Here’s the cover for my fourth Mendenhall Mystery, in which Chief of Police Kate Williams faces her worst fears:
Here’s the cover for my fourth Mendenhall Mystery, in which Chief of Police Kate Williams faces her worst fears:
It’s a Brave New World out there. In the old days, publishers would pepper us with requests to subscribe to their magazines, including email reminders, return address cards, etc.
WMG Publishing, the folks who publish the Fiction River Anthology Series among other wonderful books, have decided on another route for their subscription drive. Since they went with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the debut of the series, they’re going back to Kickstarter for their subscription drive. The incentives they’re offering are enticing–everything from a free e-copy of one of the first ten volumes to the right to choose the theme of an upcoming anthology and the opportunity to co-edit it with Dean Wesley Smith who, with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is the series editor. In between those extremes is a wonderful array of workshops, subscriptions and books by almost all of the contributors to Fiction River anthologies.
On the wall above my writing desk, I have three foot-square cork tiles. On these tiles are pinned postcards, greeting cards, covers, cards that accompanied flowers, images, framed artwork—anything and everything that provides inspiration anytime I lift my gaze from the writing computer.
Prominent among this collage are a bunch of sayings. One of my favourites is “DARE TO BE BAD,” which is something Dean Wesley Smith and Nina Kiriki Hoffman would say to encourage each other to write and finish a story a week. Dean explains it better here.
That’s not why I put it up on my inspiration board, however. I read “DARE TO BE BAD” as permission to take risks rather than the safe route in my writing. So what if I risk writing something bad? It could also turn out to be wonderful and I wouldn’t know if I didn’t take the chance.
Another writer I admire, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, encourages writers to “WRITE LIKE A TWO-YEAR-OLD,” by which she means we should write as if we don’t care what polite society says. A two-year-old doesn’t care that society says you must go around clothed. She’ll take her clothes off if she feels like it. Or wear a tutu if she wants to. She doesn’t care about “appropriate.” A two-year-old doesn’t give two hoots about what adults want. She hasn’t figured out that she has to play nice in order to be liked. There’s no filter. All of that comes as she grows up. Writers have to be like that two-year-old and not even take into consideration what society wants. We have to write what’s in us to write and to hell with the rest. We have to be fearless.
One saying has been up on my wall for a while now, and I kept staring at it, wondering why I had put it up. It reads:
LET THEM DIG A WIDER HOLE
I know it meant something when I put it up there. I had a vague recollection that it had to do with graves and being overweight, but really, that wasn’t much of a clue. Finally, the other day, I googled it and found the article I’d read that inspired me to put it up in a prominent position.
In 2002, Jennifer Crusie wrote a column for Romance Writers Report entitled “A Writer without a Publisher is Like a Fish without a Bicycle: Writer’s Liberation and You.”
In the article (you should read it; it’s very good) she refers to a novel by… oh, what the heck, I’ll just quote directly from her article:
“This was beautifully illustrated in a Gail Parent novel from the seventies called Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York. As Parent chronicles her heroine’s increasingly manic attempts to attract a husband, whiny Sheila becomes more and more unattractive to both men and the reader. Then something wonderful happens: Sheila decides to kill herself. In exactly one year, she vows, she’s going to commit suicide. In the meantime, she’s going to live life her way. She’s going to stop dressing uncomfortably and laughing inanely and just be herself. In fact, since she’s going to die anyway, she’s even going to stop dieting: the hell with it, Sheila says, “Let them dig a wider hole.” And ironically and inevitably, men flock to her. I can’t promise that publishers will flock to us if we stop trying to get published, but I can testify that making “Let them dig a wider hole” my mantra has paid off well for me.”
The point Crusie is making in her article is that writers should abandon writing for publication as a goal, and just write for themselves.
I love the line “let them dig a wider hole.” Don’t you? I can’t stop thinking about it. It encapsulates everything I wish for myself as a writer. I want to be bigger than the sum of my upbringing and my hang ups. I want to transcend my fears (oh, I can’t write that—what if my mother/boss/neighbours read it?) and dare to be bad. I want to let my inner two-year-old writer out.
So here’s to being fearless and getting out of our own way. May we become better writers for it.
Originally published on Not Your Usual Suspects, July 21, 2014.
On a near-future Earth decimated by plagues, two species of humanity survive—Homo sapiens and Homo gaians. When an insane gaians blames sapiens for the world’s problems, only Lauren Tom will stand between him and the destruction of the remaining sapiens.
Unless she decides he’s right.
* * *
Lauren Tom doesn’t need anyone, thank you very much. She survived the Troubles that killed her father, survived her mother’s disappearance ten years ago, and now she survives just fine in a cabin in the Yukon wilderness.
At 21, she’s the best trapper and fisher in the area. But while her neighbors appreciate her generosity, they don’t warm to her. They never have. She doesn’t belong. She’s too different, too odd, too restless. She makes people uneasy.
Then Cade, a strange, charismatic man who once lived in Whitehorse returns. He wants her to come with him to the fabled Ben-My-Chree, a place deep in the wilderness that calls to her like a siren’s song.
His return sets in motion a chain of disastrous events that will change Lauren’s life forever—and may result in the destruction of the world’s remaining humans.
Obeah is available everywhere books are sold, including Mac’s Fireweed in Whitehorse.
Twelve of the writers from Not Your Usual Suspects have gotten together to offer one fabulous prize in honour of reaching 150,000 hits on our blog.
Drop by Not Your Usual Suspects and comment and you’ll automatically be entered. The draw is July 14. Good luck!
