Why Am I So Bad At Goals Whyyy

So this post was originally intended to be a halfway-into-the-year check in on my writing goals. Due to some scheduling issues, we’re a bit past the midpoint, but I’m doing it anyway. Because deadlines are for mortals, which is a response that probably will give you a lot of insight into the way my goals are going so far this year.

The short answer is that I’m doing awfully. At everything.

My reading goals were progressing beautifully until summer struck and then all bets were off. I didn’t read a single book over the entire summer that wasn’t for work, and it was difficult to squeeze even that much in. *claws at own face* I can’t live like this.

Giving myself more leeway on short story writing maaaay have been a mistake because I took that leeway as an excuse to do next to nothing. I have written two short stories so far this year. Two.

Editing is likewise a giant sinkhole so far this year. I just started editing Blood and Ebony about a week ago and have made it about halfway through the first chapter. And… that is all. Yikes. Zero down and three to go.

And I guess I started my one new draft of a novel, but realized about halfway in that it’s terrible and has some plot holes you could fly an Airbus A380 through and I have no interest in finishing it before the year is out. So… back to square one on that, I suppose.

My rejections goal for the year is currently sitting at fifteen of my forty-eight rejections, which is terrible in and of itself, but made exponentially more terrible by the fact that that is all. I have nothing more currently on submission right now that counts toward this goal. So unless I get my rear into gear, that number is going to stay at fifteen. At the beginning of the year, I had intended to have all the subs out that I needed for the entire year (plus a little extra under the assumption that some will be accepted) by the end of September, giving those rejections time to trickle in over the rest of the year. Yeah. Not happening. This goal is so far sitting at flaming-airplane-wreck-two-minutes-before-takeoff level of fail.

Soooo… yeah. That’s where I’m at.

But I have excuses. Do you wanna hear my excuses? Please?

My biggest excuse is that a few of those probable rejections turned out to be acceptances—and on pretty big projects, too. On top of my having normal day jobs, I’ve been working on these projects, steadily, daily, for about three months now and it’ll be at least another month before they’re all completed. It’s taking up nearly all of my free time.

Other excuses have been of the much less fun family emergency variety. Just this summer we had a string of chicken tragedies and three unique medical emergencies. (Unless we want to count each of my son’s complications as their own thing. Ah, dog bites. The emergency that keeps on emerging.) These things take time, and they also take brain power. I can’t work very effectively if I’m worried that my husband might need surgery (still a possibility) or that my son might lose an eye (off the table—whew!).

So, yeah. I’m still going to get myself as close to those goals as possible before the end of the year. I think I can catch up on the reading goal without too much fuss. Just two more short stories would put me above what I managed for last year, so that will have to be good enough. Editing might get trimmed back to just one book; if I really turn this thing around, maybe two. I’ll get about half of a first draft in November and try to finish the rest of it in December, so that one is still in the realm of possibility. But the rejections goal will definitely have to come down; I just won’t know exactly how much until I finish up these other projects. We’ll see.

All in all, I’m trying not to beat myself up too badly. I’m doing my best and I’m not just being lazy, so that’s a definite win in this game.

How about you fine readers? How are your literary endeavors going so far this year? Any wins to report? Any fails that could use some cheerleading? Let me know in the comments! And until next week, happy writing!

Prince Ilvarin Short Story

I’m feeling pretty heartbroken about Notre Dame today. It has family significance as well as being a beautiful piece of human history. My heart is in Paris tonight.

Oddly enough, what I had planned to post today is about fire and destruction and death (although thankfully, nobody died in the Notre Dame fire). This is a legend one of the characters tells in my Camp NaNoWriMo story that will almost be cut from the final product in its entirety, but I liked it anyway. Hope you do too.

Prince Ilvarin and the Death God

Before the people came north, before our blood mingled with that of the humans, before the stars were written in the sky, there was an ancient prince. Prince Ilvarin was wise and clever, and he loved his people more than his own life.

One year, the world passed too close to the sun and even Fenthal could not ward it back. The world began to burn. Smoke filled the skies and the trees and plants withered. The elves lay in what shadows were left and drank until the water was gone and hope was fled.

