A Swirl of Chocolate Published

My latest flash fiction, A Swirl of Chocolate, is now available for reading on 365 tomorrows. This story is a quick little take on the twists and turns of time. Time travel is impossible…or is it? Have a read and, if you feel so inclined, let me know what you think.

I mentioned 365 tomorrows in a previous post on the pros and cons of different places where I’ve tried to publish. Now that I’ve completed the process with them, my opinion hasn’t changed all that much. The biggest pro this site has to offer is the variety of stories they are willing to publish. If you have a piece of flash fiction (<600 words) and aren’t sure what to do with it, they might be worth a try.

However, the biggest con is communication. For me that’s a big one and will likely prevent me from trying these guys again. I had to contact them through twitter to ask about a publishing date. They told me that informing authors when they were expected to be published was too costly.

I find this hard to believe–I mean really, we all have email accounts (and I would have settled for a tweet). I’m only asking for one line: ‘you’re projected publishing date is X.’ Everyone else I’ve worked with seems to manage it so I’m not sure why these guys think they can’t. Anyway, regardless of the cost, I consider open communication to be necessary in any business transaction. In the end, they didn’t even tell me that my story was published today. I only know because I checked the site.

Something else to consider is that they don’t include author bios with their stories. Not that this is a must, but bios give the author a place to tell anyone who likes there story where to find more of their work. Though I’m not a huge fan of writing bios I’ve come to appreciate their benefit.

All that said, it’s nice to have another story out there. I’m happy to add this experience to my repertoire.

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Oh The Power of Indecision

I know I promised to provide more reviews on sites where I’ve published, or attempted to publish short stories online, and I will. First, however, I’m going to discuss my problem with indecision.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to have more than one project on the go at a time. When inspiration isn’t there for one, it might be there for the other. There is, unfortunately, a downside to this approach: Indecision regarding which story to work on at any given time.

At the moment I have two writing goals. One is working ahead on the next few chapters of Dosterra, such that I can actually go back and rethink/edit chapters before publishing them, while keeping up a publishing schedule of one chapter every couple of weeks. The other is writing a short story for a contest on a site called On The Premises.

Generally speaking, Dosterra is the priority — so I should work on that first…but the On The Premises contest does have a deadline (a real one, not a self-imposed one), and I would like to spend enough time on it that I not only finish the story, but actually feel it’s worth submitting at all — so I should work on that first…and so, days go by and I don’t work on either one of them.

I blog instead; that counts as writing, doesn’t it?

Today I actually did buckle down and work on Dosterra, thinking the whole time about how that other story is still in that annoying stage where I have an idea about how I want the story to feel and I’ve created some characters, but it doesn’t have a clear enough shape in my mind to convince me that it will ever fully exist.

I’d love to tell myself that the more I write the less this dilemma will occur. But I know better than that.

Yay! Liebster Award

For favorite blogs with under 200 followers

For favorite burgeoning blogs

A big thanks to Paul Davis for finding your way to my site and nominating me. I really appreciate the support.

 

For those of you, like me, who are hearing about this award for the first time, this is a great way to promote some networking among the blogs that you like, and find some new blogs worth following. Here’s how it works:

1) Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their site.

2) Post 11 things about yourself.

3) Answer the 11 questions posed by the person who nominated you.

4) Pay it forward — Choose 11 blogs, with less than 200 followers, to nominate and send them a comment to let them know they’ve been nominated. No tag backs.

5) Come up with 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

Why 11? I have no idea, but I love that it’s not a round number.

Finally, you can put the Liebster crest, or one of the other pics out there, on your page.

So here we go…

 

11 Things About Me:

1) I am Sci Fi geek. My favorites include: Star Trek – all the movies (favorite: First Contact), every series (favorite: Voyager,  need alcohol to watch the original series); Stargate SG1Doctor Who; Torchwood (loved series 1-3, not so much series 4); Eureka (sad to see it go); Warehouse 13; Firefly (Not fair! Fans, you know what I mean–loving Castle though. Way to go, Nathan). In my younger days I watched Sliders, The Outer Limits, and many others.  Yes, more television than books. Though always a reader and sci fi lover, those interests didn’t really merge until later in life. Of course I’ve since read Asimov, Alistair Reynolds, etc, etc.

