Category Archives: The Writing Life

Mirages and Speculations

Setting is a crucial part of storytelling. Setting affects the story in many ways. What challenges do the protagonists face from nature and their environment? How has the landscape shaped the culture of the people who live there?

There are some common tropes for fantasy and sci-fi stories. Fantasy stories are often set in a parallel version of medieval Europe, with small villages, walled towns and thick forests to traverse. Sci-fi stories are often set on gleaming high-tech space stations. There’s nothing wrong with these settings, of course. Sometimes they suit the story perfectly.

But an unexpected setting can result in an unexpected kind of story.

Mirages and Speculations is a fantasy and sci-fi story set in a different kind of landscape: the desert. Think wind-swept plateaus, scorching sands, and arroyos. Come discover if that glimmer on the desert horizon is a lake, or the gleam of light off the side of a flying saucer. If those swirling clouds are dust devils–or djinn.

Seventeen authors of science fiction and fantasy take you into worlds both futuristic and fantastic under the desert skies.

You can order it as print or e-book from Amazon here.

My Year in RE-View

This has been the year of RE for me.

Relaunch – In August, WordFire Press released Knight of Flame, my debut novel introducing a small cadre of elemental knights and their constant struggle against the forces of Shadow. Originally published in 2013, this new version sports a fresh edit and shiny new cover. We relaunched the series, Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis, in preparation for the next three books.

Re-envision – As we finalized the re-release of Knight of Flame, I had the opportunity to re-invent the second book in the series, KNIGHT OF AIR. I’ve been rehashing the third act, arguing with myself over where to end the book. My original vision and early drafts clocked in at 180k words. But then I got to thinkin’…maybe that’s too long…maybe I should shoot for the same length as KOF (approx. 119k words)…yeah, let’s do that. I see where it all fits. Sure, I can make that work. Yes, I CAN make that work, but that’s not how I envisioned the book. And forget that title—Knight of Air. It’s not right. My thoughts were locked in old-think, or prior-marketing-syndrome, where I thought I’d title the book with the name of the knight’s POV introduced with that novel.

Recharged – Recharged, I shattered that mindset. I’ve re-made key decisions to honor my original vision and I’m pushing forward. The second book in the Chronicles of the Knights Elementalis is called, THE LAST CLAN, and will be decidedly longer than KOF. All for the better. Blast-off!

Rehash – I could rehash the huge, non-writing family and corporate priorities that consumed my time this year, but to what end? To beat myself up for not meeting my writing goals? And that would accomplish…what?

Refuse – I refuse to devolve, to give in to entropy and atrophy. I’ve worked too hard to let a little elapsed time derail my writing future. So I look to the future.

Refocus –Every day is a new opportunity to make progress. Big or small, progress is progress. And as the year comes to an end, I’ve refocused on my writing. Baby steps at first, I’m tackling the last edit of book 2 and pre-writing a new middle-grade fantasy.

Recommit – Time continues to prove elusive, but I’ve recommitted to my craft and returned to my writing desk. Words will flow. Stories will unfold. Characters will live and breathe and shine. This I vow to myself, my family, and my readers.

I own this. When I come before you next year with a Year-in-review post, it will read decidedly different. Count on it.

If it isn’t working …

If it isn’t working, change it.

This axiom can apply to a lot of things in our personal and writing life.

While reflecting on this year, I realized that I made changes in two significant areas of my life. Things weren’t working in a bad, horrible way, but in ways which didn’t allow me to be as productive and healthy as I could be.

On the personal side, we all know that we can’t change anyone else. We can only change ourselves. That’s because the desire to change has to come from within to be realized and to be sustainable. This past year, more than ever before, I had to create boundaries and acknowledge my physical limitations. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and although I have never worn it on my sleeve, I learned that I must own it and not deny how it affects my life.

Publicly admitting that I have CFS feels risky. What if a publisher learns of my illness and isn’t sure I can handle the stress and time commitment of a writing career? Truth is, I know others with this illness and their writing careers are doing well. How do they do it? Time management. Cutting out extraneous activities, and the emotional and physical stressors imposed by other people. They focus by choosing to do what is important (writing) and sticking to it. This also includes self-care.

