We Have a Cover!

Look at this beauty! I just got my author copies of The Face in the Marsh, and as you can see, I am stoked for this launch. I am just so happy with how all of the design turned out on this, and if I may say so myself, the story ain’t too bad either. Also, pre-orders. You can make one, right now for June 15. What are you waiting for? Geez!

Amazon

Buy Direct from Renaissance Press

 

 

 

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My New Article is Up at *Insert Subplot Here

Today, I answered Victoria Feistner’s writing prompt, asking ‘What do you wish people would ask you about writing at parties other than what you’ve sold/how your career is?

My answer delved deep into my experiences and career path, and may even spawn a sequel. In the meantime, check out the first instalment!

https://victoriafeistner.com/index.php/2018/08/22/things-i-wish-people-would-ask-me-at-parties-7-elizabeth-hirst/

So, I’ve Got News.

And it’s good news. Great news in fact… over the moon, rainbows and puppy dogs and unicorns great. There’s a really good reason why the blog looks so much more professional now, and why I’ve got a fancy banner photo.

I’ve sold a novel.

As it turns out, the book that finally won me Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 was a winner all around. After some work with an excellent freelance editor, and a very successful pitch at this year’s Can* Con, I sent the manuscript off to Renaissance Press, who loved it and bought it two weeks ago.

So look out for The Face in the Marsh, my psychological horror novel about queerness, museums and the terror of being faceless, coming in 2019. Also look out for an updated Books page with info on a couple of my titles that didn’t get updated previously.

I guess this means I’ve got to be all respectable now… we’ll see about that.

 

Colour Swatch… By the Roadside

Palette_AugustRoadside.jpg

I don’t keep diaries. It might seem odd for a writer, but I’ve just never been able to get into them. Occasionally, I will do stream of consciousness writing, but the main way I express my thoughts is through my books and stories. When I want to express my experiences day to day, I lean more toward the visual, through life sketches, pen drawings and colour. I feel like colour can tell someone more about a mood, a time and a place, a day in my life, than three pages of description. Perhaps it is because I feel so rooted to my own place in the world and I am very affected by my environment. The natural environment especially inspires me. It really is an inescapable character in every Canadian’s life.

When I was driving the other day, I noticed how beautiful the colours on the roadside were at this time of year. It inspired me to start keeping a colour diary to remember times and places that make an impression on me. The colours above represent the plants that I see on the roadside that are so beautiful all layered together. The green is the grass, its shady base and the yellowish burnt edges at the tip. The brown is sprigs of wild millet that provide dark counterpoints to the wildflower colours beside it. The three wildflowers are Queen Anne’s Lace, Devil’s Paintbrush and Chicory flowers. The whole thing turned out rather retro in terms of the colour juxtapositions, like a seventies living room set.

I hope that these colour diaries lead to paintings. I think it will be good to have them for later, as reference for bigger things.

Camp NaNoWriMo Post-Mortem… It’s a Lot More Positive Than It Sounds.

So, I won Camp NaNoWrimo. I finished on Sunday, a full day ahead of schedule. My final word count was 50,378 words. The work in progress, tentatively titled The Face in the Marsh, is at a total of 60,732 words.

I have written in previous posts about my strategy for NaNo, and I think that the results have shown that it was a big winner. I set boundaries on the word count per day and time spent writing, I outlined everything I planned to write, and I did my best to make it a competition with myself and not with my perceptions of everyone else and their opinion of me. I cannot recommend these strategies enough to writers who want to become more productive. I also experimented with competitive writing sprints using the pomodoro method (short, intense bursts of around 15 minutes followed by breaks) and that was the most fun I have had collaboratively with writing, probably ever. Big thanks to Victoria Feistner for doing that one with me. I learned a lot.

My energy levels didn’t look like a lot of other people’s do during NaNo, which I found interesting. A lot of people reported the ‘week two weepies’ in a big way, hitting a wall somewhere just shy of the middle of the month. I did not hit a wall until Week 4, when the writing I was producing almost outran the area of the story I had solidly plotted for. I have a slightly eccentric plotting process for my books, wherein I come up with a general concept, themes, good characters and the overall thrust of the story, and then I just start writing. This is my way of ensuring that the book is entertaining, because I am reading it in a way as I write it and assessing pacing, tension and interest. It is common for me not to know the ending of a book I am writing until halfway through. I outline each scene or a cluster of scenes in detail before I begin writing them, and do the detailed scene outlines as I go. Usually the detailed outlines will go beat by beat in the story. My crisis in Week 4 was that I hit the tipping point where the dominoes start to fall and I needed to outline the landslide to the end of the book in detail, and had no time to do it. Luckily there was just enough material left to get me over the finish line. Of course, I also managed to make it extra interesting by working overtime at my day job to pay for consulting on another project that I’m doing right now. I did this because it’s me, and I don’t know how to do things halfway.