Prince Ilvarin could not bear to see his people suffer so. He was the strongest among them, least burdened by heat and thirst, and feared he alone would survive this disaster. And so he decided to seek out Death and trade his life for that of his people. Taking only his cloak and his sword, Prince Ilvarin set off north for the sylvan homes of the gods.

Want to read the whole story? Click here.

Blogiversary Episode VI: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

Hello, friends! Sorry about missing last week’s post. I didn’t manage my time very well, and then I found myself suddenly out of town without my laptop and all the files therein. Oops.

But exciting news nonetheless! This week marks the sixth anniversary of this doofy blog! Hooray!

fanfare

In celebration of this most momentous occasion, I knew I wanted to do something bigger than my usual posts, so it’s been on my mind for a while. A few months ago, I was sitting around with my husband listening to a really fun escape room/ role playing podcast called Escape This Podcast, and I decided I had to do one- or at least as close to one as I could do on a blog. So here it is: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

In this CYOA puzzle, you are a detective hired to figure out what a disgruntled employee is up to at a local book shop. But when you find yourself locked in the shop alone after closing, you must find and decipher the clues hidden around the room to solve the case and get back out before it’s too late!

A few suggestions as you start the escape room:

Have something to keep notes on- sequences, hints, door codes, keys, puzzles, etc. You’ll save yourself a lot of running back and forth if you write things down.

Locks are simulated by password protected pages. Most of them are numeric codes, but some use ‘keys’. The keys are used by typing in what is written on the head of the key. (Remember, keys are case sensitive.)

While it helps to have some literary knowledge, it isn’t necessary. All the required information is available within the story, but you might have to look in a few different places to find it.

Only look in Mr. Haven’s notebook if you need a hint. The escape room can be solved without it.

If you’re having a hard time, try the puzzle with a friend- two heads are better than one!

Begin your adventure here!

Writing Flash Fiction

FlashI’m sure none of you have this problem, but I can get a little wordy sometimes. Little short stories balloon out into novelettes. I get started on standalone novels and, next thing I know, I’ve got a five book series planned out. If brevity is the soul of wit, I’m incurably dull.

But really, I have lots of things that I’m bad at. If it really bothers me, I can often train myself out of it. So I figured, why not practice writing shorter stories with flash fiction? Hahaha, yeah. I thought that.

My first several attempt simply ended up being… not so flashy. But after a few more tries, I started to get better at it. First I kept myself under one thousand words. Then 750. I bottomed out at under 500, despite trying really hard to produce a story at under 250. (The closest I got was 460, soooo… not close at all, haha.)

Skip the Exposition When writing flash fiction, you don’t have the space to build slowly up to your exciting climax. Instead, jump to just before the pudding hits the fan. (Obviously, this won’t work for the kinds of stories that need that buildup, but those aren’t the kind of stories that make good flash.)

Leave Stuff Out Not every element of the story needs to be explained. Backstory, hair color, what route the character used to get to this room- leave all of that out. Readers should be able to get enough from context to build their own world in their minds.

Every Word Counts Okay, maybe not every word. But in such extreme limitations, flash fiction writers have to be pretty choosey about their words. Drafting and editing flash means packing the maximum meaning into the least words. If you can read a sentence and drop a few words without losing any of the sentence’s impact and meaning, drop the few words.

Narrow the Scope If you try to tell too ‘big’ a story, you simply won’t have the room to do it justice. Not all stories can be compressed into flash fiction. When spit balling ideas, choose a very small story and resist the urge to deepen, widen, complicate, etc that one small story.

And do all this while still telling a full story, with a character making choices, and an arc that surprises, and all that jazz. And do it in under X number of words. Whew! Flash fiction is hard. But look, I’m getting better- this post is less than five hundred words, hahaha. All I needed was a little practice.

Happy writing, guys! See you next week!

I’m Totally Judging You

judge1A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to help judge a writing competition. I’d never judged at this level before, although I had competed in several judged competitions, so I didn’t quite know what to expect from the process.

