Writing Progress 24/01/2015

Since I want to make more use of this blog in the new year, I thought it might be interesting to post my progress on writing and submitting things as well as the usual local new and opinion pieces. After all, this is my personal blog, and it’s great for posting stuff that would be less pertinent, or totally self-indulgent, on the Pop Seagull blog.

So, let’s start with today. I’ve finished 2000 words of the non-fiction book I’m writing with a local non-profit, which is excellent and making me feel very accomplished. That’s probably why I’ve come online to brag about it, honestly. But, I do plan to remain accountable when I’m not doing so good.

I’ve also finished another few paragraphs on the story I’m hoping to have done by the end of the month to submit to Tesseracts. That one is becoming an issue… I think I can get past my unease with the structure, but it is threatening to become a bit of a whale, and that might be more of a problem. I think I’ll finish it, see how long it is, and then if it’s too long for the GL’s I might change the POV or start it in a different place.

And, lastly, I’ve begun work in earnest on the layout and cover design for the Love, Time, Space, Magic anthology. That’s not word count, per se, but I am really proud of it and I’m looking forward to geeking out on fonts and graphic design again. I’ve actually found some really helpful books in that arena that are helping my designs out, and I’ll probably do a separate entry on those.

So, overall, lots of progress today, which I hope will continue over the weekend and beyond. It’s great to be back working after so long being under the weather. *shakes fist at the Streptococcus Bacillus*

Getting Back to Notebooks

Like just about everyone else in the Western world, except the cynical and the very, very confident, I tend to make New Year’s resolutions. I like to flatter myself that I stick to them pretty well, too. I mean, I might forget a few minor points, but for the most part I actually tend to follow through on my resolutions, at least until I figure out whether they’re going to be sustainable for me, or I hit a large and unexpected road block.

Most of my resolutions aren’t really pertinent to anyone but me, and certainly not to this blog. Honestly, think of the worst New Year’s resolution stereotypes, and yeah, they’re on there. Because I do need to lose some weight and make more time for self-care and craft a chore wheel that actually works.

I also have a less common resolution: I want to rediscover my passion for the writing life.

As writers go, I would say my level of professionalism is really high. I know my work back to front, I’ve got several degrees related to writing and the creative arts, and I’ve been a writer in the workplace, meeting tough deadlines with ease and delivering copy that meets and exceeds the specifications. I know how to knuckle under and get the work done, and how to tailor my work to the correct audience. Writing is not just a hobby for me. I take it seriously, and hope to be taken seriously in return.

However, as I have written here before, I have been through some tough times in the last few years, and some of my experiences have left me doing my writing and art on auto-pilot, to some extent. Somewhere along the line, creating became an obligation rather than a joy. Some people might say that this is a necessary and practical progression in the journey to artistic professionalism. To some extent, I would agree. Part of taking my craft seriously is understanding that I have an obligation and a responsibility to get work done, on time. However, I also think that the journey to getting the work done, on time, is a much more powerful and productive experience if it is also filled with joy. I have a lot of work to do in the next few months, some for other people, much of it for myself, and I would like to enjoy this time. I remember when writing was my life, and that was so amazing and exciting for me. I want to recapture the spirit of my thirteen-year-old self, toting a hard-bound notebook everywhere and secreting away stories that were so amazing to me that I wanted to live them.

I began to think about the kinds of things that influence my motivation and mood while writing. I realized that my office was a mess, due in part to it also being my bedroom, so I hauled out the backhoe and shoveled it out. That helped, but the office is always pretty much the same. It doesn’t look much like anything that used to inspire me.

I then got thinking about how I approach work. Usually, I sit down in front of the computer after a long day at the office, and spend a few hours typing out a draft, or working on the publishing business, or doing some graphic design. Something felt off about using the computer, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was for a few days, but then it hit me… my writing had become completely computer-centric. Due to the ease of editing in a word processor, I had slowly shifted writing in my mind from something that you can do anywhere, that adds joy to your day, to something that is solely confined to a computer, in an office, at a very specific time of day. Freeing up my mind to see writing as an ‘anywhere’ activity again, and grabbing my hardbound notebooks when I go out, has ignited some of that passion again, and freed up a lot of creative energy that was going to waste.

Looks like I’m on my way to seeing my resolutions through.

Crazy Times…

Wow, a lot of stuff has happened for Canada in the last week or so. The shooting in Ottawa has hit us especially hard in Hamilton… Nathan Cirillo, the soldier who was cut down while on volunteer duty honouring our veterans, was from our city. I’ve talked to some lifelong residents who knew him, and by all accounts he was a lovely person and a credit to our community in and out of uniform. Everyone in Hamilton watched the funeral, whether they were on the streets or watching the live feed. That is the spirit of Hamilton… community involvement. This is a very little big city. I’m still processing this tragedy, and may write about it more when I’ve collected my thoughts, but for now, I just want to honour the people that went above and beyond that day to protect our country and our officials.

