Category Archives: Writing Path

Earth Music

I am happy and relieved to announce my weird and (I hope) humorous story, “Earth Music” is up on the Drabblecast website today, read by the amazing Mat Weller.

The story is part of a “trifecta” – three stories with a related theme. In this case the theme is: Change of heart. The other two stories are “Golden Age of the Paleozoic” by Ken Liu and “Weekend with the Owl God” by Frank Key. I’m pretty much thrilled beyond words to share a table of contents with those guys.

Drawing of bagpipes held in tentacled arms

Tentacles and Bagpipes (sounds like the name of a pub)

I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this story to appear. I submitted “Earth Music” to the Drabblecast two years ago, and they sent me a contract eighteen months ago.

Back in June of 2012 I was worried the story might be offensive to pipers, so at the 2012 Seattle fèis I spoke with Barry Shears, the bagpipes instructor at the fèis that year who is also an expert on the history of bagpipes. He promptly rattled off a joke that involved bagpipes and an amorous octopus. So I was reassured that not only do pipers have excellent (and tolerant) senses of humor, but there is some precedence for stories like this one.

In my submission I included a line of Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) at the end.
The line was:
Cha d’rinneadh cròn air pìob sam bith ri sgrìobhadh na sgeulachd seo.
(“No bagpipes were harmed in the writing of this story.”)

I didn’t get an opportunity to edit this story since I wrote it two years ago. (Which is why according to my bio the Urban Green Man anthology is forthcoming.) In some ways the story is a snapshot of where I was as a writer back then. But “Earth Music” still appeals to my strange sense of humor.

So, yay. I’m quite pleased “Earth Music” has been produced by The Drabblecast. The podcast sounds fantastic. Worth the wait.

Happy writing,
Miriah

Advertisements

Twabble Up

Last week Drabblecast.org chose one of my “twabbles” – an exactly 100 character micro story – to go with their podcast. Here it is:

At the hike’s end we found seal skins scattered all over that beach. “Let’s go,” I said. “But first, let me take a Selkie.”

I think I got lucky with this one, because the feature story is about jackalopes who, like selkies, shed their skins and become human. My twabble is at the very, very end of the podcast. I really enjoyed the featured story. Go listen to it or download to listen in the car or whatever. Do it now!

Happy Writing.

J.P. Patches statue

The J.P. Patches statue in Freemont

Choreographing a fight scene

There are two fight scenes in a story I’m working on, so lately I’ve been reading articles about writing fight scenes in general, and trying to visualize my fight scenes in particular.

Norwescon was last weekend (a fantastic conference, btw) and one panel I attended was “Writing Action” with Craig English, Erik Scott de Bie, Erin Evans, Michael Tinker Pearce, and Dean Wells.

Some of the notes I took in the panel:
• a fight scene must advance the plot – something must change
• get into your POV character’s head
• the action is about how the POV character reacts, not who hits who with what
• ground the narrative in sensory information – smells, sounds etc.
• the POV character should be hurt in a fight, something should go wrong
• establish the emotional stakes before the fight – the reader should care about the fight outcome
• in a life/death situation, people react automatically according to their training (or lack of training)
• setting is important, including bystanders – props can become weapons
• pay attention to how fights usually go in movies and take it in a surprising direction

But first, I had to figure out what happens during the fight in my story. There are several people in the scene, and even though I’m only going to write what the POV character is aware of, I need to know what else is going on. Because, while she is busy with one enemy, the other characters aren’t just standing around!

So I procrastinated threw together a few props and took pictures. Here are a few of them:

fightsceneA

fightsceneB

 

 

 

 

 

 

The POV character is blue. A couple of red shirts turn on shields that attract flying predators. One red shirt drops and gets shredded while my hero and the others fight off the rest.

It was fun setting this up. Hopefully the writing result will be easy to follow.

Happy Writing

Writing Just for Fun

I blogged before (here) about the play-by-email role playing game (PBeM RPG) I’m a member of.

