Happy Saturday. For a lovely, wonderful change, I am not at work today. Instead, I am holed up in my garret, which means that instead of slinging beer and/or performing, I will be attending to writing and/or related administrivia.
I actually finished the rough draft of a larger-ish project earlier this week. Now whilst I wait for feedback with bated breath, I’m returning to various grant application guidelines. Because I like my garret and paying rent is the honourable thing to do. However, application deadlines meant that this 20k project got pushed out in the span of about a week. I’ve written faster than that, for longer stretches, but I finished this piece absolutely exhausted. The past three nights have been all about Pokémon and reading other people’s words. For pleasure.
I’m wiped. And I’m not used to this level of post-project fatigue. Which tells me that I might be a) iron deficient, b) juggling too much, or c) out of the habit of writing like the wind for days on end. Or all of the above, which links to the perennial question of How I’m Doing.
So far this month, How I’m Doing is a spectrum ranging from Mostly Keeping It Together to Thrashing About Like A Grief-Beached Whale. Fortunately, since starting this project—i.e. since getting back into a writing discipline—it’s been more the Keeping It Together side of things. And getting back into a writing discipline reminded me of something else:
I love writing. I really do love it.
Funny how we can forget that, isn’t it? Sometimes, I think we get so bogged down with anxieties of publishing and contracts, theses and submissions, where your next meal is coming from and good God, I’m never getting this story placed, we lose sight of the sheer, unabashed joy of putting words on the page. You know, the reason we got into this in the first place…because it definitely wasn’t for fame and fortune. We’re wiser than that.
I had a similar epiphany at work. I was taking some laminated photos back to the mill—as one does, in my line of work—and I came the long way back, because it was a beautiful day, I had a few spare minutes, and why the hell not? Behind the mill, there’s a path that loops around the mill pond. Only a modest copse separates us from a busy intersection, but once you get on that path…the city seems to fall away. The rumble of cars fades, replaced by buzzing insects and chirruping birds. It smells like summer again.
You could be out somewhere in Prince Edward County. It’s incredible.
So I’m walking along, enjoying all this beauty, and then as I emerged from the brush onto the bridge overlooking the pond, I startled the resident heron. He’s been around as long as I have, but I hadn’t seen him in ages. And—
Despite everything, I still love this place. It’s still home. Later, as I waited for a tour, I caught myself listening to the trees creaking in the wind. And smiling. It’s that kind of love which delights in the tiny, quirky, and idiosyncratic. Those miniscule beauties get so easily lost. As with writing, it’s good to pause every once in a while, to take the long way back and see them afresh.
Now to the bookstore, to spend a forgotten gift card on fancy notebooks for another larger-ish project. Because it’s my day off, I have a gift card, and why the hell not?
What I’m Listening to this Week
Something a little slower and more sedate this week: Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. Translation: Pavane for a Dead Princess. (Again, I promise, I’m fine.) Actually, Ravel didn’t really have any particular dead princesses in mind when he wrote this: it was a nostalgic metaphor.
In any case, I’ve been listening to the orchestrated version, because I still have a weakness for horns after all these years. The piano version is excellent too, but oh, that haunting, hollow melody echoing from the rush of strings…. It reminds me of the final lines of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
It’s the piece’s momentum that does it, despite the melancholy. Gentle and constantly moving forward. The piece made a lot more sense when I learned a pavane is a type of dance. Of course it is. Also worth noting: the absolutely ethereal, fantastical section starting around 3:40, when the strings shimmer and we finally pass the melody from the horns. And the ending could stand as a definition for “emotional closure.”
Just like the unfurling leaves and May 2-4 Weekend, Balticon is a sure sign that summer is coming. This is my favourite con: relatively accessible from Toronto, just the right size, heaps of wonderful people, and great programming. Between bringing the nice young man, some really cool panels, and the chance to see some dear friends, I’m SO EXCITED for this year.
Of course, because it’s a con, I totally haven’t packed yet and I’m awaiting the appearance of my usual outbreak of convention hives. Plus, I feel barely organized enough to get the nice young man and I safely on the plane, but hey—it always works out in the end.
Want to find me during the con?
Beyond Medieval History (panelist), 4:00 pm – 4:50 pm, Chase
Reading (with Veronica Giguere and Val Griswold-Ford SQUEE), 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Pimlico
The Fantasy Author’s Guide to Beer (presenting), 5:00 pm – 5:50 pm, Derby
Writing Real Children (panelist), 7:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Salon B
Skool Daze: Pursuing a Writing Career While Still in School (panelist), 11:00 am – 11:50 am. Parlour 1041
How Hard Can It Be? Jumping out of Genre (moderator), 1:00 pm -1:50 pm (Chase)
When I’m not doing panels, I’ll be roaming. You can probably find me hanging around the New Media/Literary side of things, or drooling over steampunk things in the dealers’ room (I’ve somehow acquired a tendency to accumulate stuff for the dayjob…). Come say hi, if you’re around—I wear a pounamu necklace and I am bespectacled.
