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The Darker Months

I love Halloween. It’s one of those holidays that I like even more as an adult. Sure, trick-or-treating is fun, but I’ve grown to appreciate the lengthening shadows and chill in the air even more.

"Autumn Evening," Eilif Peterssen (1878)

“Autumn Evening,” Eilif Peterssen (1878)

For me, this time of year is all about the rattle in the leaves, the orange streetlights pooling on the evening pavement. It’s the wind stripping the branches bare; the shadow that wasn’t there a moment ago; the frost coating roofs slick in the morning; the soil slowing and gathering itself for a long slumber until spring rolls around again. It’s the seductiveness of twilight and shadows; the half-understood shiver that comes with incense and decaying leaves and words like All Hallows, and Wheel of the Year, and the dark months.

Halloween, of course, shares its roots between the Feast of All Hallows and Samhain: the Celtic (and modern pagan) New Year. I think the closing of autumn is as good a New Year as any. As discussed before, the shape of my year divides neatly into two halves: season and off-season; museum time and writing time; the warm, secure months and the colder, leaner ones. Halloween is the beginning of the end; the harbinger; the already, but not yet.

At the museum, you see, Christmas starts in mid-November: only two weeks away. Once Christmas starts, it’s a quick, short slide to the end and the off-season. Halloween isn’t the beginning of the dark months; it’s the herald of it, much the way that Easter usually isn’t springtime itself, but the promise that warmth and sunlight are returning.

So because we haven’t actually gotten into the off-season yet, for me, it’s a time of potential. You can taste winter on the wind—but it isn’t here yet. And it’s oddly appropriate to have potential beginning in the dark, isn’t it? I think of the harvest gathered in, the seeds dormant in the ground—waiting. For me, Halloween is a time of baited breath. I’m planning my off-season writing. I’m gathering myself for one last push before the season ends. I’m sensing the winds grow colder; the last leaves falling; the knowledge that the warmth is well and truly gone, now.

And if that’s all sounding a little Victorian—the winter is coming on fast—then yes, I suppose it is, a little. Now, don’t get me wrong: I cherish and value and treasure my four months of full-time writing so very much. I’m very lucky to have the set-up that I do.

But in some ways, the winter is harder. While I’m very pleased with how my writing’s supported me thus far, it’s never a sure thing. Toronto gets cold: the whole city feels too hard, like you could bruise yourself on it. Without a daily commute, a Metropass becomes too expensive to justify, which means that I spend four months walking everywhere.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

None of that is here yet. But it’s coming. And Halloween is the first sign—the first shiver and held breath and remembrance of everything else that might be out there. (All those ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties…)

No matter what you call today, or how you celebrate, all my best to you as we enter into the year’s dark half. The winter gets cold, but the most exciting things usually start in the shadows. 😉

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Well, it couldn’t be anything else, could it?

A Win, Feasts, and Famines

If you’ve not heard the news—my story “Wendigo” has won first place in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest! (You can read it here!) Now in its 38th year, this is considered one of the largest such contests in Canada, so that’s very exciting. Especially since while “Wendigo” asks a lot of difficult questions about art and artists…it’s also a straight-up fantasy story about cannibal ice-monsters.

One interpretation of wendigo. Art by Onki Dayan. Found here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/401172279286144735/

One interpretation of wendigo. Art by Onki Dayan. Found here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/401172279286144735/

But hey, “Six Stories” is also straight-up fantasy about faeries and folklore figures—and it got Ontario Arts Council funding. I seem to be doing well with Canadian cultural institutions this year.

This year.

It’s interesting—in the three (?!) years since I finished my undergrad, I’ve gotten a taste of the creative life’s feast-famine cycle. Admittedly, it’s a baby taste. Full-time writing with training wheels. Still, it’s good practice.

This has been a feast year, and I’m VERY grateful. So far in 2016…

  • I got three full manuscript editing gigs
  • Plus one partial that still helped
  • The OAC funding came through
  • This contest totally surprised me

And that’s the work I’m getting paid for now. It feels weird listing it all out. Talking about the business end of things feels uncouth, sometimes. But the business end is important. If you want to be a full-time writer, you need to face it eventually. At the end of the day, you need to ask, “Can I live off what my writing brings in? If so, how? If not, what can I do?”

