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As Winter Nears

I am walking through my village

Drinking a hot chocolate –

Quickly, because it’s spilling over the sides,

Cresting with each crunch

And rasp of leaves underfoot.

It is – in truth – a little watery,

Tasting of rinsed-out Thermoses

And ice-skating arenas.

But it was given to me in kindness,

And this sweetens it,

And as I walk through my village,

Drinking my hot chocolate,

Geese wing through weakening sunlight,

And my throat goes tickled, tight:

An early foretaste of

My annual laryngitis.

All signs suggest

A long, hard winter ahead.

But for now,

I am walking through my village,

Drinking a hot chocolate,

And it is sweet indeed.

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Blog Hop: My Writing Process

My friend Emily Swartz tagged me in a blog hop meme and gave me some questions to answer about inspiration and my writing process. Here are my responses – and the bios/links for the next authors I’m tagging!

1) What am I working on?

Lots and lots of things. My main project at the moment is refining and plot-doctoring my Victorian Dark Fantasy novel (yeah, that’s a codename) with my mentor at the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA. I also have to read two books for that each month, on which I then write two papers. Also for Stonecoast: our July workshops are bearing down upon us, so I’m currently editing one short story about parallel universes and halfway through writing another about all the nifty lost bits of Toronto.

I’m also working on an “interactive, text-based, online game,” which is a fancy way of saying I’m writing a “choose-your-own-adventure-style” story, which will have buttons to click instead of pages to turn. Keeping all the branching storylines straight has been a fun challenge…and it’s kind of sci-fi, which is new for me.

I also write for two blogs. This one has posts up every Saturday, and we have Thirsty Thursdays over at The Black Creek Growler, which is the official blog of the Black Creek Historic Brewery.

Then I drink coffee, because that’s just the writing which is strictly mine. There are also the internships. Ah, the internships…

I’m the official intern of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Mostly, I oversee Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’s calendars, booking interviews and keeping track of appearances and suchlike. Using my Victorian research skillz, I post to the Ministry’s Facebook page. I also edit stories for Tales from the Archives—a podcast anthology of Ministry short stories—and it was strongly hinted that I should start writing another story to follow up Under Oak Island.

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But remember, I said internships? One isn’t enough! I also intern for Mur Lafferty, scheduling interviews, keeping track of her calendar, and so forth.

I also became a freelance editor along the way. I’ve joined the One-Stop Writer Shop, which is a really cool resource for self-published authors: you can find everything from editing to layout, from audio book production to marketing!

Also, I owe my friend Marie Bilodeau a blog post soon.

And I return to the dayjob in two weeks.

Next question, please?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Although I consider myself a fantasy writer, I don’t really write the usual questing stories. While I often draw from history and myth, I tend to turn things inside-out and then run in the opposite direction with them.

Sometimes, that means combining a literary term (a hapax is a word that occurs only once in a body of work) with a theological concept (“…the Word was with God and the Word was God”) and seeing what happens (answer: this). Other times, it means using Irish mythology and history as the most tenuous of analogies to explain a backwater, pseudo-Victorian village to myself.

Despite the epic themes, my work is also very much focused on people. Yes, there is magic and gods and (sometimes) apocalypses: but there are also families, people endlessly seeking home, people trying very hard to do the right thing in terrible situations.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I see many possible answers to this question: some philosophical, some practical.

The practical ones are easy, so let’s start with those. Sometimes, I write the things I do because someone has said, “If you write this thing for me, I will give you monies!” Since my landlord and the grocery store regularly desire monies from me, I say, “Okay!” Don’t get me wrong—I still have fun, and always latch onto something in the project that sparks my passion. It’s just that this habit of saying, “Yeah, sure, I could do that!” has landed me some opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise, which is wonderful.

Otherwise, an exchange from The Red Shoes comes to mind:

 

The Red Shoes: quippy dialogue, music, and those awesome 1940s movie accents.

Why do you want to dance?

Why do you want to live?

Well, I don’t know exactly why, but I must.

That’s my answer too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, my writing springs from some deep-rooted feeling –  my best pieces have always been love songs in one form or another. Other times, a character emerges from the aether and won’t leave me alone. They pester me, whispering constantly in my ear, teasing me with images and emotions until I finally get their story out.

4) How does my writing process work?

When an idea first starts whispering, I try not to scare it away. I let it develop in the back of my head, like one of those old Polaroid snapshots coming into focus. When I can see more relevant details, I start asking questions.

Who is that woman? How does this magic work? When did this one country invade another country? The answers spark more questions, and so this back-and-forth with myself continues, sometimes for a few days, sometime for months, writing long letters to myself or musing on the bus.

When it feels right (and it’s hard to explain exactly…mixing metaphors here, it’s like when bread has risen enough—you just know), I put together a very rough roadmap of the story. Often, I pull out the index cards, just because I find physically manipulating the story structure helpful.

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And then, when it feels right, I start writing.

How many words I get per day largely depends on deadlines and other projects. The game isn’t due until June and I’m really busy, so I get maybe 1000 words/day. I’ve twice written a novel in two months, getting 2000-3000 words/day. Once, I was on deadline. The other time, it was the Victorian Dark Fantasy, and I was having too much fun to stop.

