Founded 2015 by students of “How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writer’s,” created by writer and teacher Holly Lisle.
It is so cool to be part of the Blog Hop tour. I’m working away on the book edits for Life and Other Strangers this week and enjoying the summer sunshine. And we finally have a working dryer, so life is good. I hope you enjoy my story. Don’t forget to check out all the other stories. They are fun!
He stood with the ocean before him, with the village behind him, and he did not look back and he knew he would never stand on that shore again.
It was time to leave. One flash of the lantern. Two. Then he quickly closed it and set it aside. The sunrise swelled in the distance, red against the black sky of night. The sharp tang of salt and water slapped his face in the brisk wind as he waited for that sound, the sound of oars against the waves, the quiet clink of the boat coasting along the shore. A dip of paddle, a rustle of metal on wood. Against his leg, the stones clinked in their soft wrapping, stones he would never admit to having. Not to his compatriots, not to the villagers, not to the woman he had left behind sleeping, a widow who shared a room and a bed and a few nights of pleasure. She was only another soft port, a place to rest for a few nights with soft sheets and quiet words. There had been many such soft ports in his past.
The bulky manuscript rustled in its waxed cloth and leather wrapping under his tunic. He had no interest in it. It was simply an item he had been commissioned to find by a dark voice behind a cloak in a tavern. He preferred jewels and gold, quick to take and ever more quick to pass along to others, just in case the mages had laced the gold with tracking spells. Tracking spells were followed by great dogs and even greater thunders of horses and the specter of the hanging rope trailed behind them. Better to have quick fingers and quick trades in unknown places.
A flash of smiling blue eyes called to him as he waited, the sharp tang of the sea filling his nostrils. He ruthlessly pushed the memory away. He didn’t care to stay in this place. It would be too easy to be noticed, to belong, to become settled. Passage by the sea with loyalty assured by coin and drink was always the best way out. He would return to the drafty estate where small minded people looked up to him and waited for him to tell them how to live their tiny boring lives, try to settle into the routine of the every day, try to find contentment in the bucolic boredom.
The clink came just as the sun’s sharp rays began to touch the edge of the horizon with a lone gold finger of accusation. The boat scurried under the edge of the shadows. He climbed in quickly and did not look back, unaware of the sharp blue eyes watching him from the rocks. He would never admit his relief they had come any more than he would raise his voice when he was annoyed.
“Well?” the querulous voice of the Priest who had woken her from a dreamless sleep demanded from the dark corner beside the widow’s warm fireplace.
“I did not see a book.” Her voice was sweet and calm, a tool like her beauty and her welcoming home. She knew it would betray nothing of her feelings. She felt his searching eyes and turned away, keeping her tight fists hidden behind her skirts. Fists that betrayed her fury that she had been used, that she was being used to betray, that she was easy to walk away from, only a moment of frivolous laughter.
Eventually satisfied, the Priest left.
The hens began to cackle in the distance.
Once more alone, once more facing the empty bed and the long shoreline, she pulled the ruby ring out of her pocket and held it up to the light. It was a the token she had taken to remember a few nights of pleasure in a long series of evenings of endless silence, a reminder of soft firm hands, easily spoken commands, and demanding laughter. The signet that surrounded the ruby gleamed. She wondered what it said. Then she sighed and slipped it onto the heavy chain she wore around her neck with the others from her collection and turned to face her day.
Hello, Dear Reader!
How is your summer going?
Mine has moved from the minor hell of helping hubbie’s family clean out auntie’s apartment into the Purgatory of ‘marketing’ and website design. I’m ‘fixing’ the website, trying to build my audience and my email list. I’m also editing the book that just came back, setting up a launch/pre-launch and finishing the next book. And I’m attempting to figure out auto-responder campaigns.