Most people take dayjobs. I’m lucky enough that mine directly feeds my writing. I’m also lucky that I’m happy there. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because it’s seasonal.

Eight months = guaranteed paycheque.

Four months = KT makes a go as a full-time writer.

Whoot!

Whoot!

As long as my year-round writing can cover that off-season, I’m happy. Partly, it’s a matter of pride. I want to be able to say that my writing keeps the rent paid and the fridge full. And the uninterrupted four months of creative time are important to me. I don’t want to have to take a serving/retail job to make ends meet. I’d write less, and the goal is to write more—to eventually hit the point where I don’t need the museum.

(Although I suspect that I’d cut back my time, rather than bail on them entirely. I love it too much. It’s good for my writing. It keeps my social skills from rusting away. It’s home.)

So, you lay out what’s important to you. What you’re willing to compromise on (I’ll take on extra responsibilities around the house for cheaper rent) and what you’re not (I really don’t want to take a serving/retail job). For me, I’ve made the current arrangements work for three years.

But I’ve been crazy lucky. This was a feast year. 2014 was a feast year (Yeti’s Parole Officer and the East o’ the Sun libretto saved my bacon).

Last year was a famine.

There weren’t really any editing gigs. No major projects. No big sales. I’d squirreled some of my libretto paycheque away, so I survived, but I’ll admit that the wolf got a little close to the door. Then last fall, a number of things hit at once (I’ll miss my Stonecoast pals, but not the tuition) and I heard stealthy paws under the window again.

...or maybe it was just the little monster.

…or maybe it was just the little monster.

Feast and famine. For a long-range planner—a planner who needs a back-up plan, always, just in case—it can be maddening. Creative work is uncertain by nature. You can’t predict when the next feast will come, how long the next famine will last. Even when you do get lucrative projects, you can’t always guarantee when you’ll see the money. Advances come in lumps. For freelance gigs, I usually get paid half upfront, half on completion.

Uncertainty is the nature of the beast, but you can prepare as best you can. I have an emergency fund: rent and living expenses for a few months. Beyond that, I’m careful with money when it does come; always anticipating another stretch of famine. I’m thinking about what I could jump on right away—what contacts I could tap, what gigs I could land, what I could pull together quickly, if needed.

And yes, I’d totally pick up another day-job if necessary. Of course I would. I like eating and paying rent.

It’s another part of the writing life, one that bears careful pondering. For other takes on the business/monies end, check out these posts by my former Stonecoast mentor Theodora Goss and my pal Marie Bilodeau. They’ve much more experience at this than I do!

Hopefully, your feasts are long and your famines of inconsequential duration. 🙂

Cheers, pals!

KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

After all that talk about full time writing, I’m insanely close to returning to work. While I love gallivanting about like a bohemian artist, it does feel like it’s time to go back. I miss our shared desk. I miss the brewery. I miss gallivanting about like a Victorian guttersnipe. I miss walking through the village in the early morning, when the air is clear and dewy and everything feels brand-new…

So here’s a sentimental little piece, based on Dvořák’s New World Symphony. It always starts running through my head, this time of year.

Heartstealer: The Book That Will Not Die

I’m back from my jaunt south of the border. My visits with Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris never last long enough, but I always come home feeling like my head’s been screwed on straight again. Not only do I spend time with people very dear to my heart, I can pause and get my creative bearings.

Which is good. I needed a kick in the pants, because…

Heartstealer is coming out soon.

I know, I know. We had this conversation seven months ago. The novel was all proofed, it had an ISBN assigned, I had a beautiful cover by Starla Hutchton, interviews and guest posts were ready to drop. Literally, I just had to push the Big Red Button to make it a real, self-published book.

Remember this? This was beautiful!

Remember this? It was beautiful!

And then things happened. And then things didn’t happen. And then I felt bad about myself. And then I didn’t have time. And then I wondered if I should even release it at all.

Fortunately, I also saw Abigail Hilton and Lauren Harris relatively recently (July is recent, right?). They told me that if only button-pushing remained…then I should just push the damn button already.

Do eeeet...