Joanna Lilley, poet, non-fiction writer and all around wonderful woman, tagged me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The idea behind the tour is that the “tagged” writer answers four questions about her (or his) writing process and then tags one or two other writers to do the same. It seems like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? Here are the questions:
What am I working on?
Right now I’m finishing the first draft of my fourth Mendenhall mystery, in which my poor heroine, Mendenhall Chief of Police Kate Williams, rushes home to Montreal after her mother is struck down by a hit-and-run driver. Then Kate learns that the accident may have been a deliberate attempt to get her away from Mendenhall.
Unlike many other writers I know, I only work on one thing at a time. If commitments force me to start something new before I’ve finished the piece I’m working on, I set the piece aside until I’ve met the obligation, then I go back to the original story and finish it. My head hurts at the thought of bopping between stories.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I never met a genre I didn’t want to cross. Is it mystery, or is it fantasy? Is it fantasy or science fiction? Or something in between? Pity the poor bookseller trying to figure out where to shelve my books! Even my mysteries cross sub-genres, for Pete’s sake. For instance, the Mendenhall Mysteries are technically police procedurals, but they feel like cozies.
While in some of my stories the fate of humanity teeters in the balance, all my stories start from a small incident and build from there, character by character, until I have a finished story that, miraculously, has a beginning, middle and end.
Why do I write what I do?
Really, it’s not like I have a choice. I write the stories that are in me to write. And there are many, many stories clamoring to be written. They jostle around inside my head, jockeying to be the first at the top of my mind when I finally turn my attention to the next project.
I have noticed a theme in most of my work (I never set out with a theme in mind—it just happens). Almost all my stories deal with someone who is caught between two cultures, two worlds, two stages in his life. Someone who doesn’t fit in the environment in which she finds herself. The stories almost always revolve around my characters finding out where they belong, how they fit. While having misadventures along the way, of course.
How does my writing process work?
I try to write every day after work. I aim for 1000 words a day, but often have to content myself with fewer. I’m a morning person—well, maybe a day person is more accurate. I refuse to get up any earlier than I already do for work. Weekends, of course, are best. Anything past 8 p.m. and really, I’m no good to anyone.
As for the actual writing… well. I wish I could say I always have a plan before I start writing and follow it until I have a brilliantly plotted story at the end. Ha. In reality, I almost always start with an incident. Something that catches my attention. For The Shoeless Kid, the first in the Mendenhall Mysteries, I saw a shoe abandoned in the middle of the road. And that got me to thinking about how that could have happened.
So I start writing to find out. It’s messy and convoluted and means going back to fix many, many things. It means a lot of swearing under the breath when I realize I have to trash whole scenes in favour of ones that actually fit.
This latest Mendenhall mystery, for instance. I can’t wait to finish it so I can figure out what the darned this is about.
There has to be a better way.
That’s it for me. It feels a little immodest to be discussing myself in detail. Blame Jo Lilley. Now I’m tagging Karen Abrahamson to join the The Writing Process Blog Tour. Go visit her and learn more about her and her writing. She’s a fabulous writer.
[This is a post I wrote for Not Your Usual Suspects, published June 13, 2014.]
A few weeks ago, I posted to a local arts list about a free podcast of a short story of mine. The story, The Verdant Gene, is science fiction and part of the Fiction River: Moonscapes anthology. I was very pleased that the publishers decided to feature my story that week, as they had a great selection of stories from which to pick.
A day or so later, a fellow I know slightly wrote to tell me that he had loved the story and that it was “first rate.”
It was kind of him to take the time to let me know what he thought. We probably wouldn’t know each other if we passed each other on the street, so he needn’t have said anything and I would never have known that he had listened to the story, let alone whether or not he liked it. But he made a point of telling me that he had liked it, and why. That’s true generosity.
Maybe his compliment meant so much to me BECAUSE we don’t really know each other. Does that make sense? Of course your mom will tell you she loves your stories. And co-workers and friends. I mean, what else are they going to say? But when someone you don’t know (or barely know) makes the effort to tell you they liked your story—wow. It matters.
Readers have no idea what power they wield. One sincere compliment can make your month. (And when you’re 60,000 words into your latest novel and they all seem like crap, that compliment can help you keep butt in chair.)
So, Dear Reader, have you ever told a writer that you enjoyed her story? Why or why not? And writers, do you react differently to a compliment from someone you know, versus someone you don’t?
Oh, and if you like great short stories, check out the WMG Publishing series of anthologies. Highly recommended.
WMG Publishing, publishers of the wonderful Fiction River anthology series, will be podcasting my Moonscapes short story, The Verdant Gene. The folks at WMG do a fabulous job with their podcasts and even better, they offer them for FREE!
So, mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 21, which is when the podcast becomes available. It will remain available (and FREE) on the WMG website for a week.
Can’t wait to hear it, especially as the story will be narrated by Jane Kennedy, a talented voice actress and experienced audio director.
How cool is this! The Masked Mosaic anthology, published by Tyche Books, is a 2014 Alberta Book Publishing Award finalist! The anthology includes my short story, The Man in the Mask, and was edited by Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa.
I think it’s a grand anthology, and I’m pleased that the Book Publishers Association of Alberta thinks so, too.
My short story in the Masked Mosaic anthology, “The Man in the Mask,” in now available as a stand alone story. It’s part of the A’lle Chronicles, in which the A’lle crash-landed on Earth in the early 18th Century and have been trying to make a place for themselves among humans ever since. The events in “The Man in the Mask” pre-date the events in Backli’s Ford by a few years, but still involve a mystery.