Marketing is my personal purgatory. Nothing ever works right out of the box, at least not for me. I can find ways to break things no one ever believed possible. I am wading through creating a ‘platform’ or ‘presence’ in the world (or breaking the one I currently have whichever you wish to think) so that I can get a story into your hands when you sign up for my newsletter. As an independent business person, I have total control. Of everything. Even if I wanted to be a traditionally published author, I know that publishers expect authors to do much of the work creating a presence in the world. Editors want to buy from authors who already have a presence. Long gone are the days of blindly listening to experts who guide the author’s presence based on hard earned experience. And, this is the digital age. There are no white washes or take backs with the world of the ‘Way Back Machine.’ Saying less is probably the best course, but if I did that, well, who would you be reading? I might as well be my messy self, good and bad.
My whole Life is messy right now. On top of the normal end of school chaos, we have both pre-wedding chaos (my goddaughter is getting married in two months) and the end of life chaos filling our home. We shall not speak of the garage, the dining room table, or the cantina where all the boxes from hubbie’s aunt’s apartment have been stuffed. We shall not speak of my goddaughter’s wedding dress that is in pieces and pattern-making or of the glitter that one of the layers of tulle is shedding all over my house. Fairy dust. It is fairy dust of joy sticking to your shoes. And we definitely shall not talk about the dryer that is currently in pieces in the back hall. Life is running true to course.
In an effort to make at least one thing in my life straight forward, I decided to take the Instant Bestseller Course from Tim Grahl. In some ways, Tim is repeating what other people have said to do: building your own email list is the key to success. But Tim talks about the business of writing and book launches in plain words advice that makes sense to me. I can see how it is supposed to work. I can do what he is telling me to do. I’ve been trying to do this for two years. I haven’t yet managed to get the freebie to work. If I can get this to work it will be worth every hard earned penny.
Unfortunately his website course, the Ultimate Author Platform, is following true to the rest of my life. If I didn’t already have a website with content and readers like you, the course would be super easy. I’m trying to integrate his suggestions into my current platform and make them work. We all know I can find creative ways to break things that no one ever dreamed possible. In the last two days I have broken and fixed my website at least three times. I have not yet lost anything into the bowels of nothingness that can be the internet (knock wood) but when I (temporarily) lost the navigation tabs and the blog content, it was a little stressful. Now things on the website mostly work like they are supposed to work.
I was ticking right along then I got to Sumome, the suggested plugin to run popups and analytics.
Sumome was a big fail. It was not the instructions or the course (which are very straight forward). It was the fact that Sumome only works with WordPress.org, not WordPress.com sites. After two days of hitting my head against a brick wall, I discovered I have to go back to the drawing board. That means I am back in the land of finding something that will work. Or several somethings. Par for the course of my life, Dear Reader.
But I will figure it out because making it work will mean I can put a story into your hands moments after you sign up for my newsletter. And that will make it worth everything.
(insert cheesy grin here)
I have the book edits back! Now comes the hard work–fixing all the bits, making sure the corrections are correct. It has been so long since North Watch Keep was released. I have been working diligently, writing in spite of the crazy that is continuing to be my life but sometimes you feel like it will never happen. You will never let go of the work, never let it fly free and become art. You will always be in red pen purgatory.
Life and Other Strangers is my first collection of short stories. Some are poignant, some fun, and some are just a little bit different. I can hardly wait until I can tell you that it is on presale (in July assuming everything goes on as scheduled!).
I am so excited!
Oh dear Reader, where do I even start?
I am sure other authors would just say things like “I’ve been really busy!” and “The book is going great!”. I am sure there are some crazy ‘thou shalt not say anything’ laws for authors I am violating by talking about reality. Honestly? My life has been a soap opera for the last two months where I am (for the most part) just the witness to everyone else’ crisis.
For instance I learned the real difference between a peace bond (yes, you can go to jail if you violate it) and a restraining order (oh, they just call the police if you show up threatening to kill someone but you are just warned by them–trust me, reader, when in doubt, go with the peace bond). It has been overwhelming and not in a good way. There have been politics at school, politics at home and politics at church and I’ve been writing politics in the manuscript.
Maybe the experience has been useful. Maybe not.
A couple of weeks ago my husband’s elderly aunt fell. After five days of pain she was finally admitted to the hospital with ‘ambulatory cervical fractures’ after an MRI revealed she had compound fractures of C1. She was still walking and talking and feeding herself, dear Reader. Unfortunately the bone fragments shifted and by the end of the week she was non-responsive and medicated for end of life care. It was a blessing that it was fast and painful at the same time. Life is short. We had celebrations and music and sorrow. She gave me the ability to laugh and the willingness to sing when watching her leave this life made me want to cry.