Again, though, we can get philosophical with this. How does it work?

I sit down and then words happen. I do cultivate other interests—music, history, Doctor Who, beer, SNES games—to keep myself sane and the creative well full. I get outside when I can, I hang out with friends.

Something I’m realizing: work-life balance will probably never be my strong suit. But I’m starting to see another possibility: a more holistic approach, in which work and writing and fun all blend together. The lines between the different segments of my life blurred a lot over the last year—I kind of like it, this experience of a complete whole, rather than many disparate parts.

And on that profound note: I’m tagging you, P.C. Haring and Erik Buchanan!

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A fan of Science Fiction from an early age P.C. Haring has always been one of those who looked up at the night sky and wondered “what if…” On 01/01/10, he began exploring those questions when he made his debut as a writer and podcast novelist with the release of the Cybrosis Podcast.  Since then, he has not looked back.  He has contributed short stories to Scott Sigler’s The Crypt: Book 1 — The Crew podcast, Philippa Ballantine’s Chronicles of the Order, audio anthology, and Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine’s Tales from the Archives anthology where his podcast of “The Seven” won the 2012 Parsec Award for “Best Short Story.”

When he’s not writing and podcasting, P.C. Haring puts his Accounting degree, his MBA, and his CPA credentials to good use as a corporate accountant in the Chicagoland area.

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Erik Buchanan is a writer, ghostwriter, communications consultant, fight director and actor living in Toronto, Canada. He holds a BFA in Theatre, three black belts, and a variety of strange jobs that keep him busy. He is the author of the Magics Trilogy: Small Magics, Cold Magics and True Magics (Fall, 2014) published by Dragon Moon Press, as well as several short stories and over 300 articles on topics ranging from consumer electronics to where to get the flu shot. Currently, Erik is writing a young adult horror series set in Victorian London, an historical fiction piece set in Pre-Elizabethan England, and a web series about two thieves where Erik expects he will get thumped about a fair bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things That Make Sense to Authors

It looks like you’re playing Donkey Kong Country 2 for the umpteenth time while listening to opera on low, but you’re actually plotting a novel.

Lying flat on one’s back in the middle of the floor and engaging in long, rambling monologues about magic and theology is not crazy. Just working.

Engaging in long, rambling monologues about non-existent people’s personal problems while in the shower? You guessed it—also work!

When a character informs you that you’ve been spelling her name wrong, you thank her for the correction.

Reading books on the Revelations of Saint John the Divine and string theory for the same project.

The reason your beta reader has yet to respond is because they secretly hated your book. Actually, they probably secretly hate you as well, even though you’ve been friends for years. During periods of anxiety, this makes perfect sense. However, this IS crazy.

Coffee and tea are proof that God exists and wants us to be happy.

Characters have their own opinions on your iPod playlists. Your writing soundtracks, too.

Standing up in the middle of a crowded bar at a convention and declaring, “I need to be alone now.”

When an email from an agent/editor/publisher comes, and all you see is “DEAR AUTHORwordswordswordswordsNOT A FIT FOR US AT THIS TIMEwordswordswordswords.”

Alternatively, “DEAR AUTHORwordswordswordswords PLEASED TO ACCEPT YOUR SUBMISSIONwordswordswordswordswords.”

Meeting someone with the same accent as one of your characters, and listening hyper-intently to everything they say in an attempt to fix their speech patterns in your brain.

The irresistible lure of the conversation at the next table over.

The absolute squee that is fan art:

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Having detailed plans to survive the zombie apocalypse. And escape from pirates. And to run away and flee across the country, evading the authorities and news media.

Arguing the semantics of politics/history/theology that you created.

The thrill of finding an image that IS your character/setting/whatever.

Blocked words = existential dread.

The simultaneous need for solitude and heartbreaking yearning for closeness.

“Sorry, mate, can’t make it tonight—I need to write.”

Converting between the Gregorian calendar and your characters’ calendar.

Getting notes: all of the terror and all of the excitement.

Workshopping: see above, except with more anxiety-induced nausea.

The mingled joy and jealousy when you read a book you wish you’d written.

Crying when terrible things happen to characters you like.

Being incredibly pleased when terrible things happen to characters you like.

This:

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This:

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And this:

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This, too:

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Listening to the same song over and over, because it makes you feel something that’s the kernel of a story, if you could just put your finger on what that something is….

Spending an awful lot of time worrying about sound laws and vowel shifts.

As crushing as your first rejection was, you’re still proud of it.

Looking like you’re half-asleep on the bus, but really just talking to characters in your head.

Pens are just always there. Like oxygen. Except when they’re not, you panic. Also like oxygen.

Show, don’t tell, except when telling is really just the logical thing to do.

There’s no right way, only the way that’s right for you.

Googling questionable things in the name of research. Goat decapitations, anyone?

Using Google Street View to plot routes in cities you’ll never visit.

Counting people among your good friends when you’ve met them once in real life. Or not at all.

That instant, unmistakeable connection to other writers.

WHAT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO (MOST) AUTHORS: