State of the Writing – November 2014

I’m in what I consider a healthy competition with myself to do better each year. As of this moment, I have written and submitted more in 2014 than I did in 2013. I’ve had 2 publications both years – but this year’s both are pro level publications. I revised less, but I think I revised better. I’m working more through my revisions, so rather than 4 or 5 drafts per story, I’m looking at 3 to 4 before I submit.  I’m still learning though, or more of my stories would have been accepted.

The big question is what am I working on for the rest of the year? I’m veering away from short stories for the next six weeks. I’m writing a novella, what I believe will be the first in a four or five novella series. I’m preparing to jump back into my fantasy novel. 40k words will need to be written and I’m aiming for New Year’s Eve as a finish date for that.

I love my short stories. I push a lot of words out every year and feel accomplished by getting them done. I also love my long projects which I’ve been neglecting. It’s difficult to do both together, so I need to binge on one form for a while then move on to another. Oddly, the break from the short stories is actually helping with them. While my focus is on the longer projects and the immense fun worldbuilding is, my short story characters pop into my brain unexpectedly with a “what if” question.

“What if” I reversed genders for the the main characters in that SF story. That would be amusing, actually. When it comes back from submission, I might just do that. It would mean SHE would save HIS rear. And when HE begs for the kiss, there are more than just sexual impulses that she uses to decide. Another story has been on the see-saw of ‘is this fantasy or science fiction’? Because it’s still at the point it can go either way. It has to be one of those, but the specific details will be changed to ground it in the right one. That I’ve been so unsure meant the story wasn’t ready to be done. Except now I’ve got a reason to make it fantasy.

The problem I’m having is that since my brain is immersed in the longer projects, I’m thinking about how my short stories can be combined (characters and worlds) to make novels or a novella series. Oh the trouble I’m in.

But these are good problems to have and I’m happy with my writing progress. I applied for a January online workshop. I’m thinking about using some time off from the day job to do some December writing. :)  So many stories to write, so little time to squeeze them out.

World Fantasy Convention 2014

WFC 2014 shall hence forward be known as novellacon for me. I love attending panels and filling my head with new knowledge and angles of thought until I can’t absorb another thought. I’m not so much a participant of Barcon though I made the rounds and caught up with most of the people I wanted, but one of my favorite parts, was processing on the last day. Processing in terms of taking the world building I’d been doing since Wednesday, the character building, the plot stacking, and churning that out at something I’m calling my Lobbycon Write-In.

There’s something about writing with the buzz of people surrounding me, especially when my brain is chock full of success stories for those who put their time in. It’s amazing what some of these writers do, and I’m in awe of the stories they’ve created. If I want to get there, I need to get my time in, do the hard work. Push through, get the words. It’s also immensely fun to write without concern for my normal responsibilities (kids, day job, managing the house). I can write to absolute brain-dead exhaustion without worrying that some crisis is going to come up and require me to take charge. The most I have to worry about is eating, sleeping, showering and charging my devices.

The panels at this con certainly impressed me. They were well organized to the point the panelists had either spoken by phone or emailed prior to the panel itself. The moderators performed their jobs amazingly well, keeping to the topic and asking through-provoking and entertaining questions.

I made it to one reading for a friend in my writer’s group and that was probably my best experience so far in attending a reading. (And while the fudge was delish, it simply added to a creatively planned reading).

I’ll probably have more to say as my brain digests the past few days, but for now, I just want to say that I’m really pleased the way this con went, from the organizing, to the old and new friends, to the team of Lobbycon Write-In computer watchers while I ran off the LR. :)

Later I’ll have to brag about the books – the free ones and the ones I bought. Peeps, it’s a year of reading. Seriously. Unless I give up writing for two months. Yeah, not going to happen.

Cara’s Heartsong – Published in Daily Science Fiction

My latest short story is up at Daily Science Fiction: Cara’s Heartsong.

Motivation, Check. Brain–uhoh

Some days, you’ve got the motivation, but not the brain power. Someone’s turned off a switch while you had your back turned, or something crawled into your skull and is preventing signals from ever leaving it.

This is where I’m at right now. Between work deadlines, a construction project at home, and a looming submission deadline, my brain is not wired for revising, but for survival. Seriously, my only two goals this month was a) meet the WotF deadline and b) not gain weight during the kitchen project. B is going especially well because of one support group, and A is iffy, but not impossible, due to the fantastic support of my writing friends.

I need to salvage A. The story needs finishing in a manner up to my standards. I don’t want to just shove a story out the door to meet a deadline. I want to win the damn contest.

I’d love to take an afternoon and immerse myself into my world at the library, but the time just isn’t there for that. (My children have their own issues with this project, and their needs have to come before my writing). My home office is in chaos. I went from having my own space to sharing it with my husband and the kids for computers as well as our mini-kitchen/food-storage area. I can barely walk around the room and I used to be able to practice my karate forms here.

The project has another one to two weeks. My deadlines hits in 5 days.  Chocolate and soda are no longer viable options. Maybe some new music to drown out the chaos I’m physically living in?

What do you do when you’re unfocused? How do you get back on track?

Clockwork Daggers and Cookies with Beth Cato

I’m stoked to introduce you to Beth Cato, a gal who loves two of my favorite things, baking and writing, I’ve worked with her on Waylines Magazine and have enjoyed many of her short stories. She’s got a novel coming out that I cannot wait to read.

