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In Which I Make a Wiki

This morning for a couple of hours we had Winter Solstice snow in Christchurch. It was oh so exciting, but it did not stick around for long. Alas, the cold did linger, as it tends to do. Well, at least from this point on the days will be getting longer, not shorter.

Mid-winter and mid-summer are the times when it suddenly strikes me that I live in a different hemisphere than most people who speak my language. While those of us who live in NZ have been experiencing an Antarctic blast, Twitter keeps bringing me little snippets of people enjoying this mythical "summer" thing: mentions of barbeques, trips to the beach, ice-cold drinks, etc. It's funny how in the middle of winter, summer feels illusionary, and vice versa. Or maybe that's just me?


Writing Update

I've been pushing on with my novel Reality Shifting (see word count below). I've had to put the revisions of Symmetry Breaking on hold due to burnout, but I hope to get back to that soon.

When I've needed a break from writing, I've been brainstorming for another story I want to work on later in the year. It is a sci fi story that I think will be serialised rather than a novel, as the story is coming to me in discrete chunks. A complex world underlies the story, so I have started putting together a wiki for the series in Evernote. There are three great things about making the wiki in Evernote:

  • It is easy to put together and edit across all my devices (with the small exception that the links between pages have to be inserted via the desktop app)
  • I can share it with whoever I want, and I can even make the wiki notebook public (i.e. it could be a bonus for readers in the future)
  • I already have Evernote and know how to use it (whereas if I downloaded a wiki-specific program, I would then have to teach myself how to use the thing).

All in all, this is an excellent idea and I can't believe I haven't thought of it before. 


A Random Picture

Because I feel like it, here is a random photograph taken by me.


At Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion), Kyoto

I've been thinking about Kyoto a lot, for a few reasons. One is that I am reading a book set in Kyoto nearly 1000 years ago (Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter). The other is that I have been doing some research into Heian Period Japan because of another story idea I have. 
I have lots of ideas.



Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

Revision on a brief hiatus


Current progress on Reality Shifting:




Currently Reading

Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter by Richard Parks







Comments

A week of Kermit Flail

Hi, how have you been? It's been quite an eventful week for me. I meant to blog earlier but I got distracted by a book (more on that below).


Writer Week 2013

As I mentioned last time, this past week I have been off work specifically to work on my writing. I didn't quite get everything done that I'd hoped to, i.e. I didn't manage to finish the current round of revisions of Symmetry Breaking. However, I did write 2000 words (or very, very close, stopping only because I'd reached the end of a scene) all five days of my writer week. I was fairly tired by Friday. If I wrote that much every week I'd soon get used to it, but it was a bit of a push this week. All in all I'm proud of my effort, and I wish I could do this every week.


Profile on Helen Lowe's blog

I was profiled on Christchurch fantasy writer Helen Lowe's blog. Go check it out.

Thanks for the opportunity, Helen!


The Ministry Initiative Kickstarter

The Ministry Initiative kickstarter campaign started this week. The campaign is raising money to fund a new anthology and a fate core-based RPG in the world of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Pip and Tee gave me my first break, accepting my story 'The Wrong Camera' into the related podcast and ebook series 'Tales from the Archives'. I hope you'll take a look at the kickstarter and read the existing books too if you haven't done so. They're very good, and I'm eagerly awaiting the upcoming anthology and the third novel.





Forged in Blood I

The sixth novel in Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series was released yesterday. As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of these books and so of course I bought it straight away and read the whole thing in one day. 

I am so, so sorry to anyone who I have already convinced to try this series. Not because it's bad (it is brilliant, by the way). I am sorry because Forged in Blood I ends in an EPIC CLIFFHANGER OF DOOM. Seriously. You must read this series, but if you haven't started it yet, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES START UNTIL THE FINAL BOOK IS OUT. You won't have to wait long. As Lindsay is an indie author, the expected release date is August this year.

Wait, what am I saying???? That's months away! I can't wait that long! Wah!!! Sniffle.


The book that currently has me flailing like Kermit the Frog every 5 minutes, in both a good and a bad way


Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

In revision



Current progress on Reality Shifting:




Currently Reading

Re-reading a certain scene in Forged in Blood I over and over ::wink wink::









Comments

Writing catch-up

So it turns out that I haven't blogged in ages. I've been working hard, though! Look at my word counter at the bottom of the post. What do you think of that? Nearly 35,000 words in six weeks. My word count is the main reason that I haven't been blogging recently. I've been spending my word-pennies elsewhere. On top of writing Reality Shifting, I have also been revising Symmetry Breaking and re-reading Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series in anticipation of the upcoming release of book 6. So yes: busy.



