Having finished the cherry crow children story (for certain values of finished), I find myself unable to concentrate particularly well. Coherency is not my strong point right now. It's taken me the last three days to pack, in fits and starts and indecisions, for our overnight stay in Sydney this weekend.
So in lieu of intelligent content, I shall share with you the playlist to which I wrote the cherry crow children.
On Saturday I decided I had No More Time. So while the pterosaur did his diligent best to look after Squawk and ensure she didn't try to feed tooooo often, I sat myself down in front of the laptop and deathmarched the cherry crow children story.
I sat down at 10am. There were breaks (Squawk did require feeding, after all, and bathing and putting to bed, and a couple of times my brain required ten minutes to whinge/vent/whine/tantrum/daze out), but by and large it was me and the desk/couch and the laptop and my ipod and the sheer force of my will.
I wrote the ending at 1am. It hurt. I have no actual idea, even today, what is on the page. I can't bear to look. I simply emailed my publisher the attachment accompanied by the sentence: "I have literally not checked the Scrivener export to make sure it's not gibberish."
Yesterday and today, I've been, in the words of Gorey, conscious, but very little more.
Turns out, part of the problem I was having with this story was that I was trying to cram what turned out to be 21,000 words of story into only 12,000 words. (The fact that what I considered to be the inciting incident kept happening at the 7,000 mark should perhaps have been my first clue. When I couldn't collapse that 7,000 down into anything leaner than 2,000? Another clue.)
The other part of the problem, of course, was trying to write around a baby. Who just happened to roll her 3-month and 4-month growth spurts in together, with a head-cold2 in the middle of it all for shits and giggles. Did you know the 4 month growth spurt is renowned for making parents want to walk in front of oncoming traffic? Neither did I. I swear it's like the faeries passed by one night and swapped the baby for a changeling. The effing happiest changeling in the world, who only wants to gaze adoringly at people and make them laugh, but SHE WILL NOT SLEEP. EVER. AGAIN.
If you'll excuse me, I'm afraid I need to collapse now. And then start work on the next story.
In my defense, I would ordinarily hide from the manuscript for at least a week, before doing a final edit, and then maybe even hiding it for another week before handing it in. However, I'm on a tight deadline, and I have my publisher's permission to misbehave just this once. [↩]
A head cold may not sound like much of a problem. But in the shit I never knew department, turns out babies are obligate nose breathers. And if their little nose is too congested to breathe through, not only can they not breathe, they can't feed. Or sleep. They can, however, cry. [↩]
GUYS, (I THINK) I KNOW HOW TO GET TO THE END OF THIS STORY.
I am so relieved. I was beginning to wonder if I didn't have a workable idea at all. Turns out it was simply a case of exhaustion and time poverty. Getting a break on that front has given me the valuable thinking time I needed to get some ideas breeding.1
Now I just need to actually churn the words out (and therein discover precisely how much I still don't know), and hope the story passes muster.
Which is not to say Squawk is sleeping any better. She's not. It's just that during the days she's currently being babysat by her Nanna so I can focus on wordcraft. [↩]
This weekend just past I threw what little clothes that still fit me into a suitcase, remembered my ugg boots, and skedaddled off to Lake Mulwala for a writing retreat. In a move that will haunt me for the rest of my living memory, I forgot my camera. Luckily, othersdidn't.
The lake is actually a dammed-up river, complete with a vista of drowned trees lifting their death-spindled limbs above the water. It's home to a healthy fish population: I never saw any, but late at night when the water was still I heard them, quick and thick and heavy through the air and straight back into the water. It's also home to quite an array of bird life, including pelicans, ducks, cormorants, seagulls, sulphur-crested cockatoos, the tiniest of chittering, swooping swallows,1 and a lone black swan who knew that humans bore bread.
In between contemplating that view (and eating, and chatting, and napping), I worked on the cherry crow children story, and I managed to wring sufficient words out of my brain to call the weekend successful in terms of progress … but I've now also spent all of yesterday and today mulling over where the story's going and what I learnt about Haverny Wood through writing those words, and I think it's time to ditch them all and start a new draft. Truly, counting words is one of the worst, or at least most meaningless, ways of measuring progress on a story. It's just that, often, it's all there is.
It's been far too long since I've indulged in a writers' retreat. Writing can be such an isolating and time-hungry activity — so much so that of late I've taken to spending my Saturdays in a local cafe with some writing friends, in an attempt to combine socialising with productivity. A retreat gives me not only time and space away from the pressures of the dayjob world, new and interesting scenery2 to jog the braincells but also, most important of all, a chance to hang out with people who know what it's like to pound away at the craft of writing simply for the sake of it.
That sort of understanding and camaraderie is priceless and refreshing. Especially since the first person I spoke to on returning home to Melbourne3 summarily dismissed my writing as a hobby in which I indulged "sporadically" in order to "get some alone time". I think I will never cease to be amazed at how much people like jumping to simple, single-reason explanations that let them label and judge others.
