Month: August 2018

Song Punch List 3: Punched Out

That took longer than I expected, but I have finally finished working through the punch list comments. All the remaining remarks (the ones with wider scope) are pulled into the third pass edit file.

I’m pretty happy with the consistency of the story, now. What the PLR exposed were niggling things like visual intrusions when the MC is wearing earplugs and other timing issues. There are also a few notes to say that whole scenes need to be rewritten or removed, mostly where I have written things that are just too silly, but definitely closing in on having this draft done soon.

Draft complete this quarter? Possible but unlikely, especially given that I have another story due in a month. The real goal is to finish the draft before November.

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Be Like Sam

It’s a year since Sam Blackman died.

In that year things have changed at the day job. Sam’s shoes weren’t fillable so the structure at the company he led has had to alter. The building has been renamed in his honour, and the charity run along the Portland waterfront has been pulled forward from its usual October time to recognise his contribution.

People are still sad, though. I’m still sad.

Sam was an example: someone who was consistently positive and thoughtful; someone who led from the front; and someone who not only believed in people, but who let people know that he believed in them. He proved that you do not have to be a sociopath to succeed in business. Indeed, it is possible to be nice.

The saying now is “Be Like Sam”.

So that is what I try to do. I do not have Sam’s energy nor his empathy, but I try to be positive, to see the people I meet, to accept people as they are rather than judging them. I try to justify the belief Sam had in me.

It’s been a year now, and these anniversaries will never be easy I am sure. For as little as I knew Sam, he had an outsized effect on me.

I still miss him.

But I won’t forget him.

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Olympic Peninsula

Sometimes you just need a holiday.

We’ve been away for the last ten days or so, touring around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state*. The main goal of the holiday was to get away, but reducing screen usage and getting some hiking in were important components too.

It’s a lovely place. We don’t often visit somewhere and feel like we could actually live there (much as we adored Italy…), but we were inspired by the liveability of the communities all along the eastern and northern edges of the peninsula. Even Victoria, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in BC, felt comfortable, like a home we hadn’t before visited.

The thing which cast a shadow on the glory was smoke: forest fires surrounded us and the smoke was thick. Port Townsend was hazy, and Port Angeles was smoggy. Crossing on the ferry to Victoria, we could see basically nothing out of the windows until land finally became visible in the murk. Fortunately the air quality wasn’t unbearable, but that catch at the back of the throat was our constant companion for a good chunk of the trip.

Particular scenic highlights:

  • the lakes. We spent time by Lakes Cushman, Crescent and Quinault and they were all gorgeous. Cushman and Crescent especially had beautifully clear blue waters, with temperatures very conducive to bobbing around. I am sure that the vistas would have been stunning in clearer-aired times.
  • Port Townsend. It reminded me of St Ives with its luminousness, another artistically focussed seashore community in Cornwall.
  • Victoria. Not on the peninsula, but Canada is very close. Lovely people, fascinating history. We barely scratched the surface.
  • hiking through the forest. We did a hike most days we were there**, and the intense mossiness of the temperate rainforests is refreshing. I thought Portland was mossy…
  • Hurricane Ridge. We picked one of the clearer days to visit so we could at least see south into the smoke-wreathed mountains, but this is another spot I would want to hike more seriously when the air is clearer. Also, I now know what a marmot is.
  • Cape Flattery. The most northwesterly point of the contiguous states, Cape Flattery has spectacular views reached by a well-maintained trail. We also had the best tamales at the trailhead — they cheered us up enormously, and we talked about them most of the way along the hike.

Will we move to the peninsula? Doubtful. But will we go back?


[*] a qualification that always seems to be necessary.

[**] the one day we didn’t hike was when we did some kayaking.

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Thinking About the Future

I met a lot of neat people at this year’s Willamette Writers Conference and I learned a lot about craft, but I think the biggest impact on me was in making me think more about where I want to take this writing thing next.

My plan of record was to push Song through the trad pub route, and work on short stories on the side (particularly Boundary Shock Quarterly of course). The other thing was to produce Livia as an audiobook.

Those elements still stand, but I am also thinking that I want to rework Livia into a more substantial starting point for a series that I would self-pub. I remain proud of Livia, but it is an odd bird in my stable and I am doubtful that trad pub would have much interest in it. But it’s also a setting I like a lot, and writing a new book in that setting would be an entertaining thing to do. I just (!) need to figure out how to make it worth the time.

