2023: the year of the Fae

It’s been a YEAR. I got invited to send a collection of short stories to the Moon with the Lunar Codex, which kickstarted my newsletter (which is still very humble, but if you’d like to sign up, you can click here). My first ever poem publication came out in Issue 5.2 of Augur Magazine, entitled Mother/Murder.

And somewhere around the finishes touches of my Borrowed Wings and other Stories collection for Lunar Codex, I decided it was time to apply for artist’s grant from artsnb (Arts New Brunswick of Canada). The main reason for this was because the Lunar Codex had given me a boost of confidence that temporarily quieted my raging imposter syndrome. I had an idea for a novel that was timely, that fascinated me, and seemed like it would be an appropriate project.

Off I went, deciphering the mysterious ins and outs of the application process with a LOT of help from my writer friends Julian M. Smith, Peter J. Foote, Matthew Ledrew, and artist Bella McBride. I’m confident in saying that I could not have done this on my own.

This application ate up most of September and then it was off. I told myself that if all that work gave me was the knowledge of the process to try again next time, that was fine, but I kept this secret longing to write that book. It was hard to wait, but soon I was lost in the first draft of Book 1 of my fantasy trilogy idea, my imposter syndrome came back, and I tried not to worry about that grant too much.

I started writing freelance fiction, which started out as a strange new world, but then I quickly landed a decent and steady contract writing fiction full time (albeit temporarily). This introduced a whole new level of discipline into my routine, and made me pinch myself more than once. A writer, getting paid by THE HOUR. What sorcery is this?

Like I said, it’s been a year. The last six months have been amazing.

And I’m a little sad to see a good year close because the last few before this one? Yikes. But, as this year started winding down, I heard back about that grant:

So 2023? That’s going to be the year I take a deep dive into this wild Fae book I’m so glad I get to write. Inside these pages, I’m going to be exploring connections between recent technology and fairy folklore and this is going to be such a wild ride. I’m thrilled and humbled by the writers and artists who helped me with my application and with the artsnb jury who believed in my story idea and also me as a writer.

This project, The Fae in the Machine, is going to figure greatly in my upcoming newsletters. If you’d like to join me in this journey, I’d love to have you. You can sign up here and you’ll get an e-copy of my Lunar Codex collection, Borrowed Wings and other Stories, to read at your leisure.

Happy New Year everybody, make it a wonderful one.

Teeth of the Lion

I’m thrilled to write that my story, Teeth of the Lion, has been published in the latest issue of Abyss and Apex. You can click here to read it now, along with many other wonderful stories.

This market is one of my favorites and I’m so pleased to finally place a story with them. Granted, Teeth of the Lion is a bit of a weirdling, possibly of a genre I might call ‘dandelionpunk,’ and I may have jokingly referred to it as ‘dandelion erotica’ when I shared it with my critique partners. I’m exaggerating, but I’ll let you be the final judge. Give it a read here.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Stories are Going to the Moon!

Everything has been confirmed, so it’s finally time to tell you my big news. I’ve been invited to archive a collection of my published short stories in a time capsule on the Moon!! My collection is going to be included in the Polaris Capsule sent to the Moon by Lunar Codex as part of the Astrobotic Griffin Mission 1 to the Lunar South Pole planned for late 2024.

The Lunar Codex is the first project where work by women is archived on the Moon, the Polaris Capsule is the third of the Lunar Codex capsules, and I am the first recorded New Brunswick author to be included in the Lunar Codex. Eek!! I’m so pleased to introduce you to Borrowed Wings and Other Stories:

There is a tonne of time consuming work involved with sending a capsule to the Moon, so I’ve been busy getting my collection together before the August 31st (2022) deadline. Yes, that’s a long wait till launch. I plan to release a Terrestrial Edition in print and ebook with extra stories and a special novelette closer to the late 2024 launch, but for now I’ve decided to offer the Lunar Edition of Borrowed Wings and Other Stories as a free ebook to anyone who signs up for my new monthly newsletter about magic and wonder: Enchanted Side Quests. That’s right, I finally got my newsletter up and running. Feel free to make jokes that it took the Moon to make it happen, I deserve them.

