Category Archives: Writing

Five Things Make a Post

Or something to that effect. That’s how this used to work.

1. I have just signed a contract to work on a second edition of one my books that recently fell out of print after a decade. This is pretty exciting. It’s basically an update, tightening it up and refocusing it a bit for a new audience. It’s due back to the publisher around Easter, and will be (re)released this fall.

2. I am currently working on a different exciting project that I can’t say anything about because it Doesn’t Officially Exist Yet. It came about via networking (in other words, a series of instances where I was referred from one project to another and recommended back and forth); I don’t think I’ve written an actual CV in ages. Anyway, it’s forcing me to develop in a different direction, because (a) it’s scriptwriting, and (b) it’s not traditional scriptwriting. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so grateful for the support of fellow writer-friends who are also scriptwriting people. The scheduling is kind of blowing my mind due to the nature of the project; it’s… weird, and unlike anything else I’ve worked on. I can’t really explain without getting into specifics. This one is due out sometime this spring.

3. Things proceed apace on the three-year series project I’m writing for. A deadline every two weeks; it’s very steady. (If you can count to three you have just realized that I am working on three big things at once, and yes, if I think about it for too long I start to get panicky. For now it’s all balancing out very well, especially since the two most recent projects just revamped their delivery dates.)

4. I gave bullet journaling a try last fall and while it didn’t work for me in the popular trendy BuJo-ing sense, it does work in a simplified sense of keeping all my notes and to-do lists in one place. I just have to remember to take it with me when I walk around the house or go out. Also, it pleases my pretty stationery/fountain pen/office supply side.

5. Yesterday I saw my doctor for a follow-up to the increased dosage of my medication that she initialized a month ago. While I am generally feeling better, I told her that I wasn’t convinced this was the long-term solution for me because of other effects it was having. My doctor agreed; she said that those side effects wouldn’t fade, and that she’d been thinking of proposing a switch to a different, newer medication anyway. So three days of a half-dose of my current medication, seven days off completely to clear it out of my system, then two weeks of a half-dose of the new one, then increase to the full dose… it’s going to be a rough four weeks. And then it’s going to take four to six weeks for the new medication to settle, too. (For those of you keeping score… why, yes, this time period does overlap with working on three projects at once, two of them large and with Significant Deadlines.)

Thank goodness winter is almost over. Things will get easier in general to deal with as spring rolls in. WInter just takes so much energy to cope with.

Still In Moderate Disbelief

One of Sparky’s friends came up to him the other day and said, “Hey, hasn’t your mum written books?”

To which Sparky said, “Yeah, I think she’s written two or three.” (Six, kid. Not counting the anthology. Please keep up. The shelf with all of them is right outside your bedroom door.)

So the kid searched, and came back with huge eyes. “Your mum is on Google! She’s everywhere!”

Nice thought, but no, I’m not. Not the way you make it sound, anyway. An author’s name will pull up links to their books being sold all over the place.

This fall, something totally different will come out with my name on it. While I’ve mainly worked in commercial publishing as writer, editor, and copyeditor, I’ve also worked in the video games industry a few times. Names in game credits are harder point at. But this fall, a project that intersects my two fields is launching.

Right now I’m just really tired, because of crazy deadlines and schedule. But each day when I open my Work folder of bookmarks and click on this particular link for research, I still get a little cooled-out shiver of Is this actually my life right now?

And that is good. As long as I’m still excited about what I’m doing, then I’m doing the right thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world this fall. It’s probably going to confuse the heck out of people who only know me from my titles about alternative spirituality. But I’m allowed to have different areas of interest, and to apply my professional skills to those different subjects. It’s part of what makes me an interesting person, right?

Digging Out

Look at that, it’s been two months since I posted an update on, well, anything. (ED: I have since noticed there was a draft of an April 12 post sitting in the drafts folder for over a month, so that’s been posted.) I promised myself I was going to at least post one round-up a week, and yeah, that’s really not happening. There’s a reason.