But the thing that makes me most want to cry, dear Reader, is that she chose to live a life where everyone else was more important than her own gift of Art. She was a gifted artist. Her paintings made others feel joy. But in her twenties she was a good girl and she gave up her own dreams to support the lives of her family. And the bottom line, dear Readers, is that when you give up your dream it is super hard to crawl out of the hole and get it back. I have paintings and drawing she did, but the honest truth is that she never did. She never did Art the way her gift should have opened doors. There isn’t a magic formula but there is the real gift of art. That gift matters.
So today I raise a glass to my husband’s aunt.
May the fire of Art burn bright enough to let you break free of the chains of duty. May your gift become your calling into the world.
Hello dear Reader! How have you been?
I’m doing fine. A little bit of art, a little bit of teaching, a little bit of writing. My life is both full and quiet at the same time.
Spring has arrived in our part of the world. There are daffodils in our back yard and the grass is growing in the front. Easter included a four day break of calm punctuated by singing. No children at home. Eldest was working and youngest was studying for exams and finishing assignments. Hubbie built a lovely raised garden around the front porch which needs filling and planting. He also put up the rest of the fence and the gate on one side of the house. We still need to dig the posts for the fence on the other side of the house. One day at a time, right?
School is its usual balancing act. I have one class that needs a totally different style of teaching from the other class of the same grade which takes coordination and thought to make sure everyone ends up at the same place. There are politics exploding around me with situations involving others. My students are lovely and challenging and fun all at the same time and we all have spring fever.
I’m inching my way through the end of the Physician King. I’m averaging about half a scene and 400 words a day. My main character keeps having temper tantrums–well deserved temper tantrums, actually, because of politics–which would not be so bad except he makes the rocks in the floor move when he gets really upset. All the players are getting themselves ready for the big crazy finish. I am just reminding myself that I am along for the ride. The story wants to be finished. My job is to let those words out into the world, to be the conduit that lets the words come to life and the story be told.
I’ve come to appreciate the concept that the story wants to be told. I read that idea in ‘Big Magic’ and I believe this is true with all my heart. The story wants to be told; it has waited most of a year for me to do my job, to sit down and tell it. There are days I have to remind my characters that I can only write so fast and they have to give me a few moments (hours, days) to catch up to them, particularly since I need to work so I and my children can eat every day. I love both my jobs which means my life will continue to be a balancing act.
I am working on what I need to do to let my stories out into the world, warts, imperfections and all. The stories are gripping for me but I find it hard to allow myself say published is better than perfect. Hubbie is currently yielding his ‘pink pen’ of doom on the first of the Cardonne series books. Super School is out for its second round of beta readers. It is all a balancing act of job and joy, home and pen. And through it all, I appreciate that you are still here, listening and waiting for the next story. It is nice to have you around. You make this worthwhile. So, thank you.
Is your life full of rapids these days? Are you enjoying the roller coaster effect of the boulders and the lurking alligators? I’m not.
I’m writing through it, but it is a hard thing to keep trying to make good art.
My family is mostly ok. My youngest sister and my parents are going through changing their lives around to make room for each other in the middle of a difficult family situation. My five year old nephew is the glue that is holding them to the fire to make it work. Youngest is working her way through this year and I see the change in her, how she is growing and changing and becoming. I am so proud of her but I need a bumper sticker that says my child and my money goes to Laurentian. Eldest is in that phase of life between graduating and getting her first career position, the time of life when you have two jobs and no time to think and are struggling to know what it is you are fighting for when all you can do is put one foot in front of the other some mornings. I know she can do this and that she will find her way but it is hard to know what to do or say to support her. Hubbie is working on all the stuff that goes with being part of the team arranging a Hand bell conference in two months while working a full time job that takes him out of the house 12+ hours a day. I spent much of January and February stressed out, balancing teaching, report cards, and helping my family. I kept thinking my exhaustion was just a symptom of my stress, only to discover after I had to take more than a week off of work I was suffering from walking pneumonia.