Mind you, this is what we all need to be doing. The A-type personality of doing all things and being all things to everyone burns most of us out. This is why I’m speaking out. It’s not for fear of a publisher rejecting me but to let other writers know that it’s okay to be who we are (health and other issues) and that we don’t have to live up to the schedules and productivity of superstars who have made it big in the industry. Hey, being on best seller lists, writing all the time, and being appreciated by a large readership is still my goal, but I don’t stress about it anymore. I just work toward it one bit at a time.

So, on the personal side, I became much more accepting of who I am and in applying self-care. The cool thing is, is that by doing this, I’ve become more productive, have grown as a writer, and was a finalist for the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s Aurora Award. How cool is that?

The writing life can be lonely and sometimes it’s good to have another writer or group to discuss story issues. Realizing my need for such a group got me talking about this with other writers. This brought about the second great change in my life – the creation of a developmental writing group.

I still belong to a critique group and a speculative fiction group which has skills sessions and critiques. The camaraderie within these groups is great as is the learning but they weren’t exactly what I wanted at this time. I wanted to learn how to write mysteries and to be in a group that supported story development, not critiquing.

Four of us got together and found a mentor. Once a month, we share what we’ve been working on, and ask for feedback and brainstorming on specific problems. We’ve all become better at outlining and as a result, our stories are much better for it. The wonderful thing about this group is that it is supportive and positive. We each get a half hour to talk about what we want, whether it’s about an outline, story structure, a piece of our writing or whatever questions are running through our heads. The others respond, share their insights and at the end, we check to make sure the person’s concerns were addressed. We leave inspired, energised and most importantly, happy that we’ve had a good place in which to talk about specific writing issues as we develop and plot our stories.

Change comes in many forms, both personal and professional but only after we’ve been honest with ourselves can we create the type of environment and support we need to become more productive and successful.

The Good, the Bad, and the Meh, I Guess That Went Okay

Has anyone told you lately that this is hard job? Here, allow me:

THIS IS A VERY HARD JOB.

Sure, on one hand, we’re doing what we love. Writing stories, letting our imaginations run with interesting, and sometimes crazy, ideas. We write late, wake up early, and do it all over again because we love it. Not only that, we gotta write. It’s just what we do.

And then there’s the other hand. We polish our stories, make them the best we can for human consumption, and submit them for editor and agent approval. Ninety to ninety-nine times out of a hundred? Those precious stories are rejected. Our craft is rejected. And we are expected to smile, say thank you, and do it again and again and again. Because we are insane, yes, and because what else are we gonna do? We gotta write. It’s just what we do.

At the end of 2017, I find myself here, with these two hands. Thankful and grateful I’m still here after five years, working hard, grinding away at a career even if it feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. And on the other hand, I’m asking myself: “Am I crazy?” Because I have to be honest, reader. Sometimes I feel like what I’m doing is crazy. Working for days and sometimes weeks on a short story. Asking friends and family to spend their hours beta reading it. Submitting it, receiving a rejection. Submit again, receive another rejection. And occasionally, an acceptance. If I’m lucky, $100 for all those combined hours, and a publishing credit I pray to the gods will somehow entice an agent to take a chance on me.

I had a very frank talk with my husband about these battling feelings on our date night at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Indian food restaurant. It’s usually the one night a week I put on real pants (if you work from home, you feel me so hard right now), even put on a little make-up. But instead, I looked down-right sloppy. No make up, hair hardly brushed. I couldn’t even pretend to put on a mask. I was just tired. (I should give myself a little credit…I did put on pants.)

I explained everything that I was feeling to my husband – feeling beaten down and pretty exhausted. And true to form, he was nothing but supportive. “Take a week off. Take a month off. Hell, take a year off,” he suggested. “Don’t write for publication. Just write for you.”

“Would it help if you focused on novels instead of short stories?”

I nodded. They were all great suggestions. I dug into my matter paneer and he his bengan bharta (tandoor baked eggplant with peas and herbs). I temporarily forgot about our conversation as we both burned our mouths on way-too-spicy food, drank pitchers of water to cool the burn without avail, and laughed.

The next morning, I woke up feeling better. I got to work on research for my novel. I wrote a draft for this very post you’re reading now.

To be honest, I don’t know why. The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what, I’m going to write. No matter what I’m feeling, no matter how many rejections pile up. No matter how many acceptances grace my inbox. I don’t know why.

I gotta write. It’s just what I do.