Remember back in late 2004/early 2005, when I was contracted to write my first two books, and the deadline for each was three months? Good times. (No, actually, they weren’t. For the first book, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, falling asleep at my computer, and I don’t remember much of that time because everything was either writing or sleeping. And for the second book, I corrected the page proofs in the hospital after he was born, then sent HRH to a FedEx outlet to courier them back. It certainly wasn’t boring.)

ANYWAY. I’ve done it again. Or rather, I’m doing it again. I love this project fiercely. I’m working with a company I’ve worked with a handful of times before, with a team who is phenomenal, on an intellectual property I enjoy. But wow, yes, again with the really super crazy deadline. I’m writing a book in about two and a half months. The publication schedule is insane — the target publication slot is November — and the IP team is already swamped with other projects. I have no idea how they do what they do without falling over dead. They’re superheroes.

My job is to read and absorb a truly terrifying amount of existing material, make sense of it, pull out the most important bits, and write about them. And history — so much history. I am not shy about saying that I’m really good at what I do. However, I do have an absorption threshold, and when I hit it, I can’t sort through all the information I have to condense and present it in an easily digestible manner. It’s like decision paralysis on several levels at once. And because I’m not fully fluent in the IP, having jumped on board only recently, I can’t easily pull out what’s actually important. Things that seem important to me aren’t necessary critical in the overall scheme of things; some stuff that doesn’t jump out at me is actually super important.

I’m learning. And it’s why the IP team reviews my stuff two chapters at a time to say, “Yes, no, we need to tweak this, drop this part, this bit needs a lot more exploration.”

So, that’s why I haven’t been around so much. All available writing energy is being used up elsewhere. The last part of the first draft is being handed in around June 1, so I may have more time then? But rewrites. So probably not.

Catching Up

[Good grief. This has been sitting in a drafts folder since April 12.]

I had a concert. It was brilliant. The Grieg piano concerto was fantastic, and the Schubert ninth symphony was better than I expected it to be. (It was also REALLY LOUD.) Right up to the week before the concert I was still thinking I should have dropped out at the beginning of this rehearsal session when I was having so much difficulty with the material; I’m glad I stuck with it. Next: my recital in June, and then the Canada Day concert.

Yesterday I had my second meeting with the team I’m working with on this project. It was just as excellent as the first one was. We reviewed the first two chapters I’d written, and the feedback was so positive. It’s really nice to be so comfortable. The packaging guy was in town for this one, and it was good to meet him too; he said a coupe of very complimentary things about how I was functioning in the meeting and how pleased he was that the team had coalesced so well. And he suggested that if I was interested, if there were any projects that came across his desk that he thought I’d be good for, that he could call me. (Yes! Yes, please do that!)

The team sent me home with swag for the family, too. It was heavy to haul home — there’s just over half an hour of walking involved in my commute to and from downtown for these in-person meetings — but everyone here was delighted. In theory the two huge hardcover books are for my reference use, but HRH buried himself in one right away because it was directly applicable to something he’s doing right now.

We outlined the fifth and sixth sections of the book, so now I have the second and third to cover and have these two on the horizon as well. I am hitting the right tone and level of detail they want, which is good to know; I wanted to have this review meeting of the first two chapters I finished rough drafts of before going into the next set, just in case I was really missing the point somehow.

In non-work news, I am finally going to get to Rhinebeck, which is an enormous fleece and fibre festival in mid-October. (The actual name of it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, but no one calls it that.) Ceri, Megan, and I and a bunch of my online mums group are going to meet there; we’re all renting a house for the weekend! (A few houses, actually; people kept saying they were going to go, too, and more houses had to be booked. It’s crazy, and so exciting.) It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, and my phone already knows how to autocorrect Rhinebeck to RHINEBECK, all caps; that’s how exciting it is. For some reason I thought Rhinebeck was much further away. Google tells me it’s just about four hours. That’s not taking border-crossing times into account, but still — that’s closer than driving to visit my parents. And there’s a Rhinebeck thing; people knit sweaters to wear while there. So I am going to knit a sweater. An easy one, mind you, but a real sweater. Once this book is done, that is. I’ve already swatched two different yarns, even, and know which one I’ll be using.