Writer Week


I will be on holiday from my day job next week for Writer Week 2013. Yay! This is nothing official, just something I do occasionally. I take a week of leave to sit at home in my pyjamas writing and get ahead on my word count. I'm really looking forward to it. Writer Week 2012 was a disappointment because I caught a bad cold and spent the whole week sipping Lemsip, going through multiple boxes of tissues, and generally feeling sorry for myself. Then when I got better, I had to go back to work.

This year I will not get sick. I'm not allowed. (You hear that, immune system? Take note!) My aim is to begin to establish an at-home writing routine. I already have an around-the-day-job writing routine, but to have an at-home one as well would be great.



SpecFicNZ Meetup


Last Saturday I attended the May Christchurch meetup of SpecFicNZ. Yet again it was an absolute pleasure to catch up with like-minded people and talk about books, publishing, Iron Man 3, and other assorted geekeries while nomming delicious food. We meet at Under the Red Verandah*, which is a wonderful cafe. 

*(If you're in Christchurch, don't be put off by the location. Yes, it's in Linwood; and yes, it's only a block away from a "massage parlour". But any bacon lover's life is incomplete until they have tried UtRV's oaty pancakes with bacon, fried banana and maple syrup. And the dessert cabinet! Good grief!)




Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

In revision



Current progress on Reality Shifting:






Currently Reading


Conspiracy — Lindsay Buroker



Listening To


Firefly soundtrack








Comments

Back in the swing of things

It feels good to be writing again. I'm about 10 days, and exactly 8000 words, into book 2. Not bad. Also, I think I am writing a cleaner first draft than book 1. The whole process feels easier this time around.


Steering the Craft

I have had Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin for a while, but had only done the first two exercises or so. The other day, I fetched it out again and had another look-see. It's a fantastic book for anyone interested in writing fiction. I think it would be particularly useful for those who are worried about how to find their own "voice".


BookBub

I heard about BookBub from writers discussing book promotion. I signed up yesterday as a reader, not a writer. BookBub is an opt-in email list containing links to ebook that are free or on sale. When you sign up you select which genres you are interested in. Also, the list is curated, which means only quality books appear in the email (i.e. nothing with bad covers, bad formatting, or too many bad reviews). If you read ebooks you may be interested in signing up.







Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

In revision


Current progress on Reality Shifting:





Comments

Easter is for writing and games. Yay!

Finally, the busy period at work has finished! Woo! I intend to blog more regularly from now on (or at least until the next busy period ...)

Anyway, a few updates:


Book 2 underway

As if revising book 1 of my fantasy trilogy wasn't enough, today I started writing book 2. It makes sense; honest! I have a long commute by bus to work. I can't use that time for revisions (too tricky) but I can use it for writing, so why not?

I'm hoping that I'll improve my craft while writing book 2, and then I'll be able to use those improved writing skills to make book 1 better.

Book 2 is tentatively titled Reality Shifting.


SpecFicNZ's write-up of Christchurch Words on the Wind

SpecFicNZ has published a write-up of the NZ Book Month event I read at the other week. Go check it out to see me pulling a funny mid-word face!


A word of warning about cheap ebooks

Last week, Imagine That! Studios released this blog post about a dodgy-looking website that may or may not be phishing personal details (they certainly aren't selling ebooks legally, which is a problem in it's own). As a special warning to you, my story The Wrong Camera is published by Imagine That! Studios, so please make sure to buy my or anyone else's work from reputable retailers. Remember: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.


TableTop Day is Saturday 30th March

You know what you should be doing this Saturday? Playing board games! Saturday is TableTop Day, organised by my favourite YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. I will absolutely be doing this.



Have a lovely Easter, everyone!








Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

In revision


Current progress on Reality Shifting:




Comments

Some housekeeping

Sorry it has been so long since I have posted a proper update. I have been exceptionally busy lately (selling a house, outlining a novel while revising another, and doing day job work on the evenings and weekends because we are so busy). I have several announcements today:


Words on the Wind

SpecFicNZ's Christchurch NZ Book Month event, 'Words on the Wind', is on tomorrow at Upper Riccarton Library at 1.30 pm. I'll be reading, so come along if you are in town and want to sample some of my writing.


New website!

I have a new website! Yay! It is at CatLangford.com. My existing Blogger blog now mirrors over to the new website, so you can read my posts in either location – it's the same content. The tabs at the top of the Blogger version of the blog now go to pages on the main website.


Want to read the first chapter of my book?

Do you want to read the first chapter of Symmetry Breaking, the book I am currently revising? Since the first chapter is in fairly good condition (although it may yet change a little bit before publication) I have added it to my new mailing list. To read the chapter, go to any page on my new website, sign up to my opt-in mailing list (purple box in the sidebar), and you will receive a copy of Chapter 1 sent direct to your inbox as a thank you.