2) I also read about actual science. Or at least the various theories and hypotheses out there. Big Bang vs Cyclic Universe vs Plasma Cosmology. I find things like quantum physics equal parts cool and confusing. The more I read the more I realize how fuzzy the line is between Science and Fiction–the beauty of writing fiction is that I can blur the line as much as I want to.

3) I’m not big into poetry but I love Robert Service. Not entirely sure why his work stands out to me, maybe just because I remember having an illustrated version of The Cremation of Sam McGee when I was a kid.

4) My favorite children’s book is The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton. I also love Dr. Seuss.

5) Above Star Trek reference aside, when I think of William Shatner I think ‘host of Rescue 911′ (another childhood favorite) before ‘Captain Kirk’.

6) I love music. I play tenor sax, guitar, and piano. I’m no superstar at any of them, but they enrich my life and I’m thankful that my parents put me in piano lessons way back when (even though the lessons themselves didn’t last 😛 ).

7) I tend towards individual sports over team sports. Mostly swimming, skiing, and running. I like being active, but I’m not really competitive–well not in sport. Arguments are another matter.

8) I love rain and snow, but hate driving in them.

9) I like to see the humour in things as much as possible (I’ll admit I’m not always successful). I think humour opens up subjects we may otherwise avoid. And no subject should be avoided. Plus, life is just more fun when you’re laughing. Many people criticize sarcasm for various reasons, but I think it is a wonderful tool and use it often. Being direct is good too, just not as much fun.

10) I like people, but crowds exhaust me.

11) Nothing is more relaxing for me than a hot bath. Especially with a glass of wine within reach.

 

11 Questions from Paul Davis:

1) If you could be a supernatural creature, which would you be?

No specific creature comes to mind, but I’ve always wanted to be telekinetic. Breathing underwater would be cool too.

2) What weapon would you use if you were in a combat oriented novel? Guns, swords, maces, all are welcome.

I’d be all about martial arts/unarmed combat, but might consider adding swords to the mix.

3) What is your favorite genre and why?

Pretty much anything that falls under the sci fi umbrella. Less so pure Fantasy.

4) What genre can you not stand and why?

Can’t say there’s any genre that I can’t stand, but I currently avoid anything with a vampire on the cover. I liked vampire stories when I was younger, so this aversion may pass as the fad dies down.

5) What do you put on a burger? We’re getting close to lunch….

Mmmm…I will never be a vegetarian. At least not by choice. Usually cheese, ketchup, mustard, onion, and pickles.

6) If you had to pick wealth, fame, or love (from a lover, we’ll say you have a very loving family), which one and why?

Love. I like shopping, but don’t love it, so wealth beyond a decent living would be lost on me (not that I’d turn it down mind you). Fame would lead to more of the aforementioned crowds that exhaust me. Though it would be nice for enough people to know about me that I could make that decent living as an author–I’d be willing to put up with a few crowds to that end.

7) Who is the most influential writer to you and why?

Steven Moffat, along with other writers I’ve seen interviewed on Doctor Who Confidential (yes I’m that much of a geek). While watching this behind-the-scenes show I got my first real glimpse at the genesis of a good story (I never studied creative writing in school). The writers talked about where their ideas came from and how a plot evolved, sometimes in a completely different way from what they originally imagined, etc. I realized the way their imaginations worked wasn’t so different from mine. For some reason this was my light-bulb moment: wait a minute, I could do that.  I single out Steven Moffat because I quickly realized that all of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who had been written by him. Then I went on to watch other creations of his (Jekyll, and Sherlock–which reminds me: Mark Gatiss, also awesome) and loved those too. And, no one can craft a good villain like Steven Moffat.

8) You get locked in a friend’s bathroom and have to wait for a locksmith to get you out. You have an hour. What do you do?

Take five minutes to snoop through the medicine cabinet, then lose myself in my own head–hopefully coming up with a good story to write down later.

9) What music do you listen to while writing? Why does that music inspire you?

I don’t listen to music while writing. I’ll end up focusing on the music instead of the writing. I do sometimes listen to a recording of rain sounds, especially if there is other noise in the house that I want to block out.

10) Who is the most supportive person in your life for your writing pursuits?

My husband. He’s amazing.

11) What is one word you write over and over again, and every time it sets off spell check?