It has been almost three years since the group started. My own first post was on 20 April 2011. This cooperative writing project has been the source of both intense enjoyment and utter frustration. It’s wonderful when everyone participates consistently, and crazy-making when one player flakes.

Pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Suicidal pheasants on the road near Stirling, Scotland August 2013

Last Autumn I was pretty fed up with the way some other long-time players were blocking story threads. At that point I had four characters. I wrote two of them out of the story, intending to back out of the game. Then the GM quit just before NaNoWriMo. One of my two remaining characters is/was stuck in limbo because two players went AWOL. My last and oldest character is/was in a slow-moving story thread with one other writer.

I thought I was okay with one, minimally active character in the RPG. After all, I had original writing to do! I shouldn’t be wasting my precious writing time on fanfiction that can’t even be published! Write? I mean, Right?

Wrong.

RPG writing is fun. Creative. Easy. No serious editing. It feels like writing that first draft and submitting it right away while you’re madly in love with it — without that OMG morning-after, what-have-I-done hangover feeling.

The thing about RPG in any form is, players come and go. That’s just the way it is. I realized that I really missed writing the game. And now there are new players. Game Master responsibilities are being managed by a committee. So I’ve created a new character I hope will be more active.

Of course writing collaborative fiction with the goal of publication would not be the same as writing an RPG. But, I bet there would be similarities and I hope to get to try it sometime.

Happy Writing.

2014 Clarion West Application & Rejection

I applied to Clarion West again this year, and did not get in.

Rejection is a normal part of the writing life. I know that. We all know that. I honestly have no problem with submitting a story to a publication and the story getting rejected. I know it’s the story that’s being rejected, not me.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Clarion West is a six-week, 24/7 intensive writing workshop. Just sending an application is a huge commitment. Putting aside a huge lump of money. Figuring the mechanics of how someone else will take care of my responsibilities as I (potentially) remove myself from the lives of my loved ones for six weeks.

The application consists of two parts. 1) A 20 to 30 page short story in standard manuscript format; about 4000 to 6000 words. 2) A 700-800 word essay telling them about yourself. For me, the essay was much, much harder to write than the story. The essay is personal. Unlike my short story, the essay absolutely IS me.

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer

Skunk cabbage blooming at the Mercer Slough on 1 April 2014. Pretty and stinky – it must be spring.

A couple months ago my twins had a school English class assignment to read a biography and write a book report. One of them chose Nelly Bly, the other chose singer Ke$ha. When I asked why the Ke$ha book report was only one page long, my daughter’s response was “Duh. She’s only twenty-three years old.”
Yeah. I really hate writing the two-page book report of my life.

The whole process of applying to Clarion West triggers my inner demons in a way that the submission/rejection process never does. After more than twenty years of recovery, it jars me into the realization that deep down, I will always have codependency issues. From the time the application window closed on March 1st, to March 14th when someone-who-would-know tweeted that the acceptance phone calls had started, to March 22nd when I finally received the rejection email. The wait (and everything that goes with it) was agonizing. This year was even worse for me than last year.

I love to write. I’ll keep on writing, and I will continue to submit. Rejections really don’t bother me because like I said, it’s not me it’s my story — easy peasy.

Right now, I don’t know if I will apply to Clarion West next year. Six whole weeks of immersion in the craft of writing would be pure heaven for me. But the price of that lottery ticket is painful. Also, the summer of 2015 will be particularly busy with family commitments, so disappearing for six weeks may be impossible.

Two friends, one a close friend, will join the 2014 Clarion West class. I am really, truly happy for them and their class mates. My most sincere congratulations to all eighteen of them.

Happy Writing.

Why do I have this blog anyway?

It has been three months since my last blog post. This is the point where I insert an excuse. Or an explanation. Or maybe a list of exciting things I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

But truthfully, I just didn’t feel like writing blog posts.