Closer to home, we’ve also had some really weird goings on. A couple of days ago, a guy down on Queenston Road spent eight hours (with cops and SWAT looking on) tossing the contents of his eighth floor apartment onto the ground below. This included knives, a fridge, wallboard, his toilet… what is happening lately? Even by Hamilton standards (and please know I say it lovingly) this is weird.

Even closer to home, there have been some changes in the Pop Seagull lineup, and a formerly very close and trusted friend and I have gone our separate ways. I’m not posting this to spread dirt or twist the knife… just to express my sadness that someone who used to bring joy to my life has changed so much. In the wake of these changes to our ‘behind the scenes’ team, I am left with a few resolutions. I want to record them here, so that I won’t go back on them when it’s convenient for me to do so.

1: I will pay everyone who is not already a beneficiary of my company for their time. I will not allow any more volunteers, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Depending on what the service rendered is, the payment may be in the form of goods, a trade, or some amount of money, be it large or small. But my associates will be paid if I have to sneak the money into their purse when they’re not looking, even if it’s just ten dollars. This was something that was presented to me as a sound business practice when I began this journey, and I saw the sense in it, but I allowed myself to be overridden by the good intentions of others. The thing I didn’t count on was that when times get tough, good intentions are pretty thin on the ground. Also in this vein, I will never again promise references. References will be given out on a case-by-case basis. They will not be something you can earn by time spent or payments waived. I compromised my integrity without realizing it, but I won’t make that mistake again.

2: I will no longer work with friends, and especially friends who won’t understand why I need to treat them like an employee when we’re working. It is so tough to go back once you’ve mingled those two things, and it’s just not worth it. I never want to feel like my friendship is secondary to my position as a business owner ever again. I don’t know how real celebrities do it.

I think, sadly, that problems like these are very common in the arts, due both to small budgets for indie artistic professionals and the tight-knit nature of our communities. Just look at all the bands that break up in spectacular ways. I still want to collaborate, but I’m going to be a lot more careful about how I do it from now on.

The sad thing is, though, I don’t think anything could have been done to prevent this from happening. I was inexperienced, and didn’t know better, and neither, I think, did the other party in all this. Then they went one way, I went another, and… snap. I really wish there was a tried and true way in life to keep our valued relationships happy, but people just change, and have differing values and goals, and then it’s not as simple as when we were in Kindergarten, and it was all ‘share your toys’ and ‘don’t hit’. I think a lot of people find it comforting to oversimplify and try to find a bad guy, but often times, drama, fights and relationship breakdowns are completely and utterly unavoidable.

If anybody reading this is interested in indie publishing or owning a business, I hope they learn from my mistakes. Sometimes, the things that, at the time, seem like common sense just aren’t good business sense.

 

Happy Birthday, Laura!

This blog is partially about Canada, and for me, one of the things that makes me proud to be Canadian is the story of Laura Secord. Laura was a young married woman in the war of 1812, when the US decided that we would be better off under their rule (without our consent) and attacked the settlements at Upper Canada, the centre of which became Niagara Region, where I grew up. The area that Laura lived in was taken by the Americans, and her house was occupied by American troops. With her husband wounded, and nobody else around, the American soldiers disregarded her, speaking openly of their plans to ambush defending British forces.

But, Laura would not be discounted so easily. She had information that could help the British take back the area, and her husband could not carry it, so she stole away from her home and walked 20 kilometers, through swamps, ravines, and all manner of wildlife to get to where General Fitzgibbon and his troops camped. This area is very hilly, has a lot of unexpected drops and erosive soil conditions, and was wet and mucky at the time due to continuous rain, which is common here in the summer and fall months. I should add that Southern Ontario still had large predators and poisonous snakes in the area back then, as well, so it would have been even worse that most people think. Laura fought her way through the wilderness, wearing a thin house dress and slippers meant for indoor use (think something a bit thicker than a dance slipper). When she finally got to the general, she was dirty, and bruised, and cut… but she made it. With her information, the British mounted an ambush on the Americans, and wiped the floor with them at the battle of Beaver Dams.

What I like about this story isn’t the whole Canadian versus American thing. Today’s Americans are fine with me, and they usually only come over the border now to sample the maple syrup and check out the casinos. 😛 What I love about this story is that it says something about Canada’s spirit. Everyone else would have disregarded Laura. We didn’t. In many countries, in that time period, women would not have felt empowered to do what she did, but Canada is a nation of pioneers. Women routinely built houses, shot bears, and generally engaged in all the survival pursuits that the men did, as a matter of necessity. It is this necessity, the bridging of gaps that comes with hard winters, hard knocks and hard lands, that makes Canada, and its people, great. We were also one of the first countries to promote women to high ranks in the army. Canada had a woman colonel, in charge of the nursing corps, in the early nineteen forties, while England was still debating granting nurses military rank at all.

I hope that Denny, the main character in my upcoming novel Distant Early Warning, who braves the wilderness with nothing but a shotgun and a dog, can in some small way channel Laura’s bravery, and the truly Canadian essence of her story.