Fishpond, no longer recommended

For a while I have used Fishpond.co.nz affiliate links in my book reviews on this blog. However, the quality of Fishpond's service has steadily decreased over the last year and I am no longer comfortable recommending their store. After a recent bad experience my husband had with them (as in, the complaint is lodged with the Commerce Commission) I no longer shop there. I have removed all the affiliate links from this blog. (I hope. Let me know if you spot one, and I'll take it down.)


Google+

I've started using Google+ regularly, after having an inactive account for several years. They've added a lot of new functions, such as Communities, that make G+ appealing to use . I have been posting links to articles about writing on my G+ timeline, so if you are on G+ and you are interested in writing specifically, perhaps you'd like to add me to your circles?







Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:


In revision

Comments

Writing update, and the joys of the morning commute

I've been working so hard on my writing lately that I have very little else to talk about. My poor husband must be so sick of me right now: "Writing this, writing that, blah blah blah." Apparently I even mumble about my characters at 2 am when I'm 98.7% asleep.

On the plus side, I've been kicking arse with my writing resolutions. My first three writing projects for the year were going to be three novelettes between books 1 and 2 of my current trilogy. I wrote novelette 1 early in January. Novelette 2 became a novella, and yet I've still nearly finished the first draft, days ahead of schedule. When I tried to plan novelette 3, I discovered that it actually wanted to be a part of book 2, which is fine by me. I've moved the brainstorming notes over to my book 2 project file accordingly.

I'll tell you what: the "bus ride + iPad + iPad keyboard + Index Card app that synchs to Scrivener at home" workflow is frikken amazing. Depending on how busy my first leg of the morning commute is (i.e. whether I have a seat) I can write somewhere between 250 and 600 words by the time I get to work. My daily word goal is only 700 words. That means I usually finish my writing for the day in my lunch break. Then on the bus home, I can either work on revisions of book 1 (if I have a replacement or new scene to work on) or I can brainstorm and outline my next project. Brilliant.

Do you use public transport to go to work or school? Are you able to make productive use of the time, or do you find the people and/or movement too distracting?

Comments (4)

Brief writing update

Mid-January is always a good time to reflect on how well you are adhering to your New Year's resolutions. If you've fallen off the horse already, you're going to have to put in a lot of work to get back on and stay there.

So far, I'm doing a good job of following the writing resolutions I decided on the other week. I have drafted the first 'novelette' on my list (it was an 8,000-word short story in the end, not a novelette). I am close to finishing the outline for the next novelette, and I should start writing it tonight or tomorrow. This one will be longer than the first. It may even be a novella.

So far I am ahead of schedule, because I wasn't expecting to start novella 2 until the 24th. It's not just because the first novelette came in short: I took a 5-day break from writing to listen to A Memory of Light and to read Lindsay Buroker's new Emperor's Edge novella, Beneath the Surface. So all in all, I'm pleased with my progress so far, and I hope I can keep it up.

Did you make New Year's resolutions? How are they going so far?


Comments

Writing resolutions 2013

I have just put together my writing resolutions for 2013. I thought I would blog them here so that they are public, I am accountable for them, and you can call me on it at the end of the year if I don't achieve them. Without further ado:


Write first drafts of:

Three Dimensions Trilogy novelettes between books 1 and 2
12,000 words each, total 36,000

Reality Shifting, Dimensions Trilogy book 2
80,000 words

Three prequel Senjima no Monogatari novellas
20,000 each, total 60,000

Total writing goal:
176,000 words total
3520 per week (for 50 weeks)
704 per day (5 days a week)

Additional goals:

Revise Symmetry Breaking, Dimensions Trilogy book 1
Revise one Dimensions Trilogy novelette
Revise one Senjima no Monogatari novella


Breaking it down to a daily word count makes this list of resolutions look surprisingly achievable. I already know that I can easily write 700 words a day and not run out of puff. All I need to do is get in the habit of outlining or revising other stories after I have hit my daily word count. If that alone is my goal for 2013, I think I can manage that.

Comments

I aten't ded yet

Just a quick post to say, yes, I haven't been blogging much recently. I can confidently say that I will probably continue to not blog much for a few weeks yet. My life has been very busy lately with:

  • moving house
  • wedding planning
  • some freelance work on top of my day job.

So, yeah: busy busy. For the most part this was to be expected, but I am sad that I haven't had a chance to work on my novel for a while. Instead, I have been snatching moments here and there to make notes on what changes I want to make to the text when I have the time. I've also been doing some initial brainstorming and research for the series I want to write after the one I am writing now. With a multiple-book story, I think it is important to set thoughts in motion a year or two before you start writing so that you subconscious has time to work in the background. It makes the outlining process easier. I started brainstorming my current novel two years before I outlined its current form, and more than two years before I started writing it.