Colour, Humour, Neighbour, and any other word that the ‘US English’ spell check thinks should end in ‘or’ instead of ‘our’. I tenaciously stick to the ‘our’ ending anyway because I like the look of it better.

 

11 Nominations for the Liebster Award:

Whether I came across their work elsewhere and traced it back to their blog, or stumbled across them some other way, the blogs below are ones that, right away, made me think ‘Yep, I like it here.’ In no particular order, I nominate:

Marcia Colette

Vinci Writes

Poof Books

Commas, Characters and Crime Scenes

Manuscript Haven

In The Pines

Mail by Sea

Amanda C. Davis

Phenderson Djèlí Clark

Unpublished and Unpaid

A Writers Notepad

 

I pose the following 11 questions to my nominees:

1) What prompted you to start your blog?

2) What was your favorite subject in school?

3) How do you start your day?

4) Do you have any pets?

5) Do you play a musical instrument?

6) Who stands out as someone —teacher/mentor/parent/friend/etc—who had a particularly positive influence on you when you were young?

7) Name something that makes you feel good just by thinking about it.

8) What do you do to relax/unwind?

9) What is your drink of choice? (Whether alcoholic or non).

10) Name three favorite items in your home. Anything, big or small.

11) Name a character—from a book, movie, tv show, wherever—who you strongly identified with.

 

And that’s it. I can’t wait to see how everyone answers. Have fun!

 

The Ticking Clock

Every aspiring writer (or anyone with a personal goal of any kind for that matter) has the same problem. I don’t mean that all of our problems are the same, of course they are not, but with the potential exception of the fully-actualized human being (if such a creature exists) we all share one problem in common. You know the one.

We feel the urge to procrastinate, and the longer we do it the worse the feeling gets. All the while the clock ticks. Before you know it, it’s supper time. Oops, where’d the day go?

We comb books and blogs (and there are a ton of them on the subject) for quick fixes. We look for that technique that, if we could only find it and master it, would solve the problem. Though we know that no such thing exists, we keep looking and over time find puzzle pieces here and there that add to the picture of our own individual ‘block’ and what works for us to overcome it.

A puzzle piece fell into place for me while reading a particular passage, from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, called We’re All Pros Already.

The War of Art looks at the urge to procrastinate (he refers to it as ‘Resistance’, an apt name) and how to deal with it from many different angles. This particular passage is a reminder that not only do you have the skills you need to push through the but-I-really-don’t-want-to feeling, but if you’ve ever had a job, or any responsibility for that matter, you already know how to use them.

I am very glad that a friend handed this book to me (thank you C.E.). It’s one of those rare finds where I knew from the first page that it was worth my while. Whether reading it when I should be writing actually counts as ‘Resistance’…well, I won’t go there.

It occurred to me that back when I had what some would consider a ‘real job’ I was not defeated by procrastination the way I am now. Not that I didn’t procrastinate, I did. But when it came down to it, not only did the work always get done, I was even efficient. Whereas now I struggle to complete a to-do list full of tasks I really want to do, back then I was actually one of those people capable of handing in a project before the deadline—even though I might abhor the task set before me. Discounting my first two years of university that is, which brings be to my next point.

Sometimes we have to relearn lessons. If you don’t use it, you lose it. After reflecting on the differences between my approach to work then and my approach now, I came up with the following list of changes, or backslides, in my attitude.

One

Now: But I like writing (running, swimming, french, piano, insert self-improvement activity here) it shouldn’t be this painful. Maybe it’ll be easier tomorrow (on the weekend, after the holidays, when the weather improves etc, etc).

Then: If it sucks now it’ll still suck later, just get it over with; then at least I can stop agonizing over it (I know it sounds cynical, but it’s also accurate).

Lesson: It’s ok to be uncomfortable. Yeah, nine years in the military and I still had to relearn this, sheesh. Possibly I forgot this one on purpose. Anyway…though the ultimate goal for us all may be to attain a psychological state where getting started on a task isn’t painful or scary—a state I believe you can get closer and closer to, but never actually reach—in the meantime it will be uncomfortable. Suck it up. It won’t kill you (if it will, disregard and rethink your course of action) and you might even feel good afterwards. Or during, I’ve often been surprised by how much I can enjoy just about any task once I’m on a roll.

