writer of paranormal romance, with banter

Making Headway on the ROW80 Week 9 Check-In

We’re heading into the final stretch of ROW80! How are all of you fine folks doing?

Writing Updates

Last week, I said I wanted to start putting a little more effort into this blog. In case you missed it, I wrote a travel post about visiting Rajasthan, India — with photos taken by yours truly.

I’m also finally making headway on the novel edit, I think. I had Friday off work and put in a good 2 hours, for a total of 3 hours this week. Not as much as I wanted, but (a) I also had to deal with a furnace issue on Friday and a very full Saturday, and (b) I’m focusing on staying positive and celebrating what I do get done rather than beating myself up for what I don’t do. So…three hours, yay!

Renovation Updates

We’re still sorting out the IKEA snafu, and busy researching ranges and drapes. So nothing visible is happening, but plenty behind the scenes. Which has been true of the novel as well, come to think of it!

At least we’re making good use of the newly finished attic / exercise room…which is really the point of renovating anyway, right?

 

The Best of Rajasthan, India

One of the most popular tourist destinations in India is the state of Rajasthan. Fortified palaces, arid landscapes, rich curries…all conveniently close to the capital of New Delhi, where most international travellers first arrive. I spent six weeks in India last year, with a good chunk of that in Rajasthan — and I still just scratched the surface of what this state has to offer.

Arch in Udaipur

Arch in Udaipur

Here, then, are the do-not-miss experiences:

1. Trains

Riding the train in India is quite the experience — it is by turns exciting, confusing, stressful, and fun. (For more, see Guide to Train Travel in India.) But if you’re going to do it, Rajasthan is the place to do it in. Most of the major cities are a reasonable six-hour ride apart, with signage and announcements in English as well as Hindi.

If you’re really pressed for time, try riding the Golden Triangle — New Delhi to Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) to Jaipur (which will give you a quick glimpse of Rajasthan) and back to Delhi. These are all fairly short rides, with no worries about security on overnight trains, and you’ll get a little taste of the vast Indian train system.

2. Forts

The forts of Rajasthan deserve their own post. For now, I’ll just say that if you love old architecture or are a history buff, these are not to be missed. (For a quick primer on Indian forts, see Visiting the Red Fort in New Delhi.)

There are many fine forts (really fortified palaces) to visit, each with unique charm and character. If I had to pick two to recommend, it would be Amber Fort near Jaipur, with its gorgeous surroundings, many courtyards, and beautiful decor…

Amer Fort near Jaipur

…and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, with its towering walls, intricate detailing, and museum showcasing items from the time of the rajahs (most of the other forts are simply empty):

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Did I mention this was my favourite part of Rajasthan?

More pictures after the jump…

Continue reading

Upping the Ante on the ROW80 Week 8 Check-In

How are you all doing? We’re heading into the final month of this round. Anyone tackling NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) in March?

Writing Updates

I finished out February with 14.5 hours of writing/editing, mostly on my novel edit-in-progress. My February goal was either 14 or 15 hours  (I said different things in different places), so I’m calling that a win.

Last week I raised my goal slightly to 4 hours of writing/editing from 3.5, and hit it. I’m shooting for 4 hours again this week, and a goal of 20 hours by the end of March.

As for actual progress, this week I edited Part 5 of my fantasy serial, “Still Waters Run Deep”. It’ll be posted at Turtleduck Press next month.

Also, I now have my crit partners’ responses all the way through the end of the novel. I’m just starting to dig into the responses and figure out what to do with them. So there’s still a lot of outlining and brainstorming and various other forms of thinking on paper (or rather, onscreen), and not much actual prose happening. I’m still worried that this isn’t getting me anywhere fast — I can brainstorm endlessly and still not have a story — but at least I’m slowly increasing the time I spend at the keyboard.

In other news, I’ve kind of neglected the blog in the past couple of months. I’d like to start putting a little more effort into it again, with one longer post, one shorter post, and one #ROW80 update per week.

Renovation Updates

The renovating efforts have slowed down this week, but we now have the necessary electrical wiring to put in a stove and a fridge in the upstairs kitchen. The furniture assembly isn’t quite finished due to some snafus with IKEA, so that has to get straightened out before we can organize the kitchen. Cold weather has made us disinclined to go out and buy stuff, so we’re still bumbling along with everything half-finished. Grr argh.

Still…onward!

 

New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited About: February 2014 Edition

So I’ve got to share some news. Not Turtleduck Press news — these are other people’s books I’m talking about. I’m excited about them and hope you will be, too.

First up, a new release by YA author Megan Crewe:

The Worlds We Make by Megan Crewe

Out now. This is the third book in her YA apocalyptic trilogy. In her world, society is brought to its knees by an influenza epidemic, leaving Kaelyn struggling to do the right thing, or even to know what the right thing is. It’s a quieter, more reflective series than is usual in this genre. I’ve read the first two books and can’t wait to read the finale.