I hope to get back to revising Symmetry Breaking in December. Until then, wish me luck getting through this crazy patch.

Comments (1)

First week of revisions

At the risk of sounding like I'm whinging, revising a novel is much, much harder than writing a first draft. I say this not because it surprises me; I was expecting it. I'm just making an observation. And making an excuse to myself of why I haven't made as much progress this week as I wanted to.

My first reaction to my manuscript when I opened the project file last weekend was 'Oh my goodness, this is crap. I'll never be able to fix this'. I've only just overcome that feeling and convinced myself that I can fix it, if I put the work in.


Have you ever been in this position in a creative project? How did you banish the doubt so you could get to work?


Comments (1)

Book revisions start today

Today is the day I start the revisions of my book, still tentatively called Symmetry Breaking (although I'm still not convinced that's a good title for a fantasy novel). I'm feeling anxious about it, because I've never revised a book before. This is only the second book I've finished the first draft of. The first book I drafted, when I went to revise it, I found that I no longer liked or believed in the book, so I moved on.

I have no idea how long it will take me to revise the book. I'm hoping I can get it to a point where I will be comfortable showing it to people (for critiquing) early next year. Wish me luck!


Comments

New title for my novel?

For the past few months I have been referring to my novel in progress as Symmetry Breaking, which is a term I picked up from a physics book. It seemed appropriate in a way because a large chunk of the worldbuilding for my story is inspired by M-theory (because I am that much of a geek). But I've been thinking of Symmetry Breaking as a tentative title, even though it reflected the theme, because it didn't sound quite right. This is a fantasy novel after all, not hard SF.

Yesterday a different title popped into my head – Dimensions of the Mind. May I ask your opinion on these titles? Do you:


  • Prefer Symmetry Breaking?
  • Prefer Dimensions of the Mind?
  • Think they both suck?

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Comments (1)

First draft of my novel complete!

Today I finished the first draft of my novel Symmetry Breaking (tentative title).

I started the draft on 6 March, so it took me 4 months and 1 day to write. I had an initial estimated word count of 100,000 words, but in the end it came in at 77,975 words. Whatever. The story knows better than me how long it should be, right? And it may get longer (or shorter) in revisions.

Ugh! Revisions! I am a bit petrified of them. I know that the book is far from finished yet. I didn't revise as I wrote, and so the book is currently filled with plot holes, cardboard characters, and unconvincing motivations. So. Much. Work! I've got a list of changes I've already realised I've got to make, waiting for me to implement. Some of these are going to be huge. For example:

  • Introduce [minor character] and [minor character] earlier. (Um, where?)
  • Chapter 15 is boring. Fix.

Seriously, I copy-pasted that second note exactly.

But at least I have that lump of clay on the wheel now, ready to be shaped.

I will start the revisions on 1 September. Until then, I will be leaving the novel to sit, so that I have some distance from it, and catching up with all the other things I have procrastinated while I have been in Writer Mode. Which is a whole other reason to panic.

Comments (3)

'The Wrong Camera' available on Kindle!

My story in Tales from the Archives, 'The Wrong Camera', is now available in eBook version through the Kindle store. At the moment it doesn't seem to be available for people in the Asia/Pacific region, but even so, I'm really, really excited to see my name on Amazon. I'm searchable, peoples!

And, oops, it seems there is already an author going by my name (I don't have a Dallas perm, BTW). Good thing I am getting married at the end of the year and my name will be changing.

Comments

My story 'The Wrong Camera' has gone live!

Awesome news! My short story, 'The Wrong Camera', has gone live on the Tales from the Archives podcast! Listen to the audio on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences website. The 99c eBook version of the story will be available shortly, but in the mean time, you can listen to the audio for free.


I'm really excited about this publication, not least because it is my first publication ever! Also, I am a big fan of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, and it is a great honour to have the opportunity to contribute to the world, even if in a small way.


Thank you, Pip and Tee, for this opportunity. You guys are amazing!


Comments

New poll: What is your favourite book medium?

I've put a poll over in the right-hand column, titled 'What is your favourite book medium?' I'm interested to know how people are sourcing and consuming books at the moment, because I've heard a lot about how many people are putatively turning to eBooks, and I'd like to have a go at confirming or denying that for myself. (I work with scientists, OK?)

I'll be honest here, and give you my answer:
While I'll always love physical books, and always want to collect the books most special to me, I like reading on my Kindle. It is light, portable, and convenient (unlike some books I could name *coughTowersofMidnightcough*); the books are cheaper and so it is less of a risk to try new authors; and I can change the font size at will.