The road back has been a bit rocky. Life at school went from calm flowing stream to rapidly eddying rapids with giant boulders leaping out of the river in the blink of an eye for me and nearly everyone around me. On top of the normal every day child and parent related stuff that is our job, the board changed the French track effective September and it means change for all of us who teach French in any capacity. I may be back doing the job I am now or I may be somewhere else at a new school doing a totally different job.
Teaching is a balancing act. You work to keep your feet under you while you and your students are riding a floating carpet in the middle of a swiftly flowing river. You try to find the eddying pools of calm along the river because your students are worth it, but the hidden rocks like parent complaints and board directives sometimes turn the river into rapids. July is coming but there is a lot of the river to go between now and then. I’m also not sure what river I will be traveling in September. About the only good thing is that I know I will have a job and I love teaching and I love writing.
Honestly? The rest is details.
In the midst of this roller coaster rapids of my life, I yield my pen and cling to the words of Neil Gaiman:
‘Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make Good Art.’
hesitant throat clearing fills the space
Hello, hello? Hello, dear Reader.
I am so glad you are here.
No, I have not totally disappeared into the dark spaces of internet silence but if the last six months are anything to go by, 2017 may rival 2016 in terms of chaos filling my life. I wanted out of 2016 badly. I really hoped 2017 will be a little better. It is not shaping up to be that way.
Why the dark silence, you ask? Last summer while I was working on the current book (still not done), our lives changed: my 17 year old nephew moved in with us to finish high school. Adding a new person and his dog creates chaos. There is the whole ‘where will his bed go, how will we organize all our stuff, how will we deal with the yard so the dog does not escape’ challenge. And then, when he couldn’t cope with the culture shock of a new, fairly white, town, there was the chaos of not coping. He moved out in the middle of Nanowrimo. I rattled around in the house without him and the dog and my writing came to a dribbling stand still.
Christmas was a blur. We finished school the day before Christmas eve. The house was not decorated and we had only two things ready to go. I bought all the presents on the way home that night. Christmas Eve, the hand bell choir I direct played at our Church’s early service; my husband’s hand bell choir played at the late service, with only a 45 minute break between the two because of rehearsals. Then there was the usual holiday frenzy–our celebration, my husband’s family celebration and my extended family celebration which got changed three times. It was a bit of a blur, to be honest.
There were some really good things about the holidays, though. Both girls were home for several days at a time. My girls are both so grown up. I’m so proud of them! One has just graduated from Fashion design and is starting her search for a career position and the other is half way through her engineering degree. But having them here really made it clear that life is changing and we are all at a new stage in our lives. They are growing up, becoming adults and moving on. Now I have to figure out what I want to do in this empty nest of my life.
I have grown so much since I got serious about my writing and started this blog. I have also been struggling with letting my writing go into the world. I actually have seven different finished pieces in the ready to let go of pile (two long novels, and five shorter pieces) along with two more in progress. Over the break I had a total melt down about releasing books and writing and moving forward. My husband is a very tolerant man, lol. He listens to me when I struggle and he just keeps encouraging me. He read my latest manuscript and commented how much I have improved since that first manuscript I finished. When I had a total ranting melt down he listened to my rants and fed me wine and grapes and was generally tolerant of my silly stresses.
I am struggling, dear reader, with ‘serious performance anxiety’. The fears are many: What if I write, pour my heart out and no one reads it? What if I do my best and it is panned? What if I let it go and it causes total chaos in the universe? Writing with deep honesty is kind of like tap dancing naked on a roof top while the world and no one is watching. There is a certain fear of exposure and failure. We all struggle with fear. But mine has gotten in the way of me letting you read what I am writing. Paralyzing perfectionism at its worst.
My weekly writing group has also seriously dwindled. For two months, I’ve been a steady group of one. Everyone has reasons–a dying husband, serious health issues, the process of giving up on an old job and finding a new one, the production meetings that occur on the same night for the job that pays the bills–good reasons. But it is hard to be a writing group of one. It makes me feel like I have done something to drive everyone away. There is an ebb and flow of life, and this is the ebb of the tide.
