The Joys of Focus

It’s January, a new year with new goals…and all the other ones I brought with me from 2018.  Are we all feeling intimidated yet?  I know I am.  I had a good chat yesterday with a friend who is much wiser than me.  She’s also a writer (link below).  We talked about goals and how to prioritize the things I want to do, have to do and should do.  When you have an intense day job and a limited amount of spare time, it’s hard to see the difference sometimes.

Here’s the new plan, no dates given purposely (except for A Family Affair).  Pure Red Sand: A Family Affair launches on March 23 so getting that ready to go is my first priority.  Then I’m off to get my website launched.  Right now, A Good Idea Publications is just me but I’m hoping to expand in the future.  So you can stay tuned for that.  It’ll be a base for you to find me and eventually other authors.  There will be links to this blog, my twitter and facebook accounts.  But also how to buy my books, bios and other little treats like free stories to read.

I’m also working on a contemporary romance.  It’s a big departure from the serious nature of the Pure Red Sand series but it was written around the same time. It was a way to escape into something a little frivolous.  But, you know, there had to be some serious things to work through too.  It’s a solid story.  So if you’re looking for something a little lighter, you can check that out in the months to come. Working Title: Emily Dorais.

I’m going to be at the Geek Market on March 23 and 24 at the Nepean Sportsplex.  I’ll be launching A Family Affair the same day so I urge you to come by and pick up your copy while you check out some of the other artists (links to my friends’ sites below).  This is my only sale so far this year.  I’ll be at Romancing the Capital in August if you want to say hi, but only as a participant.

Happy February and I hope 2019 continues to be kind to you all.

 

The Wise Friend:

https://susanajennings.com

 

Friends at Geek Market:

9five7 Pyrography:

https://www.deviantart.com/9five7?fbclid=IwAR3to6OnGoOYEAG13SwvyuSfhi029j-VxCh9KHbt8jQ_eAZY5V3ZJmz93go

Stark-Rogers Initiative:

https://www.facebook.com/StarkRogersInitiative2016/

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Year End Round Up

Well, it’s nearly the end of the month and here we are.  All delighted to be alive and still writing.  2018 was a very busy year for me.  In the spring, I released the second book in the Pure Red Sand series, Uncomfortable Truths.  This book and the first one are both available on amazon.

I’ve also been writing all year and finished my historical novel a couple of weeks ago.  This was one of the hardest works for me.  For the first time, I experienced a real bout of writer’s block.  It took months to pass and in the end the only thing that did it was trying out another non-literary creative outlet.  I started cross-stitch and made a Christmas present for my mother, a bunch of pansies.  I can talk about it now since she has it.

Now I’m back at the third book in the Pure Red Sand series.  Hoping to have that one out early in the new year.

2019 should bring a website and work on some new books. I’ll have to get back to “Julianne” and there’s a contemporary romance in the works as well.  I’ve also been working away on short stories and another novel that take place on Mars.  Hope the sand hasn’t washed out of your head just yet.

In fact I had better get back to work…

Broken Promises and Learning to Breathe

I promised readers two books before the end of December.  (Sorry, that’s running into 2019)  I had my first real bout of writer’s block this year.  It was like every sentence I eked out took a part of myself.  Layers of muscle and blood to create a paragraph.  It was slow and painful.  I worried that I would never find “the flow” again.  That maybe I was done, had written everything I was allowed.  Or maybe I’d wasted my time and that had finally run out.  To say I was worried was an understatement.  To the point where I even stopped writing this post…for a whole month.

Okay.  Perspective.  I’ve got a bit more now.  There’s lots of things I could say about this process.  That you can’t rush it.  That I can’t write anything soul stretching to a deadline.  Mostly, I want to tell you that I’ve learned to breathe.  No, I’m not going to have two more books ready this year. You’ll have to be patient with me a little longer if you’re one of the people waiting.  What I can promise you is that I am continuing to give my all.  Despite an intense new job and dealing with mental illness, I’m writing.  Because to not write would be like not breathing.  We all know how that ends.  So I’ll keep writing and, hopefully, you’ll keep reading.