Click here to sign up and get your copy.

Once you’re signed up, you’ll get your ebook download links right away. I won’t use your email for anything except for the monthly newsletters and the Mailerlite system I’m using has a good reputation.

honestly, I’m just including this promo image because it made me laugh

Needless to say, it’s been a wild month around here. When I first got the Lunar Codex invite I sat around in shock for a bit, not really believing any of this was real. Then I started getting excited about what stories I would choose to send the Moon (there’s more on that in the Introduction to Borrowed Wings). I ordered a cover. Someone recommended Scrivener to me and that seemed like a good interface to arrange the stories into some sort of order, so I started learning that program. Then… came compile.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to compile something in Scrivener, or had a friend that warned you off of it, but. It did not go well. Part of me wonders if it had been September when I tried this, and it wasn’t me trying to learn software in between getting snacks and fetching toys for the kids, it might have gone better. I blew my (non-existent) budget for this project on the cover, so buying Atticus or Vellum at this point wasn’t an option. Someone had already offered to use their Atticus to do it for me, but I, a fool, wanted to figure this out for myself, at least once.

Nine days later, the book was finally compiled. I’ll spare you the details, except to say I reached a determined, calm state of plodding through one issue at a time that surprised me. My author friend and crit partner Peter J. Foote is a damn saint for the help he offered. My grand plans of turning my book in early were all smashed, but I’m so very glad I had that extra time before the deadline.

The cover situation wasn’t going the way I thought, mainly because I got bored one day, played around with making my own cover, and fell in love with it. Which made the cover I ordered look pretty dull in comparison. Apparently the only thing to do in this situation was to download Krita and watch a thousand youtube videos to figure out how to make passable typography. Because that’s logical? The thing is, I had so much fun working on the cover that it was a decent foil for the compile stress and – I want to learn more. For what it’s worth, I did pay for the cover that I ordered, the artist did the work I asked of them and it’s not their fault I have a weakness for pretty moths.

By the time the book was compiled, I’d pretty much made up my mind that it was time to launch the newsletter I’ve been putting off. Here was a ready-made reader magnet and a decent marketing strategy all laid out for me. It was time.

Did I squeal when I saw this in the promo images file at Book Brush? Yes, yes I did.

This I couldn’t have done without Peter, either. I was burnt out juggling summer activities and new-to-me software, and somehow in a flurry of bored kids I lost the instruction page for the newsletter software and was left wading through search engines without any of the jargon I needed to know to find what I needed. A week off might have helped, but in lieu of that Peter demystified everything and helped me find my way. I’ll make it up to him someday, somehow.

Today Enchanted Side Quests is launched and I’m excited about it. I have several ideas for fun ways to incorporate my latest non-writing obsessions (hence the Side Quests part of the name) into the newsletter and I’ve got this newfound confidence in myself as a capable human being from this past month’s experience.

I’m blown away by the amount of resources available for indie authors today as well – when I self-pubbed The Incredibly Truthful Diary of Nature Girl more than a decade ago, I had a word processor and photo editing program that google gave up on years back. Maybe there was more, but it wasn’t visible to me back then, just a few back alleys in the NaNoWriMo forums and some blogger dot com sites. Things have changed and I’m glad I had this chance to discover what’s out there and re-evaluate what’s possible. I think I have more adventures ahead with these tools.

Anyway, this blog post is quickly turning into a novel, so I should probably wrap this up. I hope you sign up for Enchanted Side Quests because I’d love to send you the ebook of Borrowed Wings and Other Stories. This site isn’t going anywhere, though it probably will pick up one of those sign-up pop-up windows over the next month; they kind of annoy me but I do see their function.

