Maybe One Day…

Maybe one day…

… I’ll publish a short story.

… I’ll finish my novel.

… I’ll sign with an agent.

… I’ll hold my first book signing event.

… I’ll see my novel turned into a movie.

… someone will ask for my advice.

… I’ll be a real writer.

 

Maybe one day starts today.

A Short Story, a Promise and a Publication Date

Last month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. Go on, check it out. If you love words, it’s great fun! I had a goal in July of writing 31,000 words, and I succeeded. My project, a series of short stories.

A Decision
Now that the rush of Camp NaNo is over and I’ve had a few days to recover, it’s time to turn my attention back to a promise I made before the event started. I asked for your feedback on which of five stories you’d most like to read.

To be honest, I was surprised by the responses I got from you about which stories you wanted to read. I suppose my story blurbs were a bit sketchy, and probably not all that interesting. They were written based off very vague ideas as I tried to form a story from two or three words. In some cases, I didn’t even have a solid character on which to hang the story idea.

Nevertheless, you made your choices, and I thank you for your participation! Your choices helped give me direction in July. The story that received the most votes was:

The Adventures of Andreú and Marcel
Andreú and Marcel are Empaths of legend in the realms of Bangor, Dyfedd and beyond. Feared by the Jut’ma of the northern wastelands, revered as gods by the islanders of Bisbaine, and even spoken of in awed whispers by the Arikkaans, the stories of Andreú and Marcel are far reaching indeed. They are credited for the rise and fall of empires, for the creation of mountains and rivers and the birth of the islands. But not many know – or remember – their exploits were all for the love a woman.

The Process
When I first decided to try working on a series of short stories, I started by making a list of story ideas. I generated several ideas based on two separate novel worlds I’m currently working on. From this list, I randomly selected ten ideas. It so happened that there were five from each novel world. I decided to go with the ideas from the novel I’d been working on most recently, and those are the ideas I presented for input from you, my readers.

It turns out, ten ideas was beyond overly ambitious a goal, as I suspected it might. Even the five I narrowed it down to were more than I could complete in a month. I did finish the story above and began writing two others. I also did some preliminary sketching and research on a fourth.

New Title, New Focus
Having a single story to focus on gave me a place to start. Still the idea suggested by “The Adventures of Andreú and Marcel” is very broad, and implies the possibility of a great many stories. Therefore I zeroed in on a single phrase from the proposed story blurb: “all for the love of a woman.” I took this and imagined a single event which could have been the beginning of all those adventures. This narrower focus also suggested to me a new title for the story, which in turn helped me focus it even further.

I decided to write this story in the first person point of view. But when I started it, I wasn’t entirely sure who was the main character of the story. So I decided to write it from the perspective of each of the three main characters and see where that took me. As it turns out, the story is now told from the first-person perspective of all three, each character with their own section of the story.

Writing it this way made the story longer than I’d first anticipated. Instead of my original goal of three thousand words, the final first draft is a little more than seven thousand. I don’t expect the final draft to retain this length, but it will likely still be longer than my initial plan. I’m still fairly new to writing short stories, so this has all been a learning adventure.

What Happens Next
Now I begin the journey of rewriting the story to make it perfect. Or as perfect as I can make it. I will give it a good run through myself before sharing it with a couple of trusted individuals. I would also like to run it by a couple of beta readers before I publish it. My goal is to have it all polished and ready to publish by Saturday, September 3.

First step, print the draft and read through it. Next I’ll build a plot outline. I’ll likely do a complete rewrite, removing in the process all the extra bits I left in during NaNo.

It’s a scary thing, sharing a piece of fiction. For some reason it is harder for me to share my fiction than a book review or an essay. Maybe it’s somehow more personal. But on that note, it’s time to get back to work on this story. I’ve made a promise, and I intend to keep it.

In the meantime, I shared a sneak peak here. And just for fun, here’s another bit of the new story, “Shattered.” I hope you enjoy it.