Cello, work, yarn stuff. That’s a pretty decent summary of what’s been going on.

Ten Years

It’s been ten years this month since my first book came out. It seems only right that I use the icon that HRH drew of me taking a bow after a G&S show for this post, yes? I probably don’t take enough bows. I’m shy like that.

It’s been an interesting ride these past ten years, and I like where my career has gone along the way.

I’ve worked in the book business since my very first part-time job at the local children’s bookstore. I went from there to working at (and then managing) the local F/SF bookstore, then working in the local metaphysical bookstore. I ‘retired’ from the retail aspect and did writing, data entry, and ordering for the metaphysical store, until the owner forwarded me a letter from one of the large publishing companies we purchased from. They were looking for someone with an English degree who was experienced in writing, the book business, and the new age market. “They’re looking for YOU!” she told me with excitement, and encouraged me to send in my CV and an introductory letter. The publisher was astonished that someone out there actually existed who matched their criteria perfectly, and invited me to sign on as a consultant as they established a new age imprint. I got to help define the imprint’s mission statement, help develop a plan and schedule, help vet proposals, and do tech reviews of the finished manuscripts. After rescuing an unfinished manuscript that also featured plagiarism (longtime readers know how I feel about that particular subject), the editor in charge of the imprint asked me to write the next book in the series. I did, and then I wrote another right on its heels at their request.

I was pregnant when that first book came out, unknowingly only a couple of weeks away from giving birth to Sparky. (Ahead of schedule… gosh, a lot happened in those four weeks; we moved a week after it came out, too. I corrected the page proofs for the second book in the hospital. And I had a delivery deadline for my third book the next month, as well. Good grief.) I remember walking into the new age store after they’d called to tell me it had arrived, and seeing a full-sized poster of the front cover mounted on foam board proudly displayed on a table among piles of that first book. It was slightly surreal to see my name that large on anything. And then the second one came out only four months later.

In ten years I wrote about alternative spirituality, practicing nature-based spirituality in urban areas, home and hearth-based practice, edited an anthology of firsthand experiences of discovering alternative spirituality, approaching pregnancy from the point of view of earth-based spirituality, and the spiritual associations of birds. I oversaw the development and editing of two new age series. I worked with some wonderful, wonderful editors, one of whom introduced me to other departments within the publishing company who gave me rewriting/repurposing work, and, ultimately, my current position as a copy editor.

People ask me sometimes when my next book is coming out, and honestly… I like what I’m doing right now. Writing a book takes an tremendous amount of energy and time, and because when I do something I want to do it right, the per-hour fee ends up being below minimum wage when I take into account the number of hours it takes to produce a manuscript I am satisfied with. Copy editing is more lucrative, frankly, and more immediately gratifying. I am one of those weird people who adores copy editing. I like knowing why a comma is necessary, or why it should be taken out. I like being able to tweak the punctuation or syntax in a sentence to clarify its meaning. I take a stupid amount of pride in being able to use a hyphen, en dash, or em dash correctly. I love finessing a paragraph to focus the author’s point, querying to make sure I grasped what they were trying to say. (The answer is almost invariably yes, oh yes, and thank you.) I have the kind of mind that remembers how an author phrased or formatted something seventy pages ago, and I can make sure every instance of a phrase or instruction is presented the same way each time. I have a sixth sense for a wonky fact that needs to be checked. I have a not-so-secret crush on the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And I really like being able to put it all out of my mind when I’ve closed the document and walked away to pick the kids up from school, which I was never able to successfully do while writing on a book contract, and that stressed me out a lot. Add to this the fact that the new age market really shrank about four or five years ago, and, well… at this point in time, I’ve said everything I want to say in a book. (Would I like to produce a book on parenting from an earth-based spirituality POV? Absolutely, but while I like how my kids are turning out, I still feel like I’m flailing around when it comes to parenting, and I couldn’t do it with enough confidence.)