Please read our mini Q&A below, and then check out a note from Beth about Clockwork Dagger.

* * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * *

Dawn: Have you ever combined your passions, for example, writing about baking, or thrown your baking knowledge into one of your characters? (I suppose it would be rather difficult baking about writing…)

Beth: Yes! I had a story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies last year called “Stitched Wings,” where sugar-crusted little cakes play a pivotal role in the plot. Baking works its way into my books, too. I use different types of bread and ingredients to establish different cultures–I refer to things like Mendalian flatbread, or that the country to the north, Frengia, often uses maple in its baking. I even include my food blog’s name, Bready or Not, in a cameo in my sequel novel.

Dawn: (You had me at “sequel”.) Does baking ever help your writing process?

Beth: I get very restless if I’m at the computer for too long. Baking gives me something physical to do and some space to think as well. I’ve worked out a number of plot problems while scooping cookie dough or kneading bread! Plus, if I need a little break while I’m at the computer, there’s always Pinterest… though that can be a dangerous rabbit hole.

Dawn: Eating goes farther in my writing process than baking does. I may need to come visit the next time you’re baking through an issue. Should we expect any food scenes in Clockwork Dagger?

Beth: Oh yes. The food in the book isn’t extravagant; most of the action takes place in a country beset by fifty years of almost constant warfare. In a place that’s known shortages and starvation, my character know they can’t take things for granted. I work in a lot of period research from the American Civil War and World War I, too–things like camp beans, food poisoning, or the sad fact that after war, many work horses were re-purposed for food. That really happened after World War I. But there are positive elements to food as well. My heroine, Octavia, often professes her delight for chocolate. The little gremlin Leaf adores hard cheese–another great love of mine!

* * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * *

Here’s a note from Beth:

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It’s a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here’s the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

 Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

 You can also read the full first chapter over at TOR.com.  It can be found at  Goodreads, and purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. or most any independent bookstore.

 Now, on to the cookies!

 I’m an author, but I’m also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at www.bethcato.com, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

 This recipe makes chewy, spicy pillows. They are the perfect cookie for autumn leading right into Christmas. They smell divine, and the taste is just as amazing.

Chewy Cardamom Cookies

Cardamom Cookies4_sm

Modified from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2005.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup melted butter, unsalted

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom

1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup molasses [could try substituting honey]

1 egg, room temperature

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend the butter and shortening until creamy. Add in the brown sugar, baking soda, cardamom, and cinnamon.

2) Add the molasses and egg, and once that’s combined, slowly mix in the flour.

3) Using a teaspoon scoop or spoon, shape dough into small balls and roll in the cardamom and sugar.

4) Bake cookies for about 10 minutes or until edges are set and tops are slightly cracked. They will be pillowy–if too much so, flatten the next batch with a spatula or glass, if you wish.

Makes about 45 cookies, teaspoon-size.

OM NOM NOM.


Thanks for the recipe, Beth! Not sure where to go first, the bookstore or the grocery store…

FM Writers Merry Go Round Blog Tour: Publication Fears

FMWriters is traveling the web via the Merry Go Round Blog Tour. Site members have grouped together to write monthly on themed topics and turn the blog tour concept on its head: we’re not the ones touring: you are, as you read one writer’s perspective after another. This is my contribution to the Merry Go Round Tour. Enjoy your ride. ~ Dawn

 When it comes to writing, I perceive there to be two kinds of fears: the first being that voice in my head that throws the meanest what-if’s at me to keep me from getting stuff done. There’s also the stuff that truly is scary. It’s as real for writing as it is for publication.

Regarding ‘that voice’, the one that tries to sabotage me at ever step? It makes me think of, what if I hate it afterwards? What if the editors forgot to edit it, or fix my requested proof changes? What if everyone hates it?

 Then there’s the more realistic but still irrational, “What if no one likes it?” or worse, “What if everyone hates it?”

 Publication is about taste and opinions, first of the editor and the magazine they run, and second by the general public the editor has gauged should like your story. The honest truth is that not everyone will like my story. Not everyone will get it. Stories are built on a combination of my experience plus my imagination. If my writing can carry both over to you visually via the written word, I’m thrilled, and I really hope you love it. But if you don’t, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer. I had faith in myself, and my editors have faith in my story, or they wouldn’t have bought it.

 How about the way I like to put little bits of my own experience into my stories? Cara’s Heartsong plays on my passions as a mother. How Cherry Coke Saved My Life carries my personal mantra of make the best of every situation. Time Monkeys and the Fullness of Glasses ties into my need for order and organization. Good thing I fade to black on adult scenes.

 When it comes down to it, in writing at least, there are two kinds of people: one that cowers from their fears, letting it sabotage their attempts at success, and one that that says “screw you–oh wait, I can use you in a story!”

 You know where I stand. If you’re part of the former group, I hope you can ease past your fears and give yourself a chance. I’ve never regretted any of my publications. If you’re in the latter, I look forward to reading your work.

 Dawn

 Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic, Publication Fears”. If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read about their ideas, then check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour..

 

Cara’s Heartsong sold to Daily Science Fiction

Daily Science Fiction has accepted a second story for publication – Cara’s Heartsong.  I don’t have a publication date yet, but will let you know when it’s available, probably in the next month or two.