Please vote in the poll to let me know your favourite way (now, in 2012) of acquiring and reading books.
Comments (1)

Florence has a TARDIS, and has read my book already

I haven't been keeping up with modern popular music. I tend to listen either to old classics (I've been listening to a lot of Link Wray recently), or I listen to current indie music (Amanda Palmer, Tom Dickins, Zoe Keating, SJ Tucker, etc.). So I hope you'll forgive me for only just discovering Florence + the Machine. Well, actually, I remember coming across their song 'Dog Days Are Over' the other year, but I wasn't all that fond of it, and I didn't look up any of their other music. Well, it seems that I like everything else they've done, so foolish me.

Today I found this:



You know how sometimes you find a song, or a book, or a painting, and it speaks directly to something that is in your own mind? If you are a creative person, you may have even experienced finding someone else's creation speaking to one of your own. That's my experience of this song. It reminds me of my own WIP, Symmetry Breaking. I don't know what Florence Welch was thinking of when she wrote it, but in the lyrics I hear echoes of my own story. Goodness, Florence Welch even looks like my protagonist.

That's one of the things I love most about art: that each person who comes across a piece of art experiences it in their own way, and finds their own meaning. It's the closest thing we have to telepathy.

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#amwriting

You know what is hard? Pushing on with the first draft of a novel, and keeping up with blog posts as well.

You know what else is hard? Pushing on with the first draft of a novel and having more than 40% brain power to dedicate to any other task at all.

I'm so scatty at the moment. I've made some serious flubs recently. Oh well.

If you take a look over to the right you'll see that I'm about 43,000 words into my novel. I currently have a final target of 95,000 words for the project, but I think it is going to be shorter than that in the end, at least for the first draft. I am a chapter past what feels like the mid-way point. I was afraid that my pace would slow down, or even halt, when I got to the middle. Maybe I did slow down a little. But I'm still going, and I haven't struck a writer's block yet, which is excellent. I think I did just the right amount of outlining for this project.

It feels great to be doing this, not just saying that I want to do it.

I guess that would be my advice to other aspiring writers at the moment. Get your butt in that chair, and get writing. And I know everyone else says the same thing. But there's a reason cliches become cliches.

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Being an aspiring author in 2012

These are interesting times in which to be an aspiring author.
  • The rise of the eBooks
  • Amazon's increasing power over the book trade
  • Apple's attempts to subvert publishing to their own ends
  • The American DOJ accusing Apple and the Big Six of collusion over agency pricing
  • TOR announcing that they will be dropping the DRM on their eBooks.
What is happening to the book trade? How is this all going to play out? In 5 years time, how will the dice have fallen?

And, nearest to my heart, what will this upheaval mean for writers?

 

Know your starting point


People who have established careers are going to have to move with the times, in a direction as yet to be fully determined.

People who are breaking through now have the most freedom and control over their careers that writers have ever had. They can do whatever they want. Self-publish eBooks. Fund print runs through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or similar services. Go the traditional route. Make up their own innovative publication career utilising one or more of many other options available (subscription, giving works away for free, podcasting. Tweeting. Whatever.) These people are lucky.

But what about me? No matter how impatient I feel about it, I will not be good enough at novel writing to be publishable for some years yet. I know this, and grudgingly accept it. (And then I put my butt back in that chair and get back to work.) By the time I am a published author, what will the publishing world look like? What hoops will I have to jump through?

 

Get informed


Sans TARDIS, all I can do at this juncture is get educated about the book industry so that I can make educated guesses, and be ready to move when I can see where to go.

Some blogs I have been reading recently:
I've gained valuable information and insights into the changing publishing landscape from reading all of these blogs. I recommend taking a look at what they have to offer.

 

My hopes for the future


I hope that one day I will be publishing in a world that favours diversity of options. I hope that I will get books published by publishing houses in the legacy manner. I hope that I will also be self-publishing works, perhaps short series of novellas, to diversify my income stream. I also hope that I will be able to experiment with alternative publishing models and mixed media projects.

What are your thoughts on where the publishing industry is headed? Please leave your comments below.
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First one out of the nest

I cannot believe that I forgot to blog about this:

The other month I entered a short story into a competition to win a slot in the Tales from the Archives podcast presented by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. Tales from the Archives features stories by various writers set in the world of the 'Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences' novels. I won Honourable Mention in the competition and so my story 'The Wrong Camera' is going to be in the podcast! Click here to read the announcement of the competition winners.

This is my first publication, and I'm super excited! Like I said above, I can't believe I forgot to blog about this earlier.
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Spent it wisely

Last time I blogged, I wrote about how I was approaching the end of the re-outlining process for my novel (now tentatively called Symmetry Breaking). If you look over to the right, you'll see that I'm now working on the first draft, and I'm doing well. Three weeks in, and I'm just shy of 13,000 words. Not too shabby. Mind you, I'm just writing; I'm not doing any revising or tinkering as I go. Still, it feels good be making measurable progress.