Second, an adult fantasy novel by Katherine Addison, otherwise known as Sarah Monette:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Out in April. Monette is one of my very favourite authors. Last year I read a book she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear, and loved it so much that I promptly flipped back to the beginning and read it again. The Goblin Emperor has been listed on her Wikipedia page as “forthcoming” for years. I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally (almost) here.

Speaking of Elizabeth Bear, she writes a lot and, much as I love her, I have trouble keeping up, but this spring will see the conclusion of her current fantasy series:

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Out in April. It’s an epic fantasy trilogy set on a world inspired by the Asian Steppes. Need I say more? (The first book is called Range of Ghosts. You’re welcome.)

Finally, Suzanne Collins doesn’t really need my help with promotion, but I’m sharing anyway: Mockingjay is finally out in paperback as of next week! (Which may also mean the ebook will drop in price.)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Your turn! What recent or upcoming books are you excited about?

Chugging Along with the ROW80 Week 7 Check-In

How are you all doing this week? Did you get up early to watch the hockey game? (I didn’t, but an awful lot of people I know did. We Canadians take our hockey seriously.)

Writing Updates

Writing continues to chug along. I’ve hit 3.5 hours for the second week in a row, meaning I’m on track to hit 14 hours this month. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I’ve done in a month since November and also more consistent than I’ve been since then, so go me!

This is my second week working on a novel edit that got shelved mid-draft, so I’m starting to dig deeper into the material. It’s only the second draft and I’m a pantser, so there’s a lot of digging still to go. I can only hope I’m getting somewhere….

This week I’m setting the bar a little higher and aiming for 4 hours.

Renovation Updates

This past week we’ve finally made some headway on getting the upstairs kitchen operational (my significant other’s parents live with us, and we’ve been sharing a kitchen). We have:

  • met with a guy about electrical upgrades (to happen this coming week) that will mean we can get a stove and fridge for the upstairs kitchen
  • started clearing out / cleaning the kitchen (which, not being in use, naturally became the “junk” room)
  • assembled some IKEA furniture, for the kitchen and elsewhere, that will help with storage (one of our biggest challenges)

Also, this is not exactly about renovations, but we’ve used the newly set up exercise room most days this week. Go us!

 

Late Winter Blues

Right about this time of year, I always start to feel really ground down by winter. Christmas holidays are a distant memory, the February long weekend (Family Day in most of Canada) is over, and the Easter long weekend isn’t for another month or two. Post-holiday optimism and resolve have been dulled by the pressures of reality. The cold grey weather seems like it’ll never end, and I’m more than ready for some warmth and sunshine.

And yes, I’m taking Vitamin D and I’ve tried full-spectrum lights in the past. Last year I even contrived to run away to a hot climate for three months, but that’s not an option this year.

(Funny thing is, when I was younger I thought snowbirds — in Canuck-speak, that’s retirees who head south for the winter — were wimps. Now I totally get the appeal! Alas, I’m a looong way from being able to do that regularly, even if I did swing it once.)

Here’s something I wrote almost exactly two years ago: Surviving the End of Winter. Unfortunately, those strategies aren’t working so well this time. (Even the copious amounts of chocolate.) Mental health is a moving target, I swear.

So I’m turning the platform over to you. How do you cope with the late-winter blues?

#ROW80 Update

Despite the above, I’ve already hit 2.25 hours of novel revision this week — thanks in part to the aforementioned long weekend, and in part to having to prep pages for my critique group. Only another 1.25 hours to go! Jury’s still out on whether I’m actually making progress or stalled, though. Maybe the rest of the week will see things start to move along.

 

Blogiversary the Second

This week marks the second anniversary of this blog. I know, I know, I’m a toddler in the world of blogging, but I’m still excited. So here are some things I’ve learned from being a toddler:

Blogging regularly is good discipline. I’ve managed a regular schedule for pretty much two years now. Given how my fiction writing schedule goes (or doesn’t), that’s not peanuts.

I can’t think short. Blogging is time-consuming, and depending on who you listen to, it might be time better spent working on fiction. I’ve tried to write shorter posts to decrease the time commitment while maintaining the same schedule, and it just doesn’t work. I think long, and that’s all there is to it.

Comments make all the difference. Blogging can sometimes feel like shouting into the ether. It’s a relief when someone steps up to say “Hey, I hear you!” — either in so many words, or with a simple “like”. Thank you all for being here!

This blog is all over the place. Travel blog? Geekery, feminism, and the intersection of the two? Personal journey and mental health? Writing? Yes! (And more.) It may not be the best for platform or building a coherent audience, but it does keep me entertained.

Just to reinforce that last point, here are the ten most popular posts from the last two years:

10. Book Nostalgia: Trixie Belden. Trixie was one of my favourite characters growing up, but I worried when I wrote this post that she would be too niche to garner any interest. Guess I was wrong!

