14th December

Moving into the dying days of the year. The nights are long and cold, the days short and grey – well, short, we’ve had some glorious sunshine even as parts of the country have suffered through the couple of inches of snow that would have a Canadian pulling out deckchairs and calling for a barbecue.

And it’s been a funny old month storywise for me. After nothing all year I’ve had three stories released in two anthologies in the last week or so.

The first is in The Infernal Clock and is called The Green Man’s Fête. A reporter at a local spring festival isn’t all he appears to be, but then the festival isn’t all it appears to be either. This is available as either a download or hard copy. I’d recommend considering getting the physical book, the cover is absolutely glorious. Apart from my tale there are 15 others to revel in, and a wide variety of writers demonstrating their skills.

Secondly is Afromyth. This is a collection where the focus of the story is on people of African or African descent, and non-caucasian. My first story here is Fishing Lake Tanganyika where a man takes up fishing to feed his family after being made redundant. Will his grand-mothers belief in his abilities be enough to sustain him in trying times? Later on in the anthology I have The Black Birds of White Oaks. Set in a southern US state  some-time after the civil war it tells of a young Boston woman on a trip to collect folk memories from ex-slaves. What she discovers stretches across the atlantic, into the Anti-Atlas mountains, and all the way back to stories of Prometheus, Zeus, and a portion of human existence glimpsed only through the veil of myth. With 10 other stories from a wide variety of writers this powerful collection will set your imagine whirring.

I hope you take time to read not just my stories, but all who have tales in these two exciting anthologies, and more than that, add a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Of the three stories I am proudes of Fishing Lake Tanganyika. Realistically it could be a story without a fantastical element, and it would still hold together, because it is firstly a story about a person, and personal interactions. Of course, all stories must contain these, but they are rarely the focus of something I write. Asperger’s tends to make that personal level of interaction difficult for me to negotiate on the page but I think that I’m reaching a point where I can do it with more confidence, and for me this story is the current high spot.

So, with three publictions, and a feeling of improvement having been made, why did I recently sign up to be mentored by Gareth Powell?

Because advancement is incremental, because – while I’ve written lots this year – I don’t have an awful lot of finished material, and even less that has been picked at and polished until it is suitable to be submitted anywhere.

We had our first session together a few days ago, and it was most heartening to hear Gareth’s assessment of the writing portion I’d submitted. Now I’m working on internalizing the advise recieved to allow ongoing writing to incorporate it organically.

I’m also perservering in trying to finish draft one of my novel. This is the novel that a month or so ago I declared to be a novella. What changed?

Earlier this month I was at a How To Be Published day run by Writers & Artists (thank you, Juliet Pickering, for the ticket). We had a series of talks, followed by Q&A sessions. The session by Cally Taylor discussed story structure and, as we went through it, I wrote down the sections, then matched them to what is already in my story. It helped clarify that the bones of a proper novel are there. This was heartening because I’d begun to think of the story as an amorphous amss of words lumped together in a hopeful, yet random order (despite me having a pin board with the scenes, sequences, and characters all mapped out).

Seeing the parts of a novel written down, and seeing my extant work marrying up to these parts, has reinvigorated my desire to finally get that first draft complete. It should have been completed by now, but that slipped, and now I’m aiming for the end of the year.

What happened?

My ME, and the house. For a while now my ME has been quite bad. The time I’ve had to write is in the evenings, but by the time I sit an enervating fog has fallen between my ears. Holding a single cogent thought in my head is difficult, manipulating that thought to amend, increase, expand, develop, or otherwise work it has been nigh on impossible. Much easier to sit and scroll through twitter while having a film play in the background. This hasn’t been helped by the chaos of us moving things around in the house so that there is not an area I can lay claim to as my writing spot, no calm, quiet, zone I can retreat to and work in.

Some may look at this and think it is just an excuse. It may be. But it’s a debilitating confluence of explanations for me. One alone I can work with, I have so in the past and will in the future. But together, it is a real writing killer.

Meh.