So this year, instead of resolutions and goals which are just one more thing that I do not manage to live up to in my crazy life, I decided focus on better. This is the year of Apprenticeship. My only goal is to do something, one small step of improvement, every day. Becoming a willing learner, a researcher on what works for others, and a listener. Nothing big, just little steps moving forward.
The good thing about this is that even when the chaos continues (our church music director was released abruptly from his contract and as a result my directing and singing life has been upended; my sister’s family challenges mean that our family is now in the middle of a real life soap opera involving lawyers, CAS, police and unearthing the floors in my parent’s house and a close friend’s child may have a life threatening disorder), my writing is still moving forward. It isn’t about the book launch or the perfect blog or 10,000 readers on my email list. It is about choosing to do one small thing every day.
Hello Dear Reader.
It has been a long time. My poor old computer developed this lovely crack along the back spine, like a clamshell peeling apart about the last time I posted on the blog. Then it started groaning every time I opened it, and over heating. Not good.
I broke down at Christmas and bought a new computer. A new computer was both good and bad: good, because it is lighter, smaller, faster and doesn’t over heat or creak; bad because all of the logins for everything I have were on the old computer. Remember how all the experts tell you to WRITE down all your logins and site information and put them in a safe but retrievable place? I didn’t do that.
But I have them now.
I was definitely writing even though I wasn’t blogging about writing. I convinced my writing friends from Guelph Write Now to join me for a weekly ‘write in’ meeting. We started meeting before Nanowrimo in October and we are still meeting once a week. I am enjoying the fact that I have accountability for my writing with a great group of writers. I’ve also joined Scribophile, an author’s site where stories are read and critiqued. I’m still getting my feet under me on that site, but it is a great place to read writing at different stages, and to read other people’s critiques. You learn a lot about how good writers think about editing.
Since my last post, the novella set in Fairhaven, Son of The King, has gone through another round of edits and should be available for release this month. I’m still figuring out the whole ‘downloading for free’ and cart stuff of the business side of writing. And fighting with it.
Dragon’s Court is at the editor for line edits. The Physician King (working title) has gone from a novella to a full length novel. I’m at the dreaded 7/8 stretch– not quite done and arghh will it ever end–phase of writing, trying to move all the right characters to the right place for the big finish. I’m also drawing maps and making my series bible. With four books in the same universe, I need a series bible to maintain consistency. There are so many stories fighting the good fight in my head these days, all arguing who will get their turn next, that I’m having trouble keeping track of which character has blue eyes and which one has green.
I’m also rewriting Super School, the first manuscript I finished when I started back on this journey to become a published author. My writing has changed a lot in the last years (practice makes better!) and there was a lot of world building I needed to explore so I could do the ‘show not tell’ that everyone pounds into your head as a new author. I have several minor characters who must be excised from the manuscript and at least one name change. Not name drift–no, the characters all have the right name all the way through. They just all have names that sound almost the same.
I’m a bit sad about having to take out the dimension phasing alien but as I rework things, the story is coming to life. My beta readers agree. When I read the first three chapters to my daughter’s friends at Spring Break and the story got groans at the right moments and the ‘What? You finished? Nooo….” It is always nice to have feedback that makes you smile.
I promise I won’t take so long next time to give you an update. Thank you for sticking with me during the long silence. Readers are like gold and I appreciate you.
Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!
I am sharing a tiny tiny squee or two today! I got my ISBN account information (which makes all of this just a little bit more real). I received notice that I will be getting my first royalty payments, and I got North Watch Keep published to Kobo.
I am excited to finally get all the things moving through the process so you can get your hands on things. Really, the hard part about all of this is not the writing. It is keeping track of the pieces and bits, sorting out the flow of the process to move from idea to story to published work, and making sure that you, dear reader, get the chance to get your hands on my work in all the venues you would like to find the words.
In celebration of all that good stuff, North Watch Keep is dropping to 99 cents. Pre-orders for the next episode in the series will also open on Friday! Thanks for being here, and for listening.