I am so looking forward to this. Can’t wait to see everyone!
Cool Thing of the Week
Um. Balticon. ‘Nuff said.
You may notice this site looks different.
Oh man, this overhaul was so incredibly overdue. I’d not been happy with this blog for…well, too long. The tipping point came when I looked at the banner on Tee’s site and realized, “Wait a second – I know how to do that now. I could do that!” The roomies and I attacked our house pretty good for spring cleaning, so why not go after my online home the same way?
Besides, I figured it was about time to think about the future, and this site was looking a little antiquated. You guys, I’ve been blogging here since I was twenty. I’m 23 in a few months. Also, while I tend to start adding a year onto my actual age about three months before my birthday, this year has been worse – in my head, for reasons unknown, I’m suddenly 24. Because I’m crotchety like that. I know that if I say, “I’m getting old,” I will be smacked six ways from Sunday…but time is passing. I’m getting older (happy?).
So I sat down and had a good think. And also, some ginger slice. What directions am I moving in now? What are my plans for the rest of 2014? What do I want to write?
I keep coming back to the Victorian Dark Fantasy. Ye gods, I had SO MUCH FUN writing that. I’m having SO MUCH FUN editing it. And then, there are vague stirrings of another Victorian-ish world rumbling ’round the back of my head; something set in Magical 1870s Toronto. And then, there’s the steampunk….
So I think we can safely say that Victorian-flavoured fantasy is a persistent preoccupation for me. Bearing that in mind, I started looking for cool fonts (Tales from the Archives has its own font; I wanted one, too!).
Looking through them all…I imagine it was very much like when normal people go dress-shopping. I got to try on all sorts of different ones, searching for the one that felt right, the one that said…me. Or KT Bryski. Either way.
I liked this one. See, isn’t it cool? Also, while it’s wayyyyy too early to make anything like these…I made these. The Victorian Dark Fantasy makes me too excited.
Even though 2013 was a lost year in my books, I still did some things, and those also needed to be recognized. I have a handy Fiction page now, which I’ve updated to include things besides Hapax. I’ve sold three short stories! And…erm, I’ve only ever written three short stories…
Which means that more short fiction is on the books (heh) for 2014 as well. The more I do it, the more I like it, and I’d like to have more than three in my repertoire. Doesn’t matter if my streak continues (and it won’t – my supply of horseshoes is going to run out eventually), I’d just like the experience of having written them.
Plus, over the past two years, I’ve started doing other stuff. It’s important, I think, for us to remember the things that don’t fit in the usual box we assign ourselves. I write a beer blog. I do freelance editing (for reasonable rates!). Apparently, I write opera libretti and games. Yeah, I was a wee bit surprised by that, too. One of my big fears of leaping into writing so early was that I’d have one story in me – flash in the pan, young author, didn’t live up to her potential.
Who knows? But right now, I feel stable and supported, and I’m raring to go. The last of the winter detritus has been swept away, and this weekend is kind of about rebirth anyway, right?
Let us spring forth!
So, my laptop died.
It was never quite the same after I mailed it home from New Zealand. For a while, I had one consistently good USB port, one which was dodgy, and one dead. Then the other day, I noticed that my laptop wasn’t charging…even though it was plugged in.
Unplugging, re-plugging, and all sorts of fiddling did nothing. To make matters even more fun (whee!), I’m currently in Virginia on a three-week interning spin with my dear friends Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. So, a bit far from home.
Fortunately, Pip and Tee are wonderful people. They drove me to Best Buy and waited while the Geek Squad determined that they might be able to ship my laptop back to Canada, where Future Shop might be able to possibly replace the power port to maybe extend my laptop’s life another couple of weeks.
And then they patted my shoulder as I coughed up the money for a new laptop.
There is never a good time, but this could have been better (oh hai, MFA tuition). But the most striking part of this whole experience was transferring the files from the old machine to this new one. The issue wasn’t one of space (again, wonderful friends that Pip and Tee are, I had the use of all the external drives I could ask for).
No, the main issue was time. Once that battery goes, the old machine’s done.
(And yes, I know about pulling hard drives…but I’m in Virginia. I’m not sure how or if I can get the old laptop home.)