I still get messages from people thanking me for being their introduction to alternative spirituality, for giving them a name to what they felt or believed, for letting them know they’re not alone, and they all mean a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I love what I’m doing right now, and I wouldn’t chose to do anything else at the moment.

This does not preclude writing on the side, of course. I almost had a new book gig this spring, actually, except they wanted me to write it on a crazy deadline, and my current contract with the game studio takes precedence. Not knowing how much work would be coming or precisely when, I couldn’t take on a book contract in good faith. I do have almost-finished novels lying about that I would like to poke at, finished ones that need rewrites, and I have started a new one for the first time in a few years, writing longhand with a fountain pen in a notebook. (It just felt wrong to try to start it on the computer, and if a story will cooperate in another easily accomplished way… well then, story, here is a Parker fountain pen and some J Herbin ink; come and play.)

Ten years. The traditional gift material for a tenth anniversary is tin; maybe I should buy a new fountain pen to celebrate. (I also see that the modern equivalent is diamond jewellery, which just makes me laugh a lot. Seriously? I’d prefer a new fountain pen.)

Thank you to everyone who has been around for this ride so far. To single a few people out (which is always dangerous because one feels dreadful if one misses someone important), I will name Ron, of course; Ceri, who kept me company on writing jams while I wrote that first book, and provided tea and sanity checks; Debra, who gave me the publisher’s contact request for the consultant in the first place; Silver, who told me I could do it, and to stick to my guns when negotiating for future titles and deadlines; Scarlet and Robyn and all the Melange Magique staff who were excited for me, stocked the book, and hand sold it; and all my lovely editors, especially Andrea, who fought long and hard on my behalf during her time as my last editor. Thank you to booksellers and readers, to reviewers and interviewers, and all my friends who encouraged me, came to book launches, and have my books on their shelves, even if they’ve never read them and never intend to. You are all wonderful, and there would be no point in doing this, if not for you all.

Behind the Scenes

Apart from the thrill of working on something tremendously cool and with someone whose work I admire, I’m really appreciating being a part of the writing team on this video game project. Put that way, as my contract does, it makes me sound much more involved than I actually am, doesn’t it? (My contract also stipulates that I must be available for promotion, interviews, conferences, and anything else they deem necessary for marketing purposes… at which point I snickered a lot, because who is going to want the copy editor’s point of view around game launch time? “Tell us, how does the insertion of a comma here or the use of a proper em dash instead of a double hyphen subtly affect gameplay? How is that experience deepened and made more impactful for the player?”)

What I particularly appreciate about this, however, is reading the story.

I suck at video games. My brain doesn’t seem to work the way games expect a player’s brain to work, and it makes for a very frustrating experience. So all this time I’ve been perceiving video games as these horrendous blocks of weird puzzle-solving or monster-slaying, of fighting with the controller to try to get it to do with what I think it wants me to do, and ending up just walking away. I have several friends who are writers within the video game industry and who talk about the storylines and dialogue, and while I have known that logically, this is what makes a player care enough to move on to the next challenge and advance the story, I have not experienced it personally.

So working on this script, even peripherally, has given me a wonderful opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m following a story, an actual narrative, with none of the gameplay that makes me crash and burn. In fact, the gameplay is often noted by a single sentence between square brackets in the script. (That’s right; the thing that takes you three hours to play through can be a single sentence in the script, because it’s not handled by the scriptwriting team. Different people entirely take care of that.)

I get to read a story involving certain characters, protagonists and antagonists, and it amazes me that the scriptwriting team can demonstrate so much about individual characters within so many constraints. The story of this particular game has to unfold and advance, but on a more focused level, the story of these specific characters also develops and advances. And on a broader level, the story of the overall franchise has to further develop and advance, as well. It absolutely fascinates me that all this can be done through dialogue. And spare dialogue, at that; spare in the sense of being brief, not the sense of being extra. There’s nothing extra here: character-building moments have to do double duty, advancing the story or delivering key information to the player at the same time. It’s incredibly interesting to observe, especially if I have the chance to follow a scene or set of scenes that undergoes a major rewrite.