I have a little treat to help tide you over.  The following is the first page of Pure Red Sand: A Family Affair (Coming 2019).  There will also be some of Julianne in the next few weeks.

Questions?  Thoughts?  Encouragement?  Please reach out!

 

The wind swept across the red desert as it had for millions of years before humans had ever alighted and would continue to do so for millions of years after the last traces of their civilization had been consumed by the sand.  The haze faded from the horizon for a brief moment, exposing no footsteps but the traces of tire marks on the rockier patches leading to the horizon.  The wind drifted along this artificial trail, winding amongst the rocks and gathering sand up only to leave it to rest again. It settled on the rocks, on the trail and finally on the hands that reached up in silent vigil to the sky. Weathered and dried to mere husks, the remains of humanity at the bottom of the ravine might have been a final reminder of what was to come until the wind blew again and obscured them from sight.

 

Chapter One:

Nadine jerked awake.  There was violence, something burning.  Where was Sven?!  There was pain and she couldn’t move. She needed to move, get away.  She blinked against the quickly dissipating vision and realized she could only see out of her left eye, staring at a bright white light. She blinked the tears away and finally made out a moving wall.  Walls don’t move.  She tried to speak but her mouth was dried out and there was a tube there.  What had they done to her?  Had the men from Earth finally tracked her down?  Trying to spit it out, she gagged instead.  Then there was a strange woman in a medic uniform over her.  The woman’s teeth shone brightly against her dark skin as she smiled and said something in a reassuring tone but Nadine couldn’t quite make it out.  She didn’t feel any calmer.  Then everything went black again.

Finding Ways to Connect

I started my twitter account as a way to reach out to people, to get my words out there in some capacity. After all, without social media, I’ve been told there isn’t much point. I’m not very good at it.  I find it hard to promote myself.  No, that’s a lie, I find it damn near impossible.  But I keep trying because stopping is never an option.  But I recently watched as a well-known celebrity, that I follow because of their messages, left Twitter.  That has me suddenly wondering if the pendulum of social media is swinging the other way.  Should I perhaps be looking for more face-to-face opportunities, trying to convince people to buy my book at conventions, book stores and craft markets?  (No, really, I am asking you.)

But maybe that’s all tied in with why do people write, why do painters paint etc.  Why do humans create?  I think we’re all creative in some way.  Some people show it in the way they dress or do their makeup.  Some of us just happen to be a little quieter in how we’re putting ourselves out there.  My friend was given a beautiful cross stitched panel that reads something along the lines of: Writing is easy.  You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed.  It really is like that.  Your pour your heart out on a page, digital or otherwise.  If you don’t, it’s not sincere and believe me, readers know. So, once you’ve put your heart on a piece of paper and copied it many times, how do you “market” that?  How do you take the rejection of something that is integrally you? (No, I don’t know how to do that.  No answers here.)

I think it’s a lot like online dating.  If you’re married/coupled up/not interested, you might not get this.  The whole “modern dating” thing is so very confusing.  You put yourself out there and then people just don’t acknowledge you.  I found this really hard on Plenty of Fish.  I would message people and not get a response.  I got used to it but realized anew how much I disliked it every time I tried to explain to someone that the constant rejection was “normal.”  It was putting your heart out there in small ways and getting stepped on over and over.  And I wonder why I have trouble believing in love ever happening for me?

So yes, writing, love, life. I think it’s all about the fear of reaching out and handing people parts of your heart.  The waiting to see if they like it or not.

More Words…

Writing isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it’s hard work and other times it’s as blissfully simple as breathing.  In the last couple of months, I’ve been working very hard. Unfortunately, to the cost of reaching out to you, to a lack of social media in general.  But I’ve done it because I believe that this is all making art. I might be silent but I trust that you understand the payout will be worth it. So here goes.

April 21, 2018 is the release date for Pure Red Sand: Uncomfortable Truths.