So it was like standing in a burning house, wondering, “What do I save? What do I grab first? What can I leave behind?” All the while knowing that every second of indecision brings you closer to that final shutdown.
It’s probably the historian in me, but I like having links to my own past. Detailed records, a personal archive that is there, even if I rarely dip into it. Maybe it’s a security thing, knowing that I can always reconstruct things if necessary.
Obviously, getting the writing to safety is always top priority when things get squirrelly, which is why I’m actually pretty good about backing things up.
Pictures and music vied for second place. A 2011 family trip to Costa Rica, the last we took before my dad died. My New Zealand photos. Even just images for Black Creek and this blog – more a matter of convenience and posterity, but still.
iTunes is fine, so I grabbed whatever extra stock music and sound effects I could. Luckily, I pulled the raw Hapax files ages ago (they were large and numerous), precisely because of this fear of, “What if I need to go back in one day?”
That’s a fear I face now, with the videos. I got the final cuts of all my Black Creek videos, but very little raw footage or sound files. I can’t see why I would ever need to rebuild those videos from scratch, but if ever someone asked, I probably couldn’t. That worries me, even though it’s completely irrational. Again, I blame my historian streak.
But at the end of the day, the important things are really the things that are me. The writing, the music, the photos. Most other things can be found again, edited again. Music is challenging to replace; writing and photos can be almost impossible.
Which is why I will give the customary “Back your stuff up” speech. When my laptop died, I already had the entirety of my fiction backed up elsewhere. I did go back for a few university essays, but the writing was safe.
Most of my photos are on Facebook (though there are always strays). I’ve used Google Drive more and more lately; it holds the music for the kids’ opera, the videos, and a few other random documents. I have my own intern Dropbox now.
It’s easier than ever to protect your data. Yes, emergencies happen. Yes, the unforeseen is…well, unforeseen. But if you can take any steps to mitigate potential disaster (knowing it’s not always possible)…then please, save yourself the heartache later.
Here are some photos that I would have been sad to lose.
I blame P.C. Haring.
My nemesis (*shakes fist*) was telling me about some upgrades he was planning to make to his studio. Of course, we were Skyping as I sat in a jumble of books, papers, pens, iThings, and headsets. It looked like a bookshop and electronic store had delivered an unholy child on my desk, and then said hybrid had exploded from sheer self-horror.
It was not pretty.
More to the point, I didn’t feel pretty. By which I mean productive, which sometimes feels similar, in a weird sort of way. But books crowded my elbows as I tried to type. Pens eluded me. A tottering pile of books threatened to spill on the floor, and the cords of my various microphones and headsets tangled around my chair.
And in that moment, talking to P.C., I had an epiphany (the last time P.C. inadvertently gave me an epiphany, I ended up podcasting Hapax, so there you go). If I’m a writer and podcaster, that means I spend a lot of time at my desk. Sure, Erik and I invade coffee shops every two weeks or so, but the majority of my work is done in this one small room. If that’s the case, shouldn’t it look like a vaguely-professional space? Or at least, a space in which I can be vaguely professional?
Perhaps I secretly just wanted to procrastinate. Also, it was my off-day from the dayjob. Those never end well.
Whatever the reason, I spent some time this morning cleaning and organizing my room. The desk area was my main focus; I found space for the books, chased down the pens, cleared space for the iThings. Coolest of all, I found some wee hook things, and used them to mount my headsets on the wall (I always think I have too many, until I remember that each one has a discrete purpose).
End result? I feel great. It’s an inviting space, a space that I want to spend hours in. Writers are like opera singers: you ought to be able to practice your art anywhere, in any position (I’m thinking of Tosca and Vissi d’arte here) but some places and positions work better than others.
Also! Excitement! After mulling it for weeks, I took the plunge and got a new microphone. It’s quite different from my trusty headset, but the more I play with it, the more I like it. Having a radio announcer-style mic apparently makes me more hyperactive and talkative.
Sound quality is good (almost too good—it picks up a lot more, which means more night-recording whilst our neighbours renovate) and you can un/mute it by tapping the base, which is cool. Also records differently for voice and music. Most importantly, because it is not a headset, more than one person at a time can use it….
…which may or may not be important, as I return to my spiffy desk to send out some scripts. 😉
Conventions always slip my mind. I book the hotel room, the plane tickets, and listen to the pre-con buzz, but it never dawns on me that I’m actually going until…oh, the night before. Then, it’s a mad scramble to pack and organize books, and it still feels unreal until the moment I pick up my badge.
That’s how Balticon feels right now.
I have my schedule. Apparently, my past self was very crafty and booked my flight and hotel a while ago. I even have plans to meet up with a few people.