I've been busy outside my writing as well. On Sunday 18 March we held the 'Flights of Fancy' SpecFicNZ/NZ Book Month event. It was a great day, and both the readers and the audience enjoyed themselves. I was very nervous in the lead-up because I've never organised an event before, let alone an event open to the public. But it all went smoothly, of which I'm very, very glad. I had a lot of help with the event: the NZ Book Month team were supportive, as was the rest of the SpecFicNZ Committee; the staff of the Air Force Museum were great; Paul Mannering was an excellent MC (I don't know what I would have done without him); the readers were all so enthusiastic and gave such excellent performances; and my beloved became the driver / carrier of burdens / sound technician (i.e. he did all the things I forgot I wouldn't be able to do alone – like he always does :D ). I didn't do everything perfectly, but I feel like I have learned a lot through organising 'Flights of Fancy' and I'm glad I volunteered for this challenge.

Jennifer Fallon reading to the audience
What else has been going on with me? OH YES. These boots. On my feet.

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Unless you can see microwaves, that is . . .

I am very, very close to moving from the (re)outlining stage of my novel on to the writing stage. And I'm so glad of that, because I'm chomping at the bit!

I've made the mistake in the past of getting impatient and moving on to the writing before the outline is sufficiently advanced. Some people can write by the seat of their pants (they can be called 'discovery writers' or 'pantsers'), but I am not one of those. I am a planner, an outliner. Through experimentation with shorter projects over the last year, and through failures prior to that, I've learned that if I don't outline and plan enough, then when it comes time to write I fall on my face. The project stalls.

So over the last several months I've been working hard on researching, brainstorming, and outlining. And now I'm nearly there. I have Monday off work, and I am determined that on that day I will get the outline, if not complete, then at least ready for writing.

I've given myself a deadline of 31 August for the first draft. If I write 5 days a week, that will be a daily target of just over 750 words. I can do this!

Although I am just about to start writing, that doesn't mean I have stopped filling my head with knowledge that could lead to ideas for my novel. I recently started a free trial membership with Audible to see what using their service is like and to support the Writing Excuses podcast. The free book I downloaded was Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. I love popular physics. I'm enjoying listening to the book on my iPod when I'm walking, on the bus, or doing the dishes.

Today I learned a fascinating fact while listening to Parallel Worlds: the first person to solve Olbers's Paradox was Edgar Allen Poe! That's awesome! Olbers's Paradox is the question: If the Universe is static, infinite, and eternal (as was thought in the past), then how come the night sky is black, and is not blazing with the light of infinite stars? Early hypotheses included interstellar dust blocking the light of distant stars. Of course, the real answer is that the universe is not eternal – it had a beginning, and therefore the light from most of the galaxies in the Universe has not yet had time to reach us. (And because of the expansion of the Universe, it never will.)

I think it is fitting that a poet was the first to see the truth in such a poetic idea.

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Out with the old, in with the new

Goodness gracious, am I glad that 2011 is over, or what? Although some awesome things happened to me personally, in general 2011 was one hell of a year, from natural disasters, to man-made disasters, to civil unrest. Of course, as I live in Christchurch, natural disasters have been the issue of most importance to me. 

Speaking of which, the latest damaging earthquakes we had here on 23 December have basically confirmed that Canterbury is experiencing a rarer 'earthquake swarm'-type event, rather than the normal 'earthquake with a tail of aftershocks'-type event. This means that we will likely have decades of aftershocks rather than months or a few years as is the global norm. Apparently the aftershocks will at some point decrease in frequency and size until they are no longer disruptive, but they certainly aren't there yet. Oh well. I've given up wondering if/when we'll have another large quake now. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm tired of giving it any more though than that.

On the writing front, I have written the first draft of a short story for a competition, and I am half way through tidying the second draft. I also made one of those goofy New Year's resolutions. I've decided I am going to finish at least the first draft of my novel this year, damn it. I've given the novel's Scrivener file a project target of 31 August, including the remainder of the re-outlining. Even if I fail that target, there will still be several months until the end of the year.

I received a Kindle for Christmas. I was not expecting such an extravagant gift at all. I very much enjoy reading on it, despite knowing that I am now part of the 'bookshop decline' problem. It is easy to snatch a few reading minutes here and there on the Kindle, which means that I have been reading much faster than usual since Christmas. I got through quite a few books over the holiday period, which I am hoping to review here in the near future.