9. Into the Jungle at Taman Negara. A travel post about Malaysia. In this case, I think the popularity stems from the relative lack of other posts on the topic…but I hope the enthusiasm of the writing (it was my first time in a jungle!) and photography encourage readers to look around a bit while they’re here.

8. If You Liked…A Game of Thrones. TV series + bestselling fantasy author + algorithm from online retail giant = win! But more than that, I put a lot of thought into not just “if you liked…” but “if you liked X aspect of…”, and I think it shows. I’ve also done “If You Liked…Temeraire.”

7. Book Nostalgia: The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. Here’s another “book nostalgia” post about a series that was one of my very favourites growing up.

6. Book Nostalgia: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. And another one! I haven’t done any Nostalgia posts lately because I haven’t been rereading, and it’s difficult to blog coherently about books I haven’t read in years. But their popularity has me thinking maybe I should revisit the topic….

5. Pacific Rim Analysis: Is Mako a Strong Female Character? Like I said, feminism and geekery are topics that fascinate me, and clearly I’m far from the only one. This is the most recent post on the Top 10 list, from August 2013.

4. Exploring the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. This is my only other travel post to have hit the Top 10 so far (though “Guide to Train Travel in India” is sitting at #11), which is funny because I feel like the travel posts are often my strongest. If you liked this one and/or #9, have a peek at some of the others!

3. Defining Steampunk. Clearly a lot of people are not sure what steampunk is all about. Or at least, they weren’t when this was written two years ago — it doesn’t get a lot of hits these days. Regardless, I love steampunk, so I’m happy to be a resource. (I’ve written more about it here.)

2. Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games. Again, super-popular film and super-popular book made for a lot of hits…which made me happy because I really enjoyed unleashing my (not-so-inner) geek to write this. I wrote one for Catching Fire too, but for whatever reason, not as many people are Googling that.

And the number one blog post, with over twice as many hits as #2…

1. 7 Writing Lessons from George R.R. Martin. To be fair, this one gets a fair number of false positives — hits from people looking for writing advice from GRRM, or writing lessons given by GRRM. Be that as it may, I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out.

The first two years have been a journey for sure. Hope you’ll join me as we enter the Terrible Twos and beyond!

Your turn! If you track your blog stats, what have you learned from them? Or do you deliberately avoid looking at them?

Resurfacing for ROW80 Week 6 Check-In

Here’s a Sunday check-in for a change!

Quick recap: in my last check-in, I spoke about being frustrated that renovations were taking too much time, and I decided to raise my weekly goal from 3 to 3.5 hours (down from the 5-hour goal I declared at the start of ROW80 and then kept missing).

Writing Updates

Turns out that was a good plan. (I’ve used the same goal in the past and found it works well, simply because it’s so easy to track — no tricky math.) Last week I hit 3 hours for the first time since starting the challenge. This week I’ve hit 3.5 hours. My unofficial goal for February has been 14 hours (half an hour per day — averaged out because I don’t write every single day) and I’m completely on track for that. Go me!

Another component of my original ROW80 goals was to write in bigger chunks. That’s been kind of patchy — half an hour a day is all I can manage most days — but I have done two 2-hour days in February so far, and today’s writing included a 1.5 hour session. So I’m successfully starting to train myself to go for longer.

As for the actual writing, I’ve finally abandoned a flash fiction piece that wasn’t working, after spending way too long trying to make it work (story of my writing life). Instead I’m going back to a novel edit that got shelved mid-draft. I’d really like to finish it and get it out there.

That won’t happen by the end of this ROW80, but I’m aiming for sometime this year. I can’t be more specific because this is the first novel I’ve gotten this far with, so I’m still working out my process. Wish me luck….

Renovation Updates

Things have slowed down a bit and there are no actual renovations happening at the moment. But since my last post, my significant other and I have:

  • discovered that we can’t hang curtains yet
  • met a guy about central air conditioning (very excited about this, but alas, it can’t happen until the snow on the roof melts…and yes, we have snow and still need a/c in the summer)
  • put together four chairs (hey, we are very much not DIYers, so it’s worth mentioning in my books)
  • survived a trip to IKEA (note: the IKEA app is the best thing ever) for some badly needed storage furniture, a large piece for the kitchen, and some decor (decor does not come naturally to me, but it’s important too)
  • started setting up the new exercise room / guest room
  • had an inaugural workout in the exercise room (also very exciting)

So things are starting to come together, finally. We do still have the kitchen to tackle, which will be a huge job. The first step is clearing out the junk that’s accumulated in that room, then cleaning, then getting stuff for it — taking what my MIL isn’t using, and buying all the things to fill in the gaps. Whew.

I’m reminding myself that all of this is part of Project: Making Space and it will all make my life better in the long run.

In the meantime, I’ll be hiding behind my computer, shooting to get another 3.5 hours closer to having a finished novel.