It still doesn’t feel like I’m actually going.
Nor has it really sunk in that I’m going as a guest. I’ve termed this feeling “Cinderella Syndrome.” Every so often, I look at my Facebook wall and think, “Oh, wow. How has this become normal?” Answering that would be another post in itself…and may or may not crop up on a few panels next weekend.
Speaking of panels, here are the ones I have confirmed:
4:00 pm – Meeting Other Podcasters
5:00 pm – Professionalism and the Emergent Writer
2:00 pm – Writing Real Children
11:00 am – Autograph Session (and reunion with Tim Dodge! Woot!)
12:00 pm – Professionalism and the Young Writer
1:00 pm – Reading
8:00 pm –From Page to Pod
10:00 am – Introvert’s Guide to Social Media
So…basically, I don’t intend to sleep this weekend. At all. If you’re around the con, come say hi! I like people. 🙂
Writing may also be a bit iffy. I’m just over 1/3 of the way through the Massive Strix Rewrite. If I keep to this 2000 words/day pace, I should be finished in just under a month (hopefully I can cannibalize more words from the original draft near the end, but I’m not holding my breath).
We’ll see. The dayjob, while awesome, is also very physically tiring…but I’m incredibly anxious/eager/excited to get this thing out to Gabrielle and my cast.
Next week: The Balticon Round-Up!
Hello, all! I am back from my cross-border adventure. After writing my exam and sending off Strix, I hopped on a plane to the US, where I spent a lovely weekend with Tee Morris, Pip Ballantine, and Sonic Boom. Skating, LEGO, board games, and spy museums: pretty much the best weekend I’ve had for a while.
Oh, and we wrote, too.
Actually, I had a really cool moment as the three of us were working on various things. I realized: I’m done Strix for now. This has been one of the most frustrating things I’ve written. It’s been hanging over my head, in different guises, for nearly eighteen months. I have no idea what happens now—what kind of edits may occur, or even if DMP can fit it in.
But whatever happens, there is nothing more I can do right now at this moment.
I can write other things now.
There’s been a novel lurking in the background for a while. I believe I’ve described it as “sleek, dark, and vaguely Victorian.” Not quite steampunk, not quite dark fantasy, but it makes me very excited. Over the last few days, my notes have started to coalesce into an increasingly-coherent story. It’s not quite ready to put to page yet, but it’s getting there.
There’s a secret project that I’ll hopefully be allowed to talk about in a few weeks.
And there’s been a spate of short fiction. In seven years, I wrote maybe two short stories. Then, in the past few months, I’ve written several. It’s a form I still need to get comfortable with, but I’ve loved trying new things. Diversity and versatility, right?
My other really cool moment from this weekend (well, the whole weekend was one “really cool moment,” but I doubt I could compress all of it into a few hundred words) happened on Sunday morning, as I mused about how much has changed in the last year and a half. I’m very lucky. Yes, there are ongoing trials and tribulations on the home front, but I’m trying this really cool thing called “compartmentalization.”
So: I’m very lucky.
I’m very lucky to have the people in my life that I do, whether in Toronto, the rest of Canada, New Zealand, or scattered across the US. I’m very lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had. Yes, I work hard, but there’s been a degree of serendipity as well.
All of which means that this seems like an appropriate time to count my blessings, as it were. Life and writing are like Fortune’s Wheel—sometimes you’re doing pretty well, sometimes you’re squished underneath. Right now, I seem to be both.
At least I’m not bored.
For a while, I thought about not doing a New Year’s post.
With my loss still so raw, and the grief only now really hitting, I have rarely been happier to see the tail end of a year. Except then, I got to thinking. Taking the entire year into account, 2012 was too big to be ignored. It was a year of immense growth and opportunity: from backpacking through the South Pacific, to meeting (and befriending!) some pretty incredible people, to strengthening friendships back home, to publishing and podcasting, to discovering where “home” really is for me.
Like I said, a big year.
It was a year of heights, of suddenly finding myself on mountaintops (literally and metaphorically) and wondering how on earth I’d gotten there. There was a LOT of good in 2012. It’s important to remember that: that oftentimes, I was stunned by how happy I was.
2012 started with a bang, but it definitely ends with a whimper. Some of my personal dreams came true this year, but so too did some of my nightmares. I had tears in my eyes as I stood atop Mt. Victoria and finally gazed across Wellington. I had tears in my eyes as I stood in the cemetery.
From one extreme to the other.
But it’s no longer 2012. My Twitter-pal (and one of the charming hosts of the Roundtable Podcast) Dave Robison recently said something about New Year’s being just another day, that we can make changes any day of the year.