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Steampunk Capital of New Zealand, plus steampunk short story competition

SpecFicNZ and the authors of the Steampunk adventure Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, are together holding a competition for a spot in the supporting Ministry podcast, Tales from the Archives. The competition is open to all residents and citizens of New Zealand. This is really exciting, because the winner will not only get published, their name will be connected with a high-profile project, and of course all entrants can have fun playing in another writer's sandbox. The full details of the competition are here.

To get people in the mood for writing Steampunk, I thought I'd post a few pictures I took in Oamaru, the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand, at the end of October.












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Happy to be rejected

Recently I worked up the courage to finally send a story to a paying 'zine rather than to a competition. Sending stories to competitions is not nearly so scary, because your submission will no doubt be one of hundreds, if not thousands, arriving at the same time. Also, you don't get 'rejected' from a competition: you just don't win.

I've been a bit worried about how I would handle rejections when I actually started submitting stories to publishers. I was afraid I would get upset and childish about it. But when I found my first rejection in my inbox a short while ago, I was surprisingly happy.

Why was I happy? Because I got a personalised rejection, with some advice on how the story could be improved, and an invitation to submit more work. I think that's pretty damn good for a first submission. I must be doing something right, after all!

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Writing practice: something flowery

The other week I started using a site called 750words.com to motivate me to write on a regular basis. The idea behind 750words.com is simple: you have to write 750 words every day; you get points for every day you write; and the longer your streak is, the faster your points accumulate. Because you write your words directly into the website from your browser, you can write from most places. For example, you can write from work in your lunch break. I'm finding it to be a useful tool.

Of course, you have to think of something to write. Every day. Sometimes I draft emails or blog posts (I am writing this very text in my lunch break at work). Usually I work on my main WIP, the Novel. I've recently done a lot of worldbuilding in 750-odd word chunks.

Yesterday I needed a change of pace; I had been writing dry facts for days on end. And then I remembered what my wonderful gentleman caller bought me the other month: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. Steering the Craft is a book about the art of writing. I had read chapter 1 previously and so yesterday I decided to do exercise 1 for my daily 750 words. The exercise was to write a piece intended to be read aloud.

What I wrote is more than a bit rough. It also reads like two separate pieces, because about the time I felt like I was running out of oomph I saw I was only at 300 words, so I changed tactic. The exercise challenged me to write from a different angle to the one I write from on default, and therefore what I ended up with was something quite different to my normal prose. I wrote an emotive, sentimental piece from the point of view of a frequent traveller in the world of my WIP. This traveller is monologuing lyrically about the island nation of Adarentia, where my story is set. Although a bit off-beat, I think this piece will be very useful for me when it comes time to create a sense of place within the story.

***

There are those who say the Golden Ocean covers half the globe. Indeed, it is broad, and deep, and land is sparse. Islands speckle like a dusting of freckles on it's face.

There are exceptions. To the East, before you reach the wide continental lands, you will find two great islands. The southern one is a tropical paradise. It is a jewel amongst the lands of men; an emerald sparkling in it's golden setting. But I prefer the northern of the two: Adarentia.

Looking at the maps, one could be forgiven for thinking that the isle of Adarentia does not want to be a part of the Golden Ocean. It stretches north, towards Ladandir, begging for contact, reaching out its hand. The gesture is futile. Between Adarentia and Nideree is a wide, deep stretch of water; indeed, it is far enough that the peoples of those lands did not meet on each other's soil until modern times; rather, they knew of each other from the intermediary of Ladandir.

Adarentia is a harsh, wild place; or a green, smooth place; or a rough, craggy place. It depends where you go, and what you see, and what you are willing to see. I like this ambiguity, this mix of identities. No matter what kind of terrain you find yourself in, it is not far to walk until you find yourself in another.

Shall I sing a song of the beaches of Adarentia? The mounds of shells, bone-white, dead and yet alive? Shall I sing a song of the salt spray and the cliffs, the dunes long and meandering, the seagrass? The devotees of religion sing these songs, for the saviour of Adarentia was a Fisherman, and if the Adarentians did not love the shore and the ocean before he saved them, they surely did after.

Shall I talk of the alps, reaching high, higher, and highest into the blue sky? The thick waterfalls of cloud spilling through the passes? Shall I talk of the trickling streams that chatter their way down to the plains? Shall I talk of the scree slopes, unscalable, treacherous? Or the alpine meadows, the flowers tiny dots like ground stars? The mountain goats skitter and dance their ways, hither and thither, their paths worn as permanent as roads.

Shall I tell you of the fire mountains, the volcanoes, the living hells? The mountains that are the proof our world is alive? Shall I tell you of the smoke that belches, the molten rock that sears? The steam that vents from the Earth like breath? Shall I tell you of the blasted lands that few men know how to survive? Or of, in this circle of life, the health and prosperity this hell can bring when it regrows?