I won’t claim that I learned anything earth shattering, but I wanted to a post a few tips I would give writers submitting to competitions in general. Most of this stuff you’ve probably heard a dozen times, but they came up often enough that once more probably won’t hurt, right? Right.

So without further ado, here are my six tips for entering writing competitions.

Use a spell checker. Seriously. Few things are as distracting to me as a reader than an abundance of typos, and they are so easy to guard against these days. Most writing programs will tell you as you’re writing if your words are misspelled, and often even if they’re being misused. (Some even offer style suggestions! Crazy!) So just take a few moments before submitting a story and make sure yuor words is’nt wrong.

Follow submission guidelines/ competition rules. Are you tired yet of being told to follow the rules? I always am! And yet I was shocked at how many of the submissions I reviewed weren’t following guidelines. One wasn’t even the right genre for the competition! When submitting, please make sure you are submitting the right story to the right place and in the right way. Please don’t be That Guy that makes people like me have to keep telling decent internet folk to just follow the rules.

Make sure your story is a story. Does your story have an arc? Does it have conflict? Does it have characters? (I’m not even kidding.) If it’s missing any of these things, squint at it a little harder before sending it in. Even a very skillfully written series of events won’t go far if it’s just that- a series of events. Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, preferably with some kind of growth in between. Make sure it’s a story.

The first few paragraphs are key. Make sure that you draw your readers in immediately. When judging, I read through and rated submissions in batches. While I took care not to work while I was totally glazed over, it’s hard to get into a story that starts off in the wrong place, or even too slowly. Short stories have a limited word count so be certain you’re making the most of your space.

Sensory details really sell a setting. Again, limited word count. But that’s why you must make sure that you set the scene quickly and completely. Small, specific sensory details can ground a reader in a time or place with few words and make a huge difference in the reader’s immersion level. Of all the stories I judged, each one described what conversations were heard and what people/things/events were seen and what emotions were felt. Fewer talked about the colors of flowers or the city sounds of cars and construction. A couple talked about how the environment actually felt. Only one mentioned smells and tastes.

Take heart- There are a lot of good writers out there. Whether or not you win, you’re probably one of them! Even if you don’t place the first time, or the first ten times, don’t sweat it. Any writing competition is going to draw in writers of all levels and, while judges try to be objective in their criteria, there is some personal taste going into the matter, too. If your story doesn’t get picked, don’t quit. Polish the story a little more and find another place to submit it to. Never surrender!

Happy writing!

Blogiversary V, Part III

Yaaaay, another short story! This is the last one for the week, and it’s been a lovely week to have a blogiversary. We’re on spring break up here and, while I was a little sad that none of the kids in our school district had the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights this week, it’s been very nice to have the week off. I literally spent the entire day yesterday in a bathrobe, packing my laptop around the house with me like a baby. It’s been a good week.

I did a lot of hemming and hawing trying to decide which short to end with this week. The one I settled on isn’t as silly as the first one, nor as academic as the last one.  And unlike the other two, this one isn’t set in the real world either. And finally, it isn’t prose either- it’s a poem! Whee!

I wrote this up (with editing help from my hubby and his parents) for a writing contest and, as it’s one of my less embarrassing attempts at poetry, I give you…

 

Water

(this is obviously a working title, haha)

 

On storm-tossed coasts, a young girl lived,

Lost in misery.

It drove her to the water’s edge,

Bearing these items three:

A bud of rose, an egg of blue,

A spool of sewing thread.

She took a breath and took a step

And brine closed o’er her head.

 

The water folk, they found her fast,

Drawn by the rose’s scent.

She bartered it for passage safe,

And off her escort went.

They led her past the sandy coast,

Down where the kelp beds furl.

They took her to the castle deep

With halls of gold and pearl.

 

The gate keeper, he barred her path,

And would not let her in

For she was daughter of the drylands

And no aquatic kin.

She offered him the egg of blue,

Which thing he’d never seen

So he let her with such wonders

Within to meet the Queen.