It’s true, but I think the start of the year is a good time to take a breath, to mentally prepare for those changes and plans.
2012 was a great year, writing-wise. I’m optimistic 2013 will be even better. Frankly, I have a better idea of what I’m doing. Graduating means I’ll have more time (as was helpfully pointed out to me, my “day job” will really be just that—something on the side, a daytime diversion as I put my energy into writing). Oh man, when I think of all those hours spent reading articles, going to class, and writing essays…I’m so excited to put that time into fiction.
As I start putting the shambles of my life back in order, and figure out how to live around this huge, gaping hole, I’m more grateful than ever for what I have. I have some pretty awesome people in all parts of my life. Tired and sad as I am, I’m actually kind of cautiously hopeful for 2013. It feels like 2012 was a build-up, December was a breaking point, and 2013…
Well. I guess we’ll find out.
Hapax is done. Thirteen months, nineteen episodes, four principal voice actors, two cameos, and innumerable hours of recording and editing later, it’s done.
I’ve already discussed some of the things I’ve learned. It still hasn’t really sunk in. It’s over, and it’s a little bittersweet. This has been part of my life for thirteen months—I’ve been working on the podcast since before Dragon Moon Press picked up the novel. As happy as I am to have some of that time freed up again, the thought of not podcasting leaves a void.
Hence the prequel, sometime in 2013…
But it’s been quite the journey. That’s the main thing running through my head. It’s been quite the journey, from that first idea through to typing this. Challenging, and time-demanding, and occasionally frustrating, and occasionally tedious, and sometimes terrifying…but so wonderful and absolutely worth it. You go into podcasting because you love it. The work is literally its own reward.
I love it.
Yes, I have had one heck of a lucky streak. Over the last year, I have absolutely been in the right place at the right time. I have had a lot of help, from people (some of my own heroes among them) kind enough to take me under their wings.
I also worked hard. I have a hard time self-plugging, and I tend to demur and redirect the attention.
But right here, right now? Screw it: I worked so damn hard for this. And thank goodness, too, because if I hadn’t, writing this would not be nearly so rewarding.
In November 2011, I took a chance. Actually, I took many. I was scared, but I did it anyway. Faith over fear.
That’s kind of one of the major themes in Hapax, isn’t it?
It’s been a pleasure, and it’s not the end. Again, my plans have been thrown into jeopardy, but the prequel will come. There’s more story to tell here…and then, looking even further forward, there are always new worlds to explore.
“A Hapax is a word that occurs only once, ever…”
As most of you have probably figured out by now, that’s the driving conflict behind Hapax. The Word of creation sounded only once, and no one heard it, so now it’s gone forever.
I’d prefer that were not the case with Hapax-the-Novel.
And so, I’m announcing the “Hear the Hapax” contest.
What do you need to do?
Here’s the deal: we’re looking to get this Word out. Every review (Amazon, Goodreads…) you write, every promo you play, every blogpost you craft, every link to the Amazon or Chapters page you post, counts as one entry in the draw. Just send the link to whatever you’ve done to email@example.com, so I’m aware of it. As with all draws, the more entries you have, the better your odds.
What’s up for grabs?
One World-Ending Grand Prize
A Hapax poster, designed by Erin Scothorn (a lady of many talents who, among other things, gave Hapax its initial critique), and signed by the author and podcast-cast. If you’re a long-time listener, you may remember this image as the working cover, before the official one from Dragon Moon Press was ready. So far as I know, it currently exists nowhere else, and it will be the only one in the world (kind of like the Hapax… :P)
Plus, a CD with the entire podcast – pure story, no Hapax Chats or Story so Fars between chapters…and some exclusive bonus material. 😉
Two CDs of Apocalyptic Audio
Two more CDs containing Hapax-the-Podcast in its entirety, along with bonus material.
Three MCBs (Magical Candy Bags)
Tasty, tasty treats from the Great White North.
Timeline: there may be seven days between Candlemass and the Final Day, but since the Ecclesiat does everything in threes, I’ll give you three weeks. The contest opens at 12:01 am EST(’cause that’s how we roll) Saturday, November 24th, and closes at 11:59 am EST on December 15th. Winners will be announced on this blog on December 16th.
Our mission: help the world hear the Hapax, so that it doesn’t echo in the Void for eternity, unheard and unknown.
Leave reviews, send tweets, spread the word, and then let me know.
Questions, comments, links, feedback, and awful puns all go to firstname.lastname@example.org
All right, pals, we’ve got three weeks. Without you, the Hapax cannot be heard. Thank you, and good luck!