Okay, one more silly promo image for the road:

it’s not even an ebook, but look at that Pupper

To the next adventure!

something big is coming…

Earlier this month I alluded to a big opportunity in the wings for me and after a month of long days, figuring out far too many new-to-me programs (Krita, Scrivener, AND mailerlite, yargh), I have sent the thing off! I’m still waiting for the official announcement to share details, but I have all this excited energy and I have to share it with someone or else I might burst!

More news soon, I promise!

notes on imposter syndrome

I started writing this as a note to my writer friend and critique partner, but decided to make it a blog post instead, because maybe it might help another writer, too.

Something kind of big is coming up for me (of which I will make an announcement when everything is off and running) and this something involved me writing an essay of what this upcoming thing means to me. When I sat down to write the essay, the words just poured out of me in that rare, magical way they do sometimes. When I finished the first draft, I was so excited by what I’d created, just a feeling of pure joy that those words existed in the world now. I was proud of what I wrote.

Then, I stepped away, I did some chores and cooked a meal, and noticed I was developing more of an edge towards that essay. Rather than acting on it, I left it alone, went to bed, and came back to the document in the morning.

By then I was horrified by what I’d written. I sounded like I thought I was a real writer, someone who’d worked hard and accomplished things and expected people to treat them as such. I knew this creeping, gutsick feeling, because I get it whenever I try to market myself. The difference, this time, seemed to be that I was pushing back. If I didn’t believe in myself, I definitely believed in that essay and I was too proud of it to just discard the draft and start over. I wouldn’t be able to rewrite anything equal to it.

Instead, I pulled up my writer’s journal and started writing about the feelings I was having, hoping I’d be able to pin them down and understand them better. Here’s what I wrote:

I keep thinking I should really tone this down, I’m not a real writer, I don’t deserve this accolade and here I’ve leaned into it like it’s important, everybody’s going to know! They’ll roll their eyes and laugh and kick out me out of {redacted}. Which does, now that I’ve written it out, seem a bit silly. But also probable? Yikes, this is brutal.

Wait. This… is imposter syndrome?

I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t recognize the feeling as imposter syndrome until I wrote it down. I simply didn’t. Not at all. I might have if it was a friend coming to me with these feelings, but I didn’t recognize it in myself. And seeing them there, on the page, got my attention. I mean, I have two books in the world, twenty-five short story publications, and a handful of writing accolades, nothing fancy or huge, but still things that I’ve earned and have a right to be proud of. It shouldn’t feel like a falsehood to consider myself a “real writer” just because I still have goals I have yet to meet (and don’t get me started on shifting goalposts).

Which leads me to why I thought I’d write up this blog post. The next time you’re feeling uncomfortable about promoting your work, marketing your work, preparing a speech, or writing an essay, take a moment to write down what’s running through your mind so you can see it for what it is. Read it like you’d read a message from a friend, because sometimes things look different when they’re on the page.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

If you want more resources on imposter syndrome and working past it, I recommend the book Fearless Writing by William Kenower. I picked it up a few months back after hearing an interview with Kenower on The Creative Penn podcast and it helped me fix a few mental blocks that were holding me back (linking that episode here). I keep it close to my writing desk because I expect I’ll fall back into old habits and need to reread it from time to time.

this post has baby birds in it

This summer is shaping itself into a natural wonder! We’re getting daily visits from Groundhog Jones, the local groundhog, which glues my kids to the window like some kind of magic tablet. A slate junco (it’s a little grey bird) made a nest in our shed and we’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for the eggs to hatch – which they finally have! I’m not sure who’s more excited at this point, their mom, my daughters, or me.

there will definitely be baby birds in a short story soon…

There’s also been a few adventures with snakes. Not everyone likes snakes so I hesitate to post pictures, but let’s just say, 15 km into a drive is not the time you expect a garter snake to pop their head up from the little wiper well on the far side of the windshield. The wee snake looked at me like “Are we there yet?” Did I teach the girls a naughty word when that happened? Yes. Yes, I did. Fortunately we were on a lonely road, so I was able to stop and usher the snake into a more snake-appropriate situation.