And in unrelated work news, I’ve been handling some other projects in my off hours. I just finished working on a STEM book, which needed heavy, heavy editing, and I kind of burnt myself out on it. My current project is a homeschooling book, which is a peach of a manuscript; it’s so very tidy and perfect, so perfect that my attention wanders away while I read it, because there are no errors to trip me up. I have to keep bringing myself back and refocusing!

Oh Look, It’s the End of February

And really, March 1 cannot come too soon.

I don’t have the energy for full paragraphs. Let’s do a point-form post.

My first two weeks on the video game project are done. So far I am enjoying it.

In my off time I handled my first project of the new year for the publisher. It was a Star Wars book. Yet again my geeky hoard of trivia proves useful! (Here’s a tip for you: The term ‘Jedi’ is a singular plural. One Jedi, two Jedi, many Jedi. Never Jedis. Never. LOOK, I CAN BE GEEKY ON MULTIPLE LEVELS HERE! AND PEOPLE PAY ME FOR IT!)

I started my free month-long trial of subscribing to Scribd for e-books and audiobooks. All things Agatha Christie have been converging in my life, and I decided to subscribe to an audiobook service so I could listen to her books while I spin or knit, but I find Audible very expensive for what it is. Scribd is $8.99 a month and offers unlimited access to a tonne of audiobooks, and e-books, too, so I went that route. (Bonus, I discovered: comics and graphic novels. Awesome.)

I am knitting a hat for a swap, and I am arguing with it. I have already ripped it back twice, and I suspect I will do it again. I just don’t know if I will try the pattern a third time, or give up on the decorative stitch part and simply knit it straight, then add a little something to it afterward. That kind of feels like cheating or giving up, but it may save my sanity. Ceri pointed out that the pattern isn’t hard but it’s tricky, which can be just as frustrating in a different way, and she has a point. Add that to the fact that I can’t knit anything more complicated than basic stockinette or garter in a room where there are other people, and there is a problem. It doesn’t help that the deadline for mailing is in one week. I could have been done by now if I hadn’t decided I really wanted to spin the yarn for this project. (But I did, and it’s terribly nice to knit with, I must say.)

I’ve started spinning more yarn for Mum’s beautiful silk/cashmere/Merino wrap. She’s getting close to the end of the stuff I made for her in 2013, and it’s not long enough, even taking into account the length blocking will add. I am so glad I took good notes about how I made the initial yarn.

One month till the chamber orchestra’s spring concert. That’s… soon. (Saturday 21 March, 7:30 PM at Valois United church. Mark your calendars. It’s a lovely programme.)

Yeah, Owlet’s post is late. That’s par for the course these days.

We had a lovely little Valentine’s Day tea party for our goddaughters, and it was so much fun. We finally got to use the half-size china teacups I bought Owlet for her first birthday for the kids. There were several courses of delicious tea-type foodstuffs, excellent company, and it was just a lovely day all around.

I got a new fountain pen; a Noodler’s Ahab in the colour Ahab’s Pearl. It’s a flex nib, and I’ve been really wanting to try a flex nib. It’s got a thick barrel, like my Waterman Kultur. I would have preferred a Konrad or a Nib Creaper, both of which are slimmer, but WonderPens.ca didn’t have them in stock at the time and I had really promised myself a new pen when the big cheque for the math book came in. I inked it with J Herbin’s Vert Empire, and I am smitten. I am also wholly smitten by the converter it came with, and the converters I ordered for my Waterman and Parker pens. I put some Diamine Damson in my extra-fine Sheaffer pen, and it writes so much more smoothly than it did when inked with the Noodler’s #41 Brown. I think the Diamines may be lubricated; I’m not entirely certain.

Okay, that’s enough. Back to work.