Do eeeet…

And here’s the thing: I still love this story. I still love the characters, I love the world, and I love the themes. A few weeks back, someone came into the brewery with a heavy Irish accent and my heart just melted. Heartstealer still feels like home to me. Yes, there’s at least five other novels in the pipeline (four I’ll be talking about later this month, one’s still rattling around the old noggin), but I’m not quite done with my girls yet. Mairi and Sara have a story. It’s got ghosts and gods and long-leggedy beasties. It’s a story about love, and grief, and tangled histories.

I want to tell it.

Autumn came early this year...

Just a sleepy country village, right? Welcome to Grey Run.

So here’s the deal: it’ll be out on Amazon—print and e-copies—by October 7th.  Sometime in the eventual future, we’ll get the Audible version as well, thanks to my supremely skilled Voice Talent of Awesome (as Tee Morris has dubbed her).

And then, we shall see. I hope people enjoy reading Heartstealer, because I had a hell of a good time writing it.

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

Oh, I’ve been listening to the most wonderful piece! “Dark Night of the Soul,” by Ola Gjeilo. We start with a bang—that thrilling, driving rhythm in the instrumentals; the long, drawn-out chords in the choir. It’s the kind of piece that grabs you and doesn’t let go.

It’s also twelve mintues long, which means there’s several changes in mood and pace. I love the lilting lines in the lower parts around 3:53, and the dreamy middle section (all those tinkling piano runs!), but my absolute favourite comes around the 9:00 mark, when delicate strings explode into our initial driving rhythm. Only to the nth degree.

I get lost in pieces like this, where so much is happening at once. There’s no feeling like it.

Obligatory New Year Post: 2015 Edition

I seem to recall saying that 2013 was a lost year, and 2014 would be a year to build. By and large, that’s pretty much what happened. I started my MFA. I learned an immense amount through a writer’s internship. I wrote lots—no novels, but more short stories and scripts than I’ve ever done before.

One of those short stories was my goodbye to my friend and colleague P.G. Holyfield. It still doesn’t seem entirely real—dude, I just saw him at Balticon. In fact, I was recently collating lists of voice actors and podcasters I know, and I got halfway through typing his name before realizing what I was doing. So I was very grateful to editors Tee Morris and Val Griswold-Ford for giving me the chance to have one last Tuaca with him. Just a reminder: all funds from the anthology go towards P.G.’s kids. If you haven’t already done so, please consider starting 2015 with fiction honouring our friend.

This is usually the part of the blog post where I’d talk about upcoming projects in 2015.

Um. See, well, I can’t actually really talk about most of 2015 yet.

The Pop Fic Hooligans will be reunited!

The Pop Fic Hooligans will be reunited!

Let’s go through the year. In a week, I’m jetting off to Maine for my third Stonecoast residency. As a third semester student, I’m expected to complete a major project over the course of the semester. I’m doing something vague and boring. A paper. Yeah.

 

However, my colleague, Katherine Sinclair, a bright young thing who may as well be my alter ego, is putting together a serialized podcast/transmedia project. She’s very excited. Not only is Katherine looking forward to podcasting again regularly, but she’s planning on using blogging and Facebook as part of the project. Katherine is also looking for voice talent: interested parties may enquire at coxwoodhistoryfunpark@gmail.com.

She’s pretty cool, you guys.

After returning from Stonecoast, I fight off polar bears here in the Great White North for a few weeks, and then I’m fleeing south again, this time to Virginia to spend some time with Pip, Tee, Boom, and kittehs. That trip is getting piggybacked onto a writer’s retreat. I’ve never been on one, but the idea of spending a week with friends and colleagues, working very intensively, is thrilling.

I’m devoting that week to a project that I’ve been noodling around for a while. It’s different. That’s all I can say right now.

Then I come home again. And then, a few weeks after that—

Well, I’m publishing the Dark Victorian Fantasy.

Heartstealer, as it’s actually called, drops on March 12th. I have a gorgeous ebook and print layout courtesy of Imagine That! studios, and a cover from Starla Hutchton that makes me swoon every time I see it. I’m sitting on details for a bit longer, but that’s coming. Because of course I would release a novel whilst in the middle of my third semester project and getting ready for my dayjob…

So those are three big things right in the beginning of the year. The second half of 2015 is my thesis semester. This time next year, I’ll be getting ready to graduate.

Madness.

So there’s all that to look forward to. 2014 was indeed a year of building, laying foundations, and preparing. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

Desk2015

“The bridge,” at the start of 2015.