   Andreú pulled me into an embrace, spinning me around in circles. His joy was infectious and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
“Put me down!”
Andreú stopped spinning and let my feet back down to the ground, but he didn’t release me.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“That was a waste of your time. You should have known I’d be out here.”
“And I would know that, of course, because certainly you’re not supposed to be in Elder Harlan’s philosophy lecture right now.”
“Oh, ugh! That man is insufferable. You also know I skip out on that as often as possible.”
“Right.” Andreú looked down at me, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Then, of course I should have known you would be beating up some poor lout on the training yard.”
“Andreú!” I slapped at his shoulder, trying to push myself away, but he held me even tighter. “I do not beat up anyone.”
“Of course not. The fact remains, you were not there.”
“Master Chen has his hands full training a bunch of brand new recruits. I would not be able to get a real workout. And I didn’t feel much like getting beat up myself by a bunch of clumsy farm boys with sticks.”
“Fair enough.” Andreú drew me back down to sit on the ground beside the tree again, keeping his arm wrapped around my shoulders almost as if he feared I might flee. “But then I should have known by your absence at the yard that you would naturally be with Marcel.”
“I’m not my brother’s keeper, Andreú.”
“Are you not?”
“Oh stop. I look out for him, that’s all.”

Moon of Three Rings, by Andre Norton: A Review

This is the story of Krip Vorlund, a Free Trader, a group of merchants who travel between planets seeking trade opportunities, and his chance encounter with Maelen, one of the Thassa, a people group on the planet of Yiktor. This encounter between these two very different individuals brings them unknowingly into the plot of a third.

Norton weaves into her story the conscious and subconscious desires of each character, and how those desires impact the direction the story takes. She makes it clear that the story hinges on the decisions of each character at each moment.

The story sort of meanders through the world of Yiktor, the conflict building gradually as the author reveals more of her imagined world. To be honest, I had some difficulty with this at first. The story didn’t draw me in as quickly as I’d expected. I still enjoyed the ride, it was just slower than anticipated.

By the end of the book, however, I realized just how skillfully Norton had laid her trap. I was fully invested in the story, and finished the book satisfied with the outcome. Norton ties together all the threads I hadn’t even been fully aware she’d been weaving. The story ends in a way I hadn’t seen coming, but should have.

This is the first book by Andre Norton I’ve read, so I have no way to know if this is typical of her style. It left me feeling somewhat haunted. The story has continued to linger in my mind, and I continue to put pieces together as I remember bits from early on in the book. Little innocuous bits of information so skillfully placed, the ending was all but inevitable.

This book came to me as a recommendation from a member of a book club I belong to. I’ve been reluctant to borrow books from members because my to-be-read pile is already so unmanageably large. But for two reasons I gave in this time. One reason was this gal’s persistence and her obvious love for Andre Norton. The second reason was that I’d recently come across this list of women authors of fantasy and science fiction. Though Andre Norton isn’t on the list itself, the comments and my own knowledge of Norton’s contributions to the genres made me curious.

I enjoyed this book. It was slower and subtler than many books I’ve read recently. But the change of pace turned out to be a good thing. I look forward to reading more by Andre Norton. Do you have a favorite Norton book? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Finishing this book represents step one of my August reading challenge I set for myself. One book down, six more to go!

Blackberry Pie

Each summer there is a blackberry bramble that climbs over our back fence from the neighbor’s. This summer the bramble has been more prolific than in years past, and my children have been enjoying the fruit immensely.

My oldest got it into his head that he didn’t just want to eat the blackberries. No. He wanted a pie. This little man of mine is about as bullheaded as they come. And when he gets an idea to do something, he does it. Immediately.

As a result, I have had apple trees, cherry trees, watermelons, sunflowers and pumpkins planted randomly across my backyard. These endeavors are usually forgotten once completed, and nothing has ever come of my strange backyard garden.

Not so the pie. My son has laboriously collected berries from the backyard bramble. Despite my best efforts to keep him grounded, he has stacked wagons and toys precariously in an effort to reach those glorious berries tantalizingly out of reach. He has refrained from eating them, carefully saving them up until he has enough to make a pie.

Tonight, then, with a few extra berries from a local farm store and a couple of frozen pie crusts my son and I baked our first ever blackberry pies.

Craving

Blackberries

Sexism & The Muse

The idea of the “muse” comes to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans who liked to assign to everything in their world a god or goddess. In this way, they established a sort of order in a chaotic environment of which they had little understanding, and less control. They assigned power to these deities that helped them explain the human existence.

The muse survives today as a largely female entity that serves as a source of inspiration to the creative individual. She is often described as fickle and capricious, undependable and flighty.

Until fairly recently, artists and writers who achieve any level of recognition were predominantly men. Women have often had to pretend to be men in order for their work to be taken seriously. Even in our own time, an author such as Joanne Rowling’s name was changed at the recommendation of her publisher.

Why is the muse a woman?

Men have historically been in the habit of shifting blame for their weaknesses off of themselves and on to women. Women have historically accepted this. We have accepted our inferiority, our weakness. And in so doing, we also have shifted the blame of our own failings off of ourselves.