Happy birthday, Laura, and may you keep on inspiring generations of spirited little girls, as you did for me.

And, without further ado, the most badass song ever written about Laura Secord, by the late, great Tanglefoot.

GenreCon, get ready!

I didn’t want to announce this earlier, as I was still working out the details, but now it’s official…

I’m an author guest at GenreCon!!!! Like, a real author guest, not just an author that plonked herself down in the dealers’ room, or maybe even the foyer… not that there’s anything wrong with foyer dwellers. It’s just nice to be loved. ❤

And we’re having a wicked awesome book launch for Distant Early Warning, which I can honestly say is just coming together better and better. I seriously wish I could post the illustrations right now… but I guess that would be cheating. You guys will just have to live with the splash page for now.

I guess what I really wanted to say right now, is that I’m so proud of this book, and myself.

Next stop… getting a better mugshot for the promos. 😛

Summer’s End, New Beginnings

August was not a good month for me, thus the lack of blog postings. My family and extended circle had three major health crises, and a series of minor scares. After an extended arm wrestle with my last job, I ended up being forced to look for work elsewhere. As I strive for professionalism in all that I do, I will not post details of that situation here, except to say that the whole thing was bogus from start to finish, and it was a wake-up call that I needed to get off my butt and get moving again. We also thought my cat ran away for a few days, which was not fun. As it turned out, she was just hiding, so that one resolved itself in a positive way.

Throughout last month, I just seemed to be clinging to the mast of the ship of my life, trying to ride out storm after storm, praying that we wouldn’t go down. The business, and my writing life, was no exception. I tried a new printer for my books, hoping to save on shipping and buy Canadian, which is important to me. I will not name who it was, but the proofs were misleading and the quality on the printing was absolutely terrible. The covers were literally flaking apart. I got my money back, but that didn’t change the fact that I was short on stock for my next appearance. Also, someone who works with Pop Seagull as an editor had a personal crisis, and backed out of editing the latest book at the last minute, leaving me to find a replacement on short notice and at a disadvantage. I have mixed feelings on this, because I sympathize with their troubles but I wish they could have been honest with me when I gave them the chance to back out shortly after I heard about their life issues.

On top of all this, the historical project I’m working on stalled out completely during the chaos, as I scrambled to get enough assets ready in time for Distant Early Warning to be delivered on October 17th. The animated book trailer I’m working on also got the short end of the stick, and now we’re looking at a release for it sometime in January rather than at the book launch party, as I had hoped. I had known that one was a stretch goal, but things were on track, more or less, until all the upheaval. Now, I’m looking at presenting the work in progress as part of the book launch party as sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ treat. Hopefully I can get it up to the leica stage, which will still be understandable and entertaining for people to see.

Now that all of that is out of the way, here are the good things that happened over the last little while.

I went to the Milton Pirate Fest, and was charmed and entertained by this fun little festival. The actors that roamed around were really good, and the food and programming was fun for all ages! I really appreciated how enthusiastic everyone was about authors and reading in general, and thought that our readings had a really positive vibe to them. Other highlights were the sunshine, meeting new people, and the snow cones and turkey legs. I really hope the author group that I attended with will be going back next year. I also want to thank my author friends for being so supportive and lovely, and convincing me to go despite the botched book shipment and job drama. Catherine, Stephen, Joy, you guys really made a difference at a very low time for me.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, loved it with all my heart, and now am curious about the comics. I have a new scifi novel bouncing around in my head right now, and I think if it were made into a movie, it would look a lot like that one, with a bit of Contact and some of the art direction of Alien thrown in there for good measure. So yeah, that was a very inspiring experience for me and I’m so glad that the movie got made, because it’s certainly not as formulaic as a lot of what comes out now.

And, lastly (but not leastly?), despite all of the setbacks, Distant Early Warning is coming out, on schedule, with a great launch slot, and we’re going to have plenty of time to prepare. It’s actually shaping up to be our nicest looking book yet, and I think that’s saying something. I did a post over at the Pop Seagull blog with a little self-interview on the book, my writing process, and some key facts about the release. It will be the first in a series of posts talking about the book, the launch, our vending platforms and pre-orders. We’re even going to have some interviews with the real VIPs… the characters.

I also want to invite all of my readers to come to the launch party on:

October 17th, 2014, from 7-9 pm at the Holiday Inn Guelph hotel and conference centre

It will be part of the festivities at Genrecon, and I think we’re going to be able to kick off the weekend with a bang! (Not the kind of bang from Denny’s shotgun, though. Homer Simpson already definitively proved that shotguns are not effective marketing tools.)

And, in conclusion, here’s a little art that I’m contributing to the book. It’s also probably going to get put on t-shirts at some point.

Splash Page/Logo Art for Distant Early Warning (Coming October 17th, 2014)

Splash Page/Logo Art for Distant Early Warning (Coming October 17th, 2014)