When I started this blog, I thought every writer *should* have a blog. The theme I chose was my experiences along the way to becoming a published author. I’m still actively pursuing that goal. I have two short stories published.

But, two years later I know that a blog is actually NOT a requirement for becoming an author. I also arrived at the realization that a blog about me trying to get published isn’t particularly interesting, even to me. Personally, if I want blogger advice about how to write great stories and get them published I’m going to read the blogs of people who are doing it.

And my friends’ blogs. I read those.

This must be the point where I declare a new and inspiring theme. Except. Oh, wait; I don’t have one. Yeah, when I have a new theme I shall declare it. In the mean time I’ll be updating this blog with whatever strikes my fancy.

Miriah in 6th grade

Miriah in 6th grade


btw, it was my birthday on Monday. This photo was taken about four and a half decades ago.

Happy Writing.

Find what works for you and do that.

This is the obligatory after-NaNoWriMo blog post. Sort of. NaNoWriMo ended on December 1, and here I am 28 days later. (But no zombies!)

I did end November with 50,000 words of a first-draft novel written. About half of what I think the final word count will be. So, I “won” Nano, but of course I have a long way to go before I have an actual novel I can shop around.

2013-Winner-Facebook-Profile

For me the biggest win was learning what works for me. To crank out 50,000 words in thirty days means that on average I needed to write 1667 words per day. For authors who write for a living, that’s no big deal. But for me that was a huge stretch, and I learned some valuable lessons.

A standard piece of writing advice is, “Find what works for you and do that.” And just like a lot of advice in general, and writing advice in particular, it’s so simple, and at the same time completely and frustratingly vague.

So here goes, what I learned from NaNoWriMo about what works for me. Your results will vary.

Setting a daily and weekly goal.
I set a goal for the week, taking into account upcoming events and responsibilities. Then I figure out my average daily word count needed to reach that goal. Each week I post my new goal and my success (or lack thereof) for the previous week in a facebook group.

Music.
Until recently, I preferred complete quiet for writing. But around my house, quiet is hard to come by. Also, music with words is extremely distracting to me. So, I bought music from video games – Dragon Age and Halo. I listen when I sit down to write my novel, and when I hear it my brain focuses on the story, and I’m able to ignore background noise wherever I am.

Make the most of non-writing time.
Blocks of uninterrupted time make writing way more productive and satisfying for me. During November there were times when I wanted and needed to write in order to keep up with that crazy 1667 words-per-day goal. But as we all know, there are always unavoidable Things That Must Be Done. I made an effort to take care of business in advance to cut down on interruptions. So for example, I prepared my monthly Slighe nan Gaidheal treasurer report before it was due. While I helped the kids with their homework, I caught up on laundry and other mindless chores. I consciously thought about making the most of my non-writing time to preempt distractions when I did get to sit down and write.

A deer visits my neighbor's yard.

A deer visits my neighbor’s yard.

Also, I learned that worrying-about-not-writing does not help with writing-when-you-finally-can. When I am present in the moment – whether it’s my kids’ birthday party or Thanksgiving dinner or walking with a friend – when I do sit down to write I feel refreshed.

Airplane Mode.
There is some software I’ve heard about called “Freedom” that blocks your computer from accessing the massive distraction that is The Internet. Me, I use Airplane mode on my laptop. I turn on Airplane mode, and bam! No facebook or email or other distractions.

Daydreaming is essential.
I already did a lot of daydreaming. For me it’s sort of like filling the imagination well. But at one point in November I reached the bottom of the well, a point where the story was in a place I hadn’t imagined ahead to. I didn’t know what to write. I had to take a day off from writing just to daydream about the story. So now when I set my writing goals for the week I take daydreaming time into account.

Snow Day! No school.

Snow Day! No school.

So, I “won” NaNoWriMo this year. But more importantly I developed some improved habits and tools.
What writing habits work for you?

Happy Writing.