To be fair, I don’t believe this is a “man” problem, or a “woman” problem. Rather, it is a human problem. And the creative arts are only one area where women have been historically undervalued.

Dove has recently released an ad campaign on Twitter, #MyBeautyMySay, attempting to redefine female beauty by looking at the way we speak to and about women athletes. This is only one part of the same cultural bias that exists against women and girls. It is deeply rooted in our history and only a truly honest, soul-searching evaluation of our inner thoughts can ever produce any significant change.

What should we do instead? I think what’s required is a complete shift in our thinking, a serious consideration of our thoughts and the words we speak.

Rather than shift blame, we need to own our own failings and weaknesses. They are a part of our identity. Whenever possible, we should work to improve and overcome those failings. When it isn’t, we should use our strengths to compensate for our weakness.

My “muse” is a part of myself, and as such, she is decidedly female. Yes, I can be flighty and capricious. Sometimes I lack self-discipline. But I can also work hard and aggressively pursue my ambitions. I will own my failings. I won’t blame my weakness on someone else, or some outside force.

When I sat down to write this post, this isn’t what I’d intended to write at all. But it seems, my fickle muse had other ideas.

Apology & Redemption

Back in January I wrote this about my 2016 Reading Challenge. I listed twelve books chosen based on themes proposed by modernmrsdarcy.com. Since then, I’ve read and reviewed only five of the books on that list. Now, here it is already August, leaving me only five months to read the remaining seven.

In April and July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, making writing a priority over reading, and, well, nearly everything. Therefore, during those months if I read at all, it was minimal, and I did not complete a single book. I also failed to post a single book review during those two months as well.

Here, I offer this apology for not reading as much as I should have. And for not posting reviews of what I have read. I’d also like to make this the beginning of a new challenge to myself for the month of August, and perhaps in doing so, redeem myself for my lack.

Instead of a writing challenge, I assign myself a reading challenge. I normally don’t read more than one book at a time, but somehow I managed to crack open multiple books over the past several weeks. Therefore, I will work on completing these books first, and then, if I have enough time, I will move on to more.

Here then, is my list:

1. Moon of Three Rings, by Andre Norton – I borrowed this book from another member of my book club, The Dragon’s Hoard. This club consists of about seven, or so, of my coworkers who all enjoy reading the same sort of books that I typically enjoy – fantasy and science fiction. Because of my nearly toppling to-be-read pile, I’ve balked at borrowing books from other members so that I don’t end up keeping them for too long. One member has been particularly vocal about Andre Norton, and as she appears on another of my “must read” lists, I finally gave in and accepted this book on her recommendation.

2. Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank – This book is number seven on my 2016 Reading Challenge list, but I got a little out of order when I wasn’t able to get my hands on number six, Classified Woman, when I was ready for it. So, on a trip to the local library to get some summer reading material for my children, I went ahead and checked out this book and began reading it.

3. D is for Deadbeat, by Sue Grafton – I have an embarrassingly large stack of books I borrowed some time ago from a community bookshelf at my place of employment. I have grand intentions of reading these books and returning them. This one happened to be on top when I became overwhelmed guilt over how long I’ve kept these books, and so, I started reading it.

4. Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich – This book should perhaps be at the top of the list as I started reading it longer ago than any of the others. I was reading this book chapter by chapter and using the writing exercises at the end of each as writing prompts that I shared with my local writers’ group. I was having fun with this, but somehow got distracted and haven’t been back to it in some time.

5. Writers of the Future Volume XXIX, ed. by Dave Wolverton – When I decided I was going to try writing short stories for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project this year, I thought maybe I should read a few short stories by other writers to get a better feel for the genre. This book has been on my bookshelf for I don’t know how long. I picked it up but managed to read only one story.

6. Necromancer Awakening, by Nat Russo – I’ve only recently ventured into the ebook world. This is only my third. I’d been considering this book for a little while, when the sequel was released earlier this year. Since I can’t read book two before reading book one, I had to get this one first. Since it’s on my mobile device, I can read it in the grocery line, or wherever else I happen to be.

7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy – This one is an audiobook I decided to download one night when I was busy making a cheesecake for yet another work pot luck. Since I can’t read, write, or do much of anything else while my hands are busy with baking, this seemed a perfectly logical way to make better use of my time. And so far, I’m loving it!

There it is, my hope of redemption for my reading failure so far this year. I am notoriously over-ambitious, and a slow reader. I will count myself successful to finally close even a few of these open-ended projects.