 

-KT

All right, all right, here is another new thing I would like to do. See, whenever people talk about popular music, I feel completely lost, because my tastes are…eccentric. I love music, I’m realizing more and more just how much I need it. So I want to try and explain what I love, since I can’t usually join in on conversations.

Thus…

What I’m Listening to this Week

What I’ve been listening to for the last month. Bogoroditse Devo is a stunning piece by Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). This is a Russian setting of the Ave Maria. The beauty of this piece is all in the dynamics. We start super soft and gentle, the runs of notes falling over each other like streams. About a minute in, the altos start driving, the tenors and sopranos fading in and out…except when they’re in, they’re getting louder, almost imperceptibly, until….

OMG fortissimo out of nowhere, on everyone, and the basses come back and the tenors and sopranos are blasting away on a high G (which is really fun, FYI), and the heart just soars with them…

And then we come back down.

Gentle, soft, so very delicate..

It makes my heart catch, every time.

Multitasking: the Creative Life at Work

I sat at the spinning wheel. Grey afternoon light fell through the window behind me. The spinning wheel clicked gently as I moved my foot up and down. Pinch the wool. Draw. Release.

Besides the clicking, the log cabin was quiet. Faint traces of wood smoke lingered, but the hearth was growing colder. With no one else around, I let my mind wander.

Pinch. I hope they’re taking care of him. I wonder if he misses me. I wish I was there—I should be there. Draw. It’s meant to be me. I trust Mairi, but it’s meant to be me.

Release.

He’s my son.

Ha! Startled some of you, I bet.

So, here’s what is happening. I think the Victorian Dark Fantasy is starting to gel. The novel has changed throughout Stonecoast—I think the plot’s getting there, now I’m bearing down on voice and character. To help with this, my thoroughly brilliant mentor posed me an interesting challenge:

One thing you might want to do, and this will sound less strange to you as a playwright than to other people, is to go around being each of the main female characters for a while, and do things the way they would do them.  How do you feel as those characters?  How do you walk and talk? 

I laughed in delight upon reading this. So…I thought, grinning, I spend most of my days wearing period-appropriate clothing, doing period things…

Plus…I kind of stole half our buildings.

 

This house pulls double-duty, appearing as two different homes.

This house pulls double-duty, appearing as two different homes.

This is the house that gets to me most - it's a fairly major set piece.

This is the building that gets to me most – it’s a fairly major set piece.

Heck, I can reconstruct entire scenes in these buildings, mapping out exactly where this character was standing, where that one paused before coming around the corner. It’s like being on a movie set.

For some reason, I don't have any good pictures of Burwick House. That's ok - my villain's home is a highly exaggerated version anyway.

For some reason, I don’t have any good pictures of Burwick House. That’s ok – my villain’s home is a highly exaggerated version anyway.

 

Of course, we need an inn...

Of course, we need an inn…

 

So…I have the right clothing (mostly—for two of them, I really need a crinoline, and I only wear that in the brewery), I’m doing the right things, and I’m in the right place. Sometimes, it’s almost a little disorienting.

It’s also taught me a lot.

I’ve always talked with my characters. Usually as mental knitting—on the bus, while walking, during quiet times at work. Just relaxing, asking questions, hearing what the response is. Sometimes full-on conversations develop; Serafine, for instance, rarely shut up once she got going.

It’s one thing to invite a character into your head. Thus far, it’s been quite another to invite them into your skin. Really, really cool, but different. Because this way, I’m not guiding the discussion. I’m not prompting anything. I’m essentially retreating to the sidelines and seeing how my characters assert themselves once they have the space and freedom to do so.

 

  • One worries far more than she lets on; she’s clinging by her fingertips.
  • In another time, place, and culture, one could be a geek girl. As it is, she’s sensitive, carefully (and constantly, my God!) analyzing and observing.
  • And the last POV character…I don’t think I ever really understood the depths of her possessiveness, her sense of entitlement.

 

My circumstances definitely give me a leg-up, but it’s also interesting to take characters on field trips. Point out a streetcar, stop in a grocery store. What do they think, how do they react to this world so unlike their own?

It’s been fun—and I still love working on this story, still love exploring these people and their lives. Even after so long (yeah…longer than I anticipated…) the joy hasn’t ebbed.