This, on top of biking, gardening, swimming and generally making the best of summer before my youngest starts kindergarten, should be killing my wordcount, but somehow I’ve been managing to get up a few hours before the kids to get some writing in. I’m fairly useless until the coffee kicks in so I’m not as efficient with that quiet time as I’d like, but I’ve been consistently writing over a thousand words a day. Most of that has been short fiction for various anthologies opening this summer (including this one and that one), but this past week I’ve been plotting a cozy fantasy trilogy (gulp!).

I’ve also set a deadline of the end of September to get a newsletter off the ground. That will give me a few weeks of quiet time to figure out the technical mechanics, pin down how I want it to be, and polish my reader magnet, which IS written… the only thing keeping me from feeling completely in over my head with this project.

I think a newsletter is a terrifying beast for introverts like me – listen, I will talk to you about anything except myself. Take this blog, which was a showcase for short fiction openings for the longest time. But a friend pointed out that I can also talk about the things in my life which inspire me – like weird photography, nature (see the start of this post), and the amazing things I’ve been reading (speaking of which, I loved this short story in Lightspeed – you should absolutely check it out). I also highly recommend Jarod K Anderson’s second book of poetry, Love Notes From the Hollow Tree.

my writing box

My eldest kiddo used some gift cards to get herself an art kit that came inside a wooden box. Inspired, she decorated the outside of the box with washable marker, was unhappy with the result, went to wash it off and it… didn’t.

“Mom, if you can do anything with this box, you can have it,” she told me.

I noticed that my favourite Blueline notebooks fit into the box perfectly and wondered if I could turn it into a little writing box to carry my writing around while I’m watching the kids play outside. Then I poked around the internet for a while, looking at other writer’s toolkits to figure out which features I would like best. And then I got a little creative.

I “upholstered” the wood with spray glue and wool felt. Some leftover mask elastic stretched from side to side and stapled in gave me a place to stuff in some quotes, notes, and little inspirations. A few stitches and some folded felt made holders for two of my favourite Lamy fountain pens. It wasn’t quite crammed full of magic yet for my taste so I sewed another little pocket to store my post-its, some paper clips, and a skeleton key (because a childhood filled with Nancy Drew taught me that you never know when you might need one).

The butterfly is from an art kit years lost and the TVA Loki sticker is from this shop on Etsy. The picture in the top left corner is something I pulled out of Backpacker magazine circa 1999 that reads “Plant a flag, climb a mountain, be that mythic earth hero you always said you would be.” The handwritten quote in green ink is from Maria Dhavana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation (which you should absolutely read, btw).

One day, when the kids are older, I dream of having a table at a convention filled with books I’ve written and I think bringing something like this along might be more inviting to passersby than seeing me clickety-clacking away at my laptop. Or maybe I just want to show it off a little?? Time will tell.

Sea Stories and Stormslayer

Engen Books announced that my feral mermaid story, Stormslayer, will be appearing in their upcoming anthology Sea Stories from the Rock which means I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. Huzzah! I got attached to my feral mermaid protagonist (also named Stormslayer) as I was writing her story so I’m glad she’s found a home in a collection of fourteen other sea tales. Hmm… I wonder if that makes them a school of stories.

behold, ye cover!

The collection is now available to pre-order for kindle or paperback. Click here to head over to the usual place. If you’re in Canada, like me, you can order directly from the publisher’s website here.

I hope spring (or fall if you’re on the other side of world) has found you well. Things are greening up here and it’s so wonderful to feast on colour instead of winter’s endless white. “No Mow May” has exploded in dandelions and wild strawberry blossoms to accompany the elderberry and cherry blossoms on the trees here at home. I’ve picked out three specific bee species and even got to see a hummingbird moth (my first!) in the dandelions earlier this week. Of course the nice weather also brought out the black flies and the harder garden labours, but it all evens out.

I’ll leave you with this little phoenix of spent tulip petals I wanted to capture before they turned to ash. Till next time!