July was a stressful but rewarding month. I feel like I have taken a step forward in the never-ending road of professional development, and tested a new skill set that will serve me well. As for The Face in the Marsh, it is far from done. Despite my hopes that NaNo would put me close to finishing the book, it is looking like it will probably top out at 100-110k. Far be it from me to comment on how a horror novel about an out-of-control swamp monster is becoming, well… you know. Any humour that others may find in such a comparison is entirely their own doing.

The Mid-point Post

Here I am.

This is a place that I have been only one other time. I have reached the mid-way point of Camp NaNoWriMo. I am on track, and have remained on track.

The last time I did this well, I was so squirrely by this point that the ‘week two weepies’ as other NaNo participants have put it, felt like a week two ‘neverending flood of tears and lack of sleep’. I was completely burnt out. This time, I can’t say I’m 100% energized and fresh, but I’m definitely feeling good, with a lot more fight left in me.

I guess it’s true; If you’re going to run a marathon of any kind, even if it’s only straining your carpal tunnels, you have to prepare. The daily work and word count that I have been putting in for the last few months has made a huge difference. In fact, it has made all the difference because I have never been so well-situated to win before.

My secret weapon is consistency. Butt in seat time. Practice and steady care for myself, my craft and my professionalism, which for me, means achieving a significant word count per day. Want to achieve it? Then live it, every day, and then the main event will be a breeze.

I could still burn out, and if I do, I won’t be too hard on myself. At this point, I have the pride of knowing that no matter where I end up in this, I will be doing better than I ever have.

Everybody Needs a Strategy…

…at least if they’re going to get through NaNowriMo.

In defiance of the gremlins in my head that tell me that writing about the process of doing NaNoWriMo will jinx things, I thought I would at least share that I plan on doing Camp NanoWriMo this July. I’ve got some delightful buddies to take the journey with: the unconventional and ever-magnetic M.D. Dragon, and Victoria Feistner, myth crafter extraordinaire, who I have published and, God willing, will publish again. M.D. and I have even made our own little cabin– the Creepy Campers.

If there is one thing that past NaNos have taught me, however, it is that cameraderie and public postings in the name of ‘staying accountable’ are not terribly great motivators for me. In fact, extrinsic motivation gets me nowhere fast. The funny thing is, I have definitely written 50k words in a month before. It was just never during NaNo. Now, that’s easy enough to write off in November because Christmas is coming and things are getting busy. But July is nothing but time and sun and watching people’s dogs while they go on vacation. It’s prime writing season.

The good news is that I have figured out a strategy that works for me. Over the past six months or so, I have been working really hard at reclaiming my professional work ethic and getting consistent daily word count in. That has meant a lot of trial and error, listening to myself and my motivations, and learning how I actually work best rather than how I tell myself I work best. And the answer I came to, is that

I work best in a total vaccuum.

That’s right. No critique. No discussion of how things are going. No comparison, and absolutely no scrutinizing my word count every two seconds to figure out if I have made the goalpost for the day. I set down a time to write, and then I put my butt in the seat and write until that time is done. I do not criticize what I write. I do not compare how I write or how much I write. I get totally short circuited by comparison with others and outside opinions. I have to set aside a time, be quiet, and listen to the little voice that sings in my heart.

In my life, often listening to my own heart was let’s say, heavily de-incentivized by those around me. I think a lot of people have the same experience growing up. In my case, I responded by becoming a perfectionist and an approval addict. But my inner writer cannot be an approval addict. She has a voice to speak with, and because I have not always given her the time and attention she needs, she cannot yet compete with other voices speaking over her.

For me, writer’s block is the paralysis of ‘everyone is doing better than you so why try’ and ‘if you write this people will see how terrible you really are’ and ‘nobody really wants to listen to someone like you anyway’. I kick the butts of those overly loud voices in my head by cultivating quiet. I play flowing, meditative music to carry all of those thoughts away so I can focus. I ground myself and remember that no matter what gets done or remains undone, no matter whether I am a success or failure, I am enough.

Because I am enough. And this month, I am going to kick NaNo’s butt. I’ve already done the rehearsals, and now it’s time for opening night.