Shall I ponder on the nature of the deep, dark, thick forests of the West? The wet, gloomy, loamy forests? Shall I ponder on the age of the great trees, trunks as round as houses? Why they cling wetly to the foothills? Shall I ponder on what lives there? On the stories of strange creatures, far deeper than humans venture? Shall I wonder whether those forests will stay, or if humans will eventually cut them all down?

Shall I enthuse about the cities of Adarentia? Great Soliri, warm in the sun, it's pastel-hued buildings friendly and inviting. Shall I enthuse about it's culture, the intimate theatres? Shall I wax lyrical about the Sunlight Palace? And what of Kedenoa, on the shore of the glittering lake? Shall I enthuse about it's tree-lined boulevards and the paddleboats on the river? What of Voma? Unique, earthy, sleepy Voma? The taste of the Golden Ocean Islands it affords? Summer writ in wood and stone. So different from Eladyei, the winter city. Eladyei of the shoreline snows.

Shall I remind you of the quiet joys that can be found in the towns of Adarentia? The cottages, the gardens, the chickens and the children? The shepherd boys tending the flocks? The rows of apple trees? The cold cider on a warm summer's evening? Shall I remind you of the fishermen in their woollens, bringing in their catches? Of the soot-faced miners plucking beauty from the Earth? Shall I remind you of the strong women of Adarentia, the clockwork efficiency and the smiling faces? Shall I remind you of their daughters bringing the platters of goats cheese and dried fruits? Of the sensation of a warm cloth to wash your hot face?

Shall I take joy in the existence of the Port and Starboard Queens? Two ethnicities. Two worlds. Two rulers. One land. Adarentia.
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Damn ghosts

I have encountered a bit of a problem with my writing. As you can see from my Works in Progress page I have recently been re-outlining my epic fantasy novel and ramping up towards writing the first draft (hopefully splicing in some of the text I wrote last time I started writing the book). But another idea I have had, Teathira Protectrix (tentative title), has been trying its best to take over my writing effort. No amount of exorcising seems to be able to quit this idea from my mind. I write at least a full page of notes to 'file for later' every day.

Why is this idea so persistent? I think there are a few factors. Firstly, the story has a title, if only a tentative one. My epic fantasy novel doesn't have one yet. Secondly, Teathira Protectrix is a YA idea, and a short one at that. The book (or the first one, rather: it is a multi-book idea) would probably come in under 40,000 words. Quickly hammering out a short novel before attempting the longer epic fantasy is appealing. Thirdly, there is not a lot of research I would have to do for Protectrix. The epic fantasy, however, needs some extensive world-building (only half of which is done) plus a fair wodge of research on random things like yamabushi, steamboats, and flintlock pistols. Oh, and M-theory. All in all, Protectrix just looks easier.

So what do you think? Should I be disciplined and keep on keeping on with the epic fantasy? After all, I would still be able to write Protectrix when the epic fantasy is done. Or should I give in to the 'Oooh, shiny' impulse and switch to the YA idea?


Update

Okay, so I've made a decision. I'm going to continue re-outlining the epic fantasy novel. However, I will also continue to take my screeds of notes on Protectrix, and not feel guilty about how much time I spend doing so. When I have finished re-outlining the epic fantasy, I will evaluate how much work I have done on Protectrix. If I'm within spitting distance of starting a first draft, I'll use Protectrix as a break between outlining and writing the epic fantasy, so I have an early stage of 'seeing the story afresh'. If I'm still at the concept stage with Protectrix, then I will push on with the epic fantasy (and maybe even give it a name).

Right. Sounds like a plan, Stan.

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Redux and welcome and things

I used to keep a blog, a long time ago when I lived in Japan. I would post lots of pictures, and natter on about life in Japan and all the surprises it would entail. I published the blog primarily so that my family and friends would know what I was up to without me having to email each and every one of them. I think other people read my blog too, but I'm not sure how frequently because I had no stats tracking at the time.


But then I returned to New Zealand, and no longer felt like blogging my daily life. I haven't blogged since 2007.


Well, this week is the SpecFicNZ blogging week and I'm now all inspired to start up a new blog. I've imported some of my posts about Japan from my old blog, because they make interesting viewing. I weeded out some of the more boring posts, such as when I burbled on about vegetables I had bought or how cool (?) my Sony Walkman MP3 player was.


What am I intending to write about at this new blog? Recently I've been having a serious crack at writing fiction. I've been working hard on honing my skills. I have also joined SpecFicNZ, the national association for creators, writers and editors of speculative fiction in and from New Zealand. I've even been elected to the SpecFicNZ Committee. I can therefore reasonably predict that writing will be a frequent topic.


As for what else I will be blogging about, I'm really not sure. Guess I will have to write and find out.
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