Let’s just hope that I never, ever answer visitors as my villain.

Actually, that’d be hilarious.

But no.

I’ll be good. 😉

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

So, there’s the solar system, right? Then our galaxy, then our “local group” of galaxies, then our galaxy cluster, then our supercluster…and then the filaments.

Also, doesn't it kind of look like neurons?

Also, doesn’t it kind of look like neurons?

The thought makes me shiver. So many stars and worlds, so much void between them…

More than anything, it makes me want to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balticon 2014: Perspectives

“I think the word this year,” quoth Tee Morris at the Shared Desk live cast this past Balticon, “is perspective.”

Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help agreeing. “Perspective” fits this year’s convention on many levels, both in terms of my professional path and in terms of the people walking that path with me. Cons always function as creative pressure cooker and reset point for me: a place to get fired up, but also to take a sober look around and ask, “Whither hence?”

So let’s look at the community first. At any con, there are always “I love you, man,” moments. This Balticon felt like those moments lasted for four days straight. This was one of the first cons I’ve been to where I could walk into a room and know more people than not. More than that: I could walk into a room and have more friends than acquaintances.

That’s growth. And I felt calmer and more confident than at any other con. Lauren “Scribe” Harris put it well, remarking that this crowd has become like family; we don’t need to be ON around each other all the time.

So, perspective: I am very, very lucky. I have always said this, but it’s good to be reminded of it. One of the strengths of the writing community is that it is a true community. We come from all different walks of life, all different parts of the world, we are all different ages. As such, we can teach and support each other in so many diverse ways. Sometimes – especially with social media, where mini-scandals erupt like bushfires – it’s easy to forget the fact that really, the broader community is driven and united by the same passion: for good stories, good writing, and dragons and starships and suchlike.

Seriously. I love you, guys.

I AM A BALL OF LOVE.

I AM A BALL OF LOVE.

The flip side of all the hugging and socializing is the cold, hard look at the professional path. 2013 was a lost year, but 2014 is almost half-over. Where am I going? What are my goals: short, medium, and long-term? How can I get there?

One simple thing for starters: I need to be producing more. Yes, yes, dayjob and schooling, we’ve all heard that before. When I put my mind to it, I can write a LOT. Like, a LOT. Part of the problem has been working harder, not smarter…I say yes to ALL THE THINGS, relying on youthful energy to bull through. That works, but then I’m too drained for MY projects.

It’s partly a matter of prioritizing, partly of allocating my energy better. And I do mean energy – I have the time, I’m just too exhausted to do anything with it. Thinking of this along the lines of an energy budget might help. As might…you know…actually getting sufficient sleep and iron.

Perspective: this was the sickest I’ve ever been after a con. Probably coincidence, but maybe also indicative of the fact that I was running on empty beforehand; I just didn’t have the reserves this time around.

The other perspective gained dovetails with some advice from Stonecoast. Here’s the thing: I write often and well. On a purely technical side, my prose is already pretty clean. That got me a head start, but relying on technique isn’t really enough. Diving into analogy, I could put out table beers that taste fine and ferment in 24 hours…but I want to put out really complex, aged porters. Lagers. Heck, let’s say some 16-year-old scotch. It’s remembering to focus on art as well.

But the only way to get there is to keep writing: well and often. Refine those techniques. Use that head start like a springboard. Depth will come with time – but only if I keep writing, learning, and growing.

Perspectives, man. Perspectives.

KT

COOL THING OF THE WEEK

EAST O’ THE SUN AND WEST O’ THE MOON premiered last night. The kids have SO much to be proud of – they did a great job with a very challenging score and libretto (Norbert and I did not pull punches). Also, I truly do have amazing family and friends… 🙂

Balticon 2014 Schedule

Balticon approaches!

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?

 

Friday

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

 

Sunday 

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

img_1784

Beer. It’s important. Learn how to write about it properly.

 

Monday

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.

Also, since there's a lot of podcasting: my voice is high-pitched with a Canadian accent.

Also, for the podcasting crowd: my voice is high-pitched with a Canadian accent.

I am so looking forward to this. Can’t wait to see everyone!

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

Um. Balticon. ‘Nuff said.