Early days yet, of course, but that’s what I am working towards.

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Willamette Writers Conference 2018

What are conferences for?

I know what cons are for and I love them for it: fans of a medium exchange squees. Cons are also hugely important culturally — unironic enthusiasm is a joy to be shared, and the sheer glee of a good con is hard to resist.

I have usually attended cons as an aspiring author, though, and while cons often have craft tracks in their sessions providing resources to help creators to find their way, the majority of the programming is giving space for fans to appreciate the things they are there to appreciate.

Conferences, by contrast, are working spaces: peers talking to each other on technical topics, networking, and finding opportunities.

Cons can be enjoyed as a consumer only with little planning. Conferences work best with forward planning and effort.

Going into Willamette Writers this year, I didn’t really have a plan.

Last year I had specific goals around pitching, and following those goals (from the pitch workshop to the pitch sessions and the inevitable post mortems) was fruitful both in terms of pitch response and making contact with other similar-stage writers.

This year I went tired and a bit grumpy. I need to keep myself accountable when food is available and I wasn’t sure how supportive of my plan the catered meals were going to be, so I brought my breakfast with me along with my very necessary flask of tea. That was a good choice. I also finally learned that I need to bring a top-up thermos of tea to get me through the afternoon in better shape.

Despite all these intimations of disaster relating to this year’s proceedings, I ended up having a grand old time.

One serious error last year was that I didn’t know when the best times to hit the pitch sessions, and so I missed sessions I would have enjoyed. This year I wasn’t pitching which meant I only had to contend with interesting sessions being scheduled on top of each other!

I learnt a lot, though. Just on the first day I learned about maintaining momentum in a manuscript, crafting a plausible antagonist, and making credible characters in incredible situations (the last was from the marvellous Charlie Jane Anders). I also learned (as if I didn’t already know) that most of my craft is instinctual rather than conscious: I know what works, but I don’t necessarily know why.

My strategy this year was to stick to sessions which aligned with current interests. The off-beat sessions last year were interesting (and I wouldn’t have done any audio experimentation without them) but more tightly relevant sessions this year meant I learnt yet more about tension in manuscripts, for example, as well as ideas on platform building.

And I met more terrific people. The greatest strength of this conference, still, is its community. As one of my new friends said, by the end of the conference everybody knows everybody.

It’s a good place to be.

I am still processing the massive influx of new information but I do know I have a few things to follow up on, and some thinking to do about how to advance my writing career.

Until next year, then.

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August Things, 2018

Back onto regular goals posts… July has not been a bad month creatively, with some solid work on Song, but let’s break down the specifics a bit more.

Three Things for July

  1. revise Song
    1. finish punch list read: done.
    2. apply punch list comments: about 40% done, but what’s left is to be folded into the general third pass comment set and worked on there.
  2. draft next short story: I’ve written a more complete outline but no draft yet. I have two months to finish this, which is eminently doable.
  3. make some Livia recording tests: no work.

I’m going to call that 1.5/3. Other things that have happened include:

  • submission planning – I have collected some information to help me get other short stories out the door.
  • health – I’ve renewed my focus on health goals, especially around my weight. Three weeks in and the results are promising.

Three Things for 2018

The year continues warm. Are my goals still fresh?

  1. finish A Turquoise Song – I still think I can get the third draft completed in this quarter, so by the end of September. As I’ve said before, the punch list read showed me that while there are still problems, the book is closer than I had feared.
  2. submit my work – a goal in two parts:
    1. submit Song once it is done
    2. complete and submit short stories

    Third BSQ short story is under way. Done some research on other markets. I will worry more about Song submission once I have a worthy draft.

  3. produce Livia as an audiobook – my voice continues to strengthen, but I did not make any more motion towards doing recordings last month.
    One interesting note though is that had my ears cleaned out so that I can actually hear better now. This will undoubtedly help with the editing.

Three Things for August

August has lots of things going on so my creative goals will need to be a little more modest, but these are the things I am committing to:

  1. Willamette Writers conference – bit of a cheat since it’s not like I’m pitching or anything this year, but this is still an important event for me to attend.
  2. revise Song – incorporate outstanding punch list comments into third pass list, and fix another third of the third pass comments.
  3. short stories
    • draft next short story
    • submit an existing story

Note that there are no audiobook goals this month because I am sure I will not have time.


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