If you’ve read An Expensive Retreat, you will definitely have questions.  In this book, I’m going to answer some of them and create others. A little faster paced than the first book, in this one we’re going back to Earth.  This is a little snippet of what to expect. (I’ll try and post some more across social media leading up to the release.)

In this scene, Sven meets one of the medics from the hospital in Stalear to find out what happened to the 112 people who were left behind:

           She sat quietly for a moment but she still fidgeted with her coat and the edge of the table. When she looked up, some of the wariness had returned to her face. “Look, I’ve been well paid to keep my mouth shut and stay out of this mess. I have everything I need here. I won’t pretend that life is good because when you’ve seen what I have, you can’t live a normal life again. But it’s my life and it’s all I have. I’m starting to think this might have been a mistake.”

        “You keep saying that you want to talk about it. What will it take? I don’t have money. I told you everything I know about the abandonment and about your friends. You’re the one who agreed to this meeting. You contacted me. I’m here and listening.”

        She slumped back down but finally nodded. “Fine. What do you want to know?”

        “Everything you can tell me about the abandonment.”

She sat up straighter, glanced around the room, and rubbed her arms as if she were cold.     “Cameras?”

        “No. I randomly chose the room and did not take the first one they offered. I came here immediately. I will record your story on audio and take a couple of notes but there’s nothing secret. My datapad has a filter so no one can pick up the signal and the recording will be encrypted. This is as safe as I can make it and I’ve done it before. Are you willing?”

        “What do you know?”

Sven watched her for a minute. She was stalling and he couldn’t figure out what it was going to take. Everyone else had been willing to spill everything they knew from the second they came in. Maybe she would be more willing to talk to Nadine? Or was he just trying to get out of doing it alone?

        “Okay, this is how it works, Claire. You know you want to tell me everything. You can drag this out as long as you want but I can promise you, it’s never going to get any easier to live with until it’s out there.”

        “You can’t know that.”

        “You’re right. But I do know that’s what everyone else told me.” He gave her a moment. “Are you ready?” He was pushing her but he was so close to getting her story and to knowing what happened that he didn’t want to let it go.

        “You know what was left behind, don’t you?”

        “Yes.”

        “God, I hope we all rot in hell for this.” She took a deep, ragged breath, leaned forward to rest her arms on the table and began to speak slowly.

*

I’ve been working really hard on “Julianne” and I’m really excited about the progress I’m making.  I’ll try and share a little more of that project as it comes together. (I’m just past halfway to the finish.)  Plus, in September or October, you can look forward to the conclusion of Nadine’s story in “A Family Affair.”

There will also be at least two more titles coming in 2019.  More on those once I survive these.

Ottawa people – Stay tuned for news of a book launch in April.  As soon as I know more, I’ll let you know.

Newfoundland folks – I plan to be in your province in May.  I’ll arrange an event* to celebrate the first two books if there’s interest.

So now the ball is in your court.  If you want an event, let me know through email, facebook or twitter.  I want to hear from you lovely folks!

 

*Readings, Q&A period and anything else I can manage.

Let’s Talk about Place!

Describing the setting of any of my works is my own private hell.  I have a movie in my head and I can see where my people are and what’s going on there.  The most important part is the characters so why do I need to describe where they are.  After all, my readers are “watching” the same movie, aren’t they?

Yes, you’ve got it.  Unless everyone woke up this morning with telepathy and no one told me, there’s a hitch in my theory.  Psst, the secret is, no one else is seeing the movie and without some basic structure I’ve left people hanging in a grey void.  Trust me, they don’t like it out there.  I’ve tried dragging some of them out and paid the price.  So many tiny bits of story that have characters shaking their heads, saying no, this doesn’t float for us.