By next week there should be some order in the house, and then the wife and children go up to Scotland for a couple of weeks. This should allow me the time to clear my head, clear the decks, and get ready to hit 2018. Plans for that to follow when I see how the next week or so goes.

 

 

Advertisements

January 11th

I’ve had a lovely Occupation Therapist here for the last hour discussing my ME. I now get to partake in a seven week workshop on the issue (only 2 hours per week). That’s the most I’ve discussed my diagnosis since it was diagnosed in the middle of last year. The asperger part of me is dreading these group sessions, the writer part of me is excited.

Talking of writing, I’ve been doing some. There’s a flash piece for a CODEX competition, and a longer story I’m working on for a call by Afrocentric for their Afromyth anthology call. I submitted to the Afrofuture anthology and my story is on hold with them until the call is closed and final decisions on inclusion are made. I was also invited to submit to the Afromyth and Afrosteam calls.

This was most heartening. The story on hold is about a Nigerian-American woman in a round the world yacht race (time travel & whaling ships also appear). The anthologist is, coincidentally, a Nigerian-American woman. To have written a story she’s decided to hold for final consideration makes me immensely proud. It means I, to a worthwhile degree, have managed to write a character other than myself. I hope it wasn’t a one-time deal.

In other writing related news I’ve set up spreadsheets to track my writing and submissions for the year, and set myself goals for both. I’m currently tracking for submissions, and about 1700 words down on writing, though the ME has been bad and the concomitant brain fog has combined with self-doubt and starting-a-new-project fear to slow things down. I think I’m seeing a form for the Afromyth story, I’m currently trying to wrestle the idea into shape, and hopefully this will shift the logjam.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by using a writing formula. That sounds kind of dry and boring, but it seems to help. I first used it on a story that is currently finished, and being studiously ignored for a month or so. Under a provisional title of Stormville and the Coup (sword & sorcery in a Conanesque manner) the story started with an opening paragraph written about eighteen months ago, and then forgotten about. When I re-read the fragment I really liked it, but wasn’t sure what to do with it so on a piece of paper I wrote:

Introduction

1st reversal

small victory

2nd reversal

denouement

twist

Then in each section I wrote a rough idea for what should happen. The finished story does not follow that plan exactly, indeed the nature of the MC changed from the start of writing to the finish to the extent that I had to do a re-write to consolidate her. But the main thing is this gave the story a structure for me to follow and, I think, I’ll be using it more. One thing I found is this gave me a story of about 10k words, and could easily have been more. I think a 5-7k story will need a tweaked version.

Now, time to go make Cornish Pasties with my daughter.

October 3rd

Last year I started a short story with a working title of Epecuén. The name is that of a town in Argentina which was flooded out of existence in the mid-eighties. In my head the story is a tale of magical-realism, the town is sacrificed to save the nation. The details of this were hazy, but it felt like a good hook to work with. After about four and a half thousand words I was running in to walls and couldn’t find a way through, under, or over. I set it aside.

At the weekend I re-opened the file and read through it. I love the writing. It is sweet, and emotional, at least I think so. I have aspergers, emotion isn’t an easy reach for me and I’ve been fighting with adding it in for a couple of years now. Reading back Epecuén was a valediction of the work I’ve been doing. And I realized why the story was blocked for me. What I have written – about one-third of the final tale I reckon – is actually a sweet coming of age story. No magic anywhere in sight.

Now I have a problem. Do I continue with it as is, which is very much not my œuvre, or go back to the initial idea. I really can’t figure it out yet.

And as I’m not writing enough at the moment, I’m not rushing it it.

That’s not saying I’m not writing, or editing, or submitting. I am. This week I submitted a new story to one of my top target markets. The final edit made me really happy. I go to places that are uncomfortable in both subject and execution, and I’m happy with the way it has come out. I’ll see what comes with the submission.

Now, I need some help.

I have another story I love. It’s about an elf, and a vampire, and a murder. It’s set in snowy Nebraska, and there’s not a human in the world. Think Jessica Fletcher, as an elf, solves her first small town mystery. But can I get anyone to sniff at it? No. Where do I send it?

I’ll leave that here. It’s early October. I hope to write again in a few days.