Two

Now: Staring at task A. I should be doing B by now. I should have started this sooner. Maybe if I just got C out of the way. No, C will take too long. Maybe I don’t have time to do all of these before X. I’m hungry. What time is it? Crap! It’s been half an hour already.

Then: Make list (in head, on paper, doesn’t matter). Pick item. Do it. Maybe I don’t have time to do all of this before X; at least this one will be done (half done, outlined, anything is better than nothing).

Lesson: Focus on this task for as long as you are doing it. Then move on to the next one and keep plugging. There are various ways to approach this: 1) Priorities: If I could only get one thing done today what would it be? Do it first. 2) It will take as long as it takes: I’d rather get one thing done today than start five things. Conversely, 3) Pick a time: I will work on A until (5min from now, an hour from now, 5:30pm at which time I must get in the shower if I’m to be ready to go out on time). Take note, set a timer, whatever you need to do. Now relax, you don’t have to think about it again until the deadline arrives. Then move on to the next thing. Not finished? So what?

Three

Now: Not sure how to do this, I might screw it up….stuck.

Then: Not sure how to do this, I might screw it up. Ok. If I screw up then I’ll know better for next time.

Lesson: It won’t be perfect; do it anyway. Once it’s out there in the world you can learn from the feedback. If you finish with time to spare, even better. Your brain will continue to chew on it while you do other things. The brain is cool like that, give it the time and likely it will formulate improvements you couldn’t see while looking too closely. If you can’t finish early, that’s ok too. Better to have a finished product with room for improvement than ten never-finished-because-they-weren’t-perfect products.

Four

This takes a lot of practice. It is one that I have learned, forgotten, relearned, and forgotten again… and again…and again…

Lesson: What’s done is done, relax and get over it (closely linked to the above mentioned “you’ll know better for next time”). This generally works best if you have a time of day when you mentally shift gears and let all the crap go. This could be when you walk in the door in the evening, when you’re in the shower, yoga class, anything that works for you. The important thing is to practice it regularly. Note that I said ‘relax’ then ‘let it go’, not the other way around. I think that what a lot of people don’t realise is that the relaxing comes first. Not after the novel is finished, or the kitchen is renovated, or everyone’s had some time to forget how much I screwed up X, Y, or Z. Relax first and the letting it go part will come naturally.

You may be thinking wait a sec I thought we were talking about procrastination, not meditation. How many times, whilst procrastinating, have you found yourself thinking of your past failures? Or how disappointed you are with how long your current project is taking you and the road bumps you’ve hit with it so far?

That’s what I thought.

I am currently relearning all of these lessons and many more. Feel free to join me.

Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2012 — Now Available for Download!

Ok sci fi fans and writers, Mad Scientist Journal has just published their anthology for Autumn 2012. You can find it here on Smashwords, along with their previous anthologies, in a number of formats including HTML, Kindle, Epub, PDF, LRF, and Palm Doc (PDB). This anthology is a compilation of the essays published on the Mad Scientist Journal website throughout Autumn 2012.

Giving a little more bang for the buck–literally, the cost for the download is only 99 cents–it also has some exclusive content like a quirky classifieds section (from the world of Mad Science), including an ad written by yours truly entitled  Experienced Osteo-transplant Specialist Seeks Work, and four short fiction works that are not confined to the usual Mad Science theme.

Sample viewing is available in most formats for free.

The Cavern now published on Every Day Fiction

Hello everyone,

Back in early November I responded to a prompt from the daily flash fiction site Every Day Fiction looking for holiday themed stories. I sat down for and afternoon and came up with The Cavern a winter solstice themed story that is available for free starting today on their website. It’s a quick and easy read. Check it out and don’t be afraid to leave comments/ratings.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Mabel’s Mission: Coming to Mad Scientist Journal

Mad Scientist Journal, which I praised in a recent post as the coolest e-zine I’ve found so far, will be publishing my short story Mabel’s Mission on their website. Date TBD. I’ll certainly update with that info when I have it.

In the meantime I suggest checking out other stories on their site. If you like your fiction on the fun-quirky-oddball side, then this e-zine is up your ally — and hopefully you’ll enjoy Mabel’s adventure with human experimentation, diving with water-breathing people, and multicoloured beavers — yup beavers.