I've never seen swallows before — I didn't realise how very tiny they were! [↩]
In this case the scenery was superbly awesome with a twist of melancholy/eerie [↩]
Not the pterosaur, for those quick-jumping minds! [↩]
It’s something I’ve heard at almost every point of wanting and trying to build a writing career: you have to be active on the internet.
…But it comes at a cost. There’s the inevitable time pressure, yes, but then there’s also the noise.
At that time, I was trying very hard to balance my internet time. Not to restrict it, as such, but to make sure I was getting a good signal to noise ratio and — more importantly, for me — make sure I didn't feel guilty for not paying attention when I needed the time apart.
And then I promptly fell off the internet altogether.
I've been reading all my usual streams, and very occasionally tweeting when the mood took me, but mostly I haven't been blogging because, well, Life.
The biggest but simplest attention-occupier has been, of course, my TPP collection deadline. I swore to myself when I was writing Shadow Bound that never again would I sell something I hadn't already written. Now, even at the time, I knew this for an empty promise, but still. The very first thing I did was sell a four-story collection having only written one of them. Er, yeah. The first story of the three I owed, "The Briskwater Mare", came with great difficulty. Much, much difficulty. I wrote 40,000 words of false start before I finally found the story (which ended up being 11,000 words long), and it took me a good two months more than I'd budgeted (and I'd budgeted a lot of slack and generous leeway, because I know my process). Oops.
Luckily, it has, even in draft form, received the stamp of approval for going in to the collection, so now I only owe two more stories. I'm currently working on "The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood" and, er, guess what? Yeah, it's coming with difficulty. So much for hoping the rest of the stories would just pour on out of me, eh? Oh well. I shall valiantly take comfort in the idea that stories which come with great difficulty are because I'm opening a vein or otherwise pushing at the boundaries of my comfort zone. Or something.
I've also, at the editor's request, written a story for an upcoming issue of ASIM. It was perhaps foolish of me to say yes, given I was already stressing over my TPP deadlines, but, well, see above re empty promises and you can extrapolate that to "I'll sell anything I can, and we all know it, right?" Unlike "The Briskwater Mare", this story came without too much trouble, although worryingly it was a rather angry story, instead of the light or humorous or even just sardonic story I was thinking I'd write. Luckily for me, the editor loved it anyway, and all that remained was to edit it (an easy enough task) and come up with a title (a task so fiendish and horrid it had no less than four people staring blankly at walls and blinking at each other, at a complete loss, for months on end). We threw so many suggestions back and forth at each other, all of them plausible and all of them workable but none of them perfect, that I was genuinely beginning to wonder whether I could send a story to print as "Untitled", or some other such meta commentary. But in the end, through gratuitous/desperate wiki'ing of large-scale abstract concepts, a title was found, and it was perfect.
The story shall be called "First They Came…", and it's going to appear in ASIM issue #55, which is due out … well, now-ish, I think.
That's most of the writing/publication news out of the way. There were also other reasons for my silence, most recently due to the Melbourne International Film Festival, during which I decided to see ten films despite a) my deadlines b) my insufficient energy levels and c) Melbourne raining on me every time I left the house.
One I can most heartily recommend is Ernest & Celestine, a charming little story about a mouse who doesn't want to be a dentist and a bear who wants to be a musician. It's just the perfect amount of whimsy and heart-warming, and don't be fooled by the narrative simplicity: there's a very rich world thought out in this one, and although it's never over-explained or harped upon, there's social commentary on the topic of prejudice, ignorance, bigotry and the value we place on various professions.
And speaking of kids, my other, biggest news (which I've oh-so-cleverly buried at the bottom of a very long post where no one will see it) is that I'm going to have one of my own.
It's due around New Years, we decided not to find out the gender until it learnt of the concept of daylight, and the grandmothers-to-be are both beyond excited and into downright agitation.
Twelfth Planet Press is delighted to announce that fantasy author Deborah Kalin has joined the Twelve Planets series with a collection featuring her beautifully horrific story, “Wages of Honey”.
YES, I AM BEING PUBLISHED BY TWELFTH PLANET PRESS!
This is a dream come true for me. Twelfth Planet Press has been producing some breathtaking work, and almost as soon as I heard about the Twelve Planets series I wanted to be a part of it. I still can't quite believe that it's happening.
"The Wages of Honey" (aka the thorn girls story) cost me not a little pain in the making, and ended up at a difficult length. And thank all that's holy that it did, because if it hadn't been so demanding, and so awkward and defiant a length, I might not have loved it so fiercely that only the very best home for it would do. I submitted it to TPP almost in spite of myself: it fit their brief so perfectly that, even though I didn't have any stories to accompany it, and even though TPP didn't publish single stories, and even though the Twelve Planet series was full at that stage, I just had to.
To my delight, Alisa also felt that my story had come home to roost with her press, and so I'm now hard at work writing three more equally awkward and defiant stories to match and accompany "The Wages of Honey" in what will be my first collection.
(I can't believe I just wrote that. I'm going to have a collection to my name! It's like I'm a real author or something!)
I don't have a title for the collection yet, but I can tell you that two of the three in-progress stories have titles. (This is unusual for me, to have a title before a story.)
They're going to be called "The Briskwater Mare", and "The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood".1