 

The Ocean Queen with coral crown

Welcomed her to her court

But bade her leave the watery depths

Back to the humans’ port.

The girl gave her the spool of thread,

A tribute to the Queen,

But the royal mer just smiled

With kindly eyes of green.

 

“A bud of rose, an egg of blue,

A spool of sewing thread.

You offer us mementos of

The very world you’ve fled.

You won’t find what you look for here,

For all the world is bound:

Above, beneath, and in between,

Lives are built, not found.”

 

And so the girl returned again

To step upon the shore

She left her gifts within the sea

And sought for something more:

Instead of rose, a bloom of hope,

A bud’s blind reach for spring;

Instead of eggs, a new life gained,

With joy in each small thing;

 

 

Instead of thread, the ties that bind

People heart to heart.

And so she slowly learned the things

The Queen knew from the start-

The love she sought so far and wide

Was not beneath the waves

She only had to learn that one

Received just what one gave.

 

I hope you enjoyed this year’s blogiversary. We’ll get back to our normal schedule next Monday. Until then, happy writing!

Blogiversary V, Part II

The party continues! For today’s short story, I give you a piece of creative nonfiction about a murder that took place in Fairbanks Alaska (or at least a patch of wilderness that would later become absorbed in the then infant town of Fairbanks). It’s quite a bit more serious than Monday’s piece (which is unfathomably stupid), but is still kind of a work in progress as I continue digging around for more information and documentation. I’ll think I have everything settled, and then find something new! Sometimes I feel like I could write a whole book about this case, but I’d need a heck of a lot more sources than I’ve currently been able to scrounge up. Nevertheless, I think it’s an interesting story that you might enjoy, fine internetfolk. Cheers!

Dead Man’s Slough

Clouds rolled over the sun in a murky eclipse, and Mark Skorlich shivered in the sudden shadow, glaring up at the sky. It was dark enough in October without this.
Skorlich huddled down tighter in his sweater and trudged on to his friend’s cabin, four low walls with a sheet of canvas for a roof. He’d known Jacob Jaconi since the two of them came to the Klondike together, and been partners off and on in the four years since, hopping back and forth between Dawson and Fairbanks, between fishing and panning and river-poling. Both immigrants, both struggling to scrape a living from the unforgiving landscape, they took care of one another. Now, with Jaconi settled on the bank of the Noyse Slough four miles between Fairbanks and Chena for the winter, Skorlich popped in for a visit every few days with news from town. And this time, an invitation to join him hunting.

The noon whistle shrilled back in Fairbanks, and Skorlich trudged along the bank of the partially frozen Chena River, his boots squeaking in the snow. Three men on dog sleds swept down the opposite shore toward town, the dogs baying happily. They disappeared around the bend, but Skorlich could still hear the dogs.

It took him a moment to realize that the sound was coming from before him. And that instead of barking, the dogs were howling.

Skorlich caught the scent of smoke in the cold air and froze.

Something was wrong.

He ran up the river, turning onto the slough, and finally saw the cabin through the trees.

Smoke bled up into the clouds, the canvas burned away. The front of the cabin was merely scorched, the damage worse toward the back, and the dogs were scattered around the remains, mourning. Skorlich ran to the cabin, clutching his rifle, and stepped inside. The back wall was nearly gone, and a burnt hide was draped across the crumbling remains of the bunk, all of it still smoldering. He fell back a disbelieving step, staring around the home he had stayed in countless days and nights.

Jaconi might not even know yet.

Skorlich leaned his rifle against the blackened wall and ran back out into the woods, calling wildly, “Jacob! Jacob!” He paused, panting.

How much of the cabin could they possibly salvage at this point?

And how long had Jaconi been out that he hadn’t noticed? Where was he?

Heart pounding, Skorlich turned back to the cabin. Jaconi’s biggest dog watched him with mournful eyes as he returned on stiff legs.

Skorlich picked up a stick and stepped back into the smoldering cabin, his eyes locked on the bunk. He started slowly toward the scorched hide, and finally realized just what he was looking at.

To read the full story (or at least what I’ve dredged up about it so far), go here!