That Voice. . . Again? Already? So SOON?

The voice is assaulting me today. You know the one. It tries to convince you that you aren’t good enough, that you’ll never write a story as good as the last one that published, that your endings suck and you’ll never figure out how to end a story properly except by accident or good critiquers offering suggestions. This is a nasty voice, and I’m usually pretty good at telling them to suck it and go back to the rock from which they.. you know. Except for the first time in a while, I really do feel stuck.

I’m dissatisfied with my short stories right now. I can’t seem to end any of them right. Most of them have a major issue I just haven’t been able to resolve. And I’ve got a critique deficit to fill, so I can’t just start posting my stories for feedback.

I do have a few things in the works that should help. I’ll get through this, I always find a way. But I wanted to share this with you so that if you’re struck by all the massive stats other writers have been posting, or intimidated by others’ grand plans for writing in 2015, you’ll know you’re not alone. Right now, I want to throw my 2015 plan away. I know, five days into the year, brilliant. But that is what the voice does. Right when you’re trying to get your feet under you, it’s wriggling in the mud and trying to tunnel through to trip you up.

I am going to revise my goals, but in a manner I think will help. I’m going to critique massively. One, it’ll take away that deficit and two, spending this energy on actual critiques is a good use of it. I don’t knock other people’s writing, I analyze it, so if the voice wants to tire itself out on what everyone is writing, it can and no one will know of it. Next, I’m going to read for fun. Remind myself why I’m writing, what I want to aspire to. And third, I signed up for an online workshop February/March which should help deal with some of those issues.

Looking back at other times that voice has reared its ugly head, I realize I had something to fight against. It’s an odd motivation, but it results in change.

So if that voice is harassing you? Use it.

P.S. Oddly enough the workshop I’ll be taking is about Character and… You got it: Voice.  I like weird connections like this. Onward and upward!

Out With The Old, In With The New (2014/2015)

This blog is about my writing journey. It’s for me as much as it’s for you. It keeps me honest, it keeps me accountable. If I say I’m going to do something, I try like hell to get it done. Writing isn’t my full time gig yet, so I’m not always in control of Life Issues and the affect they have on my writing. (And fortunately, life issues aren’t always bad. They just affect the writing time).

2014 was incredible in that I made 2 professional writing sales, both to Daily Science Fiction. Once upon a time, I could only write flash fiction by accident. I’ve been working on it, don’t you know, and at least two editors out there like my work. :)

I recorded my general stats, which I’ll add below. The big thing for me was that while I didn’t accomplish as many revisions (my to-revise pile is currently frighteningly high), the ones I did revise fared so much better. Am I spending more time revising? Am I revising better? I’m not sure yet. Maybe the first drafts were in better shape than others. I’m not spending too much time worrying about the how and why. I have newly written stories that need revising, and I’m going to work as hard as I can and make them the best I can. Hopefully, you’ll get to read them soon (preferably in a published zine or anthology).

2014 Results:

  • New Short Stories: 26
  • New Novellas: 1
  • Short Story Edits: 22
  • New Submissions: 6
  • Total Submissions: 87
  • Rejections: 87
  • Acceptances and Publications: 2
  • Critiques Given: 14 (including 2 novel and 4 novellas)
  • Books Read: 14

2015 Plans

I’m gearing up toward working on longer projects, my novella series for one, and completing a novel I started a few yerars ago but never finished. I’m sticking with the short stories, of course, they’re too much fun not to write. I’m trying to get into some online classes and workshops. There are areas in which I’d like to improve, but I need some help.

Best of luck to you in your goals and plans for 2015. May it be productive for all of us.

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…