It’s Gonna Be Okay: Three Months of Free-Writing

For the past few months, I’ve been doing an experiment. See, after my return from Virginia, my friend Blythe came over…and she had something for me.

“I’ve been meaning to give you this for forever,” she said. “But I forgot, and then you were at Stonecoast, and then you were away…”

FreeWrite2

It was a journal. “It’s Gonna Be Okay: A journal to reassure myself when I’m overwhelmed by the creeping sense of impending disaster and the all-encompassing fears both specified and vague that colonize my mind, body, and soul, all of which, from the completely far-fetched to the sometimes probable, do me no good to contemplate and in fact make me miserable, and even though optimism may be unself-aware and ill-placed, I know I’ll be happier as a blind fool than as a clairvoyant apocalyptic.”

I immediately burst out laughing, becoming increasingly amused as I read the subtitle.

She knows me far too well.

The journal contains a reassuring quotation on the left-hand page, while the right hand side has space for the date, a section for writing, and a “prevailing outlook” for the day. As it happened, I’d just read Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. As previously mentioned, I’d been struck by his habit of writing prose poems on whatever subject tickled his fancy and diving into his memories like a pearl fisher hunting oysters.

So I decided not to use this journal strictly for its intended purpose. I decided to use it for free-writing instead: unedited, rambling meditations. Okay, maybe there were a few times when I did free-write on something that was making me anxious, but for the most part, I turned to my past. I sought out those details that made me exclaim, “Oh! I haven’t thought of that in years!”

I set myself a few rules. Free-write every day. Fill the page. Tick the appropriate “prevailing outlook” box.

From February 28th to May 16th, I only missed one day. Over the past three months, I’ve stumbled across memories and details long buried, holding them up and examining them.

FreeWrite1

I had a rainbow-coloured basketball that I won in a Read-a-Thon when I was in grade two. I loved that thing. There was a shared driveway behind our house that I dubbed “the alley,” on which I bounced that basketball until its little bumps were worn smooth. I’d forgotten all about it, until now.

Something that I remember very vividly: three days after my dad died, I went to Black Creek. Not to work, just to escape. I remember when my mom dropped me off, I practically threw myself from the car before she’d even really come to a full stop. I remember that weird crouching run to the front doors, fighting to keep my balance.

Fiji’s reddish-brown dirt. The pixelated neon-green frog in a kindergarten computer game. The sense of unbridled freedom when we “went out for lunch” in grade six. The scent of pines that permeated the fort I made for myself (aged nine) in our garden.

These written meditations have unearthed a treasure trove of details. Maybe some of them will emerge in my fiction, maybe not.

But there’s been another benefit, too. I usually wrote in my journal over breakfast. First it became habit. Then it became necessary: a way to collect myself before facing the day ahead. It usually only took ten minutes to fill the page, but they were ten minutes of peace and stillness, ten minutes when my brain shut up and got out of its own way.

The other cool thing? I just flipped through the entire journal, looking at the “prevailing outlooks.”

They’re almost all positive. There are a few “fingers crossed” ones, but mostly, it’s thumbs-up or a-okay. The only thumbs-down I could find was also the only day I ticked two boxes. That day, I was a-okay in general, but also stressing about something very specific.

FreeWrite3

That means three months of feeling good. There is definitive proof that for three months, I’ve felt good about life almost every single day. Seeing it concretely like that…well, it’s an eye-opener. In a good way.

I’ve filled the journal now. I’ll keep free-writing anyway, in a new notebook. It’s become a game: what can I remember? What can I dredge up? How specific can I get, how far back can I go? It’s a chance to relive and revisit, to keep myself on track.

And to remind myself: it’s gonna be okay. 😉

– KT

Cool Thing of the Week

After prolonged despair that we were trapped in perpetual winter, the unfurling leaves became really noticeable this week. On my walk to the subway each morning, I go up a tree-lined street. The leaves are delicate and fuzzy still, but the street is suddenly green, not the barren, spiky brown it’s been for the last six months.

Displaying photo.JPG

Give it a few more weeks. It’s only going to get better.

Spring Cleaning on the Site!

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?).

See, I simultaneously never grew up...

Inside, I’m simultaneously the kid who never grew up…

 

..and this.

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.

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Because that’s not creepy at all…

 

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…

Um.

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!

-KT

 

 

 

 

 

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.

NotecardPlotting

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.