But how do I find the happy medium?  I don’t want to get so caught up in description that I lose the point, the plot, the people…hell, my readers.  (Don’t worry, I’ve expanded into a painful minimalism there.  I don’t run the risk of being the next Tolkien.)  Not to disparage him of course.  I enjoy his work immensely.  It’s just not my style and I’m sure mine would not have been his…

Okay, I wandered off in a tangent as I do when writing these things.  Where were my notes, otherwise known as the first draft?  I still struggle with making sure that some of my vision of place comes through.  When I write stories based on Earth, it’s okay to say “it took place in Grenada in 1892” because people can image search Grenada and think, oh okay, I get some of it now.  Then I only need to describe the house, the people, a small world.  With the Mars trilogy, it’s a big world.  Not just the one that Nadine lived in but also Sven.  The one where people like Anna had a place and Karl, a history, before we met them.  Yeah, it got big and thinking about trying to do that again is scary as hell.  So, if you have a little bit of world building fear or maybe setting paranoia, read on and I’ll do my best to give you some ideas to chew over.

Remember when I said that you needed to make sure the character was real before you started writing them?  The place is the same and everyone is going to do it slightly differently.  Maybe you’ve decided to skip the character building until you have a place to put them in.  That’s totally fine and I’ve known others who followed that path.

An Expensive Retreat started out as a short story and then several short stories, all taking place in the same town with the same struggles.  I even draw a map for myself, so far the only one I created.  It was really poorly done and I don’t think anyone ever needs to see it.  After all, it was only for me.  I drew bad pictures of houses while I wrote the novel, imagined streets, tried to smell what they would.  I tried to go to Mars in my imagination.  And then in the second novel, I sent myself back to Earth.  But not an Earth I recognize, another foreign place that I had to build to some extent.

Use your senses.  It was hot on Mars, a dry heat that seeps through your clothes, your skin and warms your very bones.  I’ve felt heat like that sometimes although I’m definitely a northern climate kind of person.  I used it though.  I’ve stood on the sidewalks of big cities and had to breathe in the dank air, the humidity and the smell of people, of things long abandoned and food lost to memory.  I’ve taken in the worst of those and I gave them to Sven, to Nadine to experience.  They made my world real.  The whistle of endless wind on Mars, an echo of that from the east coast.  The taste of dry bread and crisp apples, my own experiences too.  The hardest one for me was touch.  The feeling of fabric against her face when Nadine rests her head against Sven’s shoulder.  Those sorts of things could be replicated.  But I am not my characters.  I’m not going to react to them in the same way.

So, figure out what it smells like in your place.  Eat the food and listen to the birds or the flying cars or the carnivorous slugs.  What colours are things?  Does everyone share the same sensory experience or does that change?  The world is yours to build, to create, even in the current world, to offer.  Make sure your people fit.

I write things down because it makes it easier for me.  Whether you describe something on paper, digitally or inside of a memory, just make sure it’s real.

More to Come

In November, I had the great pleasure to meet Charles de Lint for the second time (If you don’t know who he is, drop everything and head over to http://www.facebook.com/Charles-de-Lint)  (Trust me, it’s worth it).  This was a book sale and the audience was slow.  In a period of quiet, he spoke at length with me and gave me some wonderful advice.  While I haven’t taken all of the steps he suggested, one of the things he mentioned was about having a larger library of books available.  For some of you who may not know me personally, I do have a number of completed novels under my belt and I continue to write.  So, is it possible to offer you more choices?  Yes.

With this in mind, in 2018, I will release three more titles.  For those of you enamoured of my Pure Red Sand series set on Mars, this is very good news.  This speculative fiction trilogy will be complete by the end of this year.  Look for the second book, Uncomfortable Truths, to be released in the spring.  By fall, the third book, A Family Affair will bring a conclusion to Nadine and Sven’s story (Of sorts.  More on that later).  By the end of the year (and especially for those who are not big fans of speculative fiction), I will be releasing Julianne.  A historical fiction novel set on the island of Grenada in 1892; it’s a love story and an exploration of sanity in the Victorian period.

In the meantime, send me your questions, your opinions and your thoughts.  I don’t write in a vacuum and I love to talk about the process.  For anyone looking for some thoughts on writing a novel, continue to check out the blog.  I’ll talk to you soon!