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Writer's Block: I May Be Crazy

What does this Rorschach blot look like to you?

It looks like six giant moths attacking two women standing back-to-back.
I'd like to issue a hearty hello to people who are following this for the first time! Welcome to my writing blog. Many of you are probably looking for the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society (SHS) or the Sudbury Writers' Guild (SWG) websites. I've just linked to them for you, just hop on over and grab your updates about their upcoming events.

This past weekend I manned a booth at the Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury. The weather cooperated for most of the weekend, giving us a comfortable 21 C and some beautiful sunshine. I was at the booth almost all day Saturday and Sunday, only breaking for food and washroom. It was great to see and talk to so many people who share a passion for the arts and the community of Sudbury! I was thrilled to speak about all the great things coming up in the area with so many different people from so many different walks of life.

One theme seemed to be pretty common among the people whom I had opportunity to speak. They were all surprised to discover that Sudbury had a writing group, let alone two! Although the SHS is a newly formed organization, just through its eighth month, the SWG has been in existence since at least the early '90s. So why have so few people heard of these groups? I would claim it to be lack of trying, but considering both the SWG and SHS just obtained their websites recently and neither have attended many local festivals in the past, I have to go with lack of publicity. One would think that to be something to approach the Sudbury Arts Council (SAC) about, but that group has just ended a two-year hiatus and is trying to reform and reorganize after having been left in something of a shamble.

It seems the arts community in Sudbury has been running itself as a series of small, unrelated and for the most part, untalking groups. For a city like Sudbury, the arts is due to push the city into its own renaissance. The hustle and bustle of the industrialized and unionized city is subsiding because of the economic recession, and people are trying to turn their hobbies (jewelcrafting, painting, writing, acting, woodwork, etc) into a secondary income as they're forced to resort to minimum wage jobs. With new groups forming across the city to encourage these endeavours, it is my hope that we can all come together and help rejuvenate the city, becoming an artistic jewel in Northern Ontario. The Northern Lights Festival Boreal showed me that there is a huge interest in the arts in Sudbury. People just find it hard to find out what is going on across the city, and how to get involved in something that is of interest to them.

My main purpose during the festival was to push and introduce people to the SWG, the SHS, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Script Frenzy, and The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). All of which are active in the area. Miriam H. Harrison now stands as the current branch head of TOPS, and will be getting something happening on that front starting in the fall when she returns from a fact-finding mission out west. I am the Municipal Liaison for the Sudbury area for NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy, and successfully lead a group to completing their 50k novels last year. Representing the SWG this weekend we had their incoming president, Scott; the VP Miriam, the webmaster Andy, and members Judy and Ken. For the SHS we had Andy, Ken, Miriam, and myself.

By sharing a booth among members of different literary organizations, I really came to feel that we were doing more together than could ever be done as individual groups. Different people were interested in different aspects of our table, from the casual onlooker who spotted the ancient typewriter (and our free draw), to the writing enthusiast that wanted to know about everything. I think, come September, the SWG will find itself with an influx of fresh blood from many of the people that we spoke with at length about the group. I also fully expect a blossoming of participants in NaNoWriMo this upcoming Novemeber. I look forward to seeing what becomes of all this.

I also look forward to hearing from a lot of people about donations for the SHS' summer book sale. We'll take just about any book you wish to donate, and resell it at the book sale August 22nd, 2009 at the Market Square. The proceeds from the sale are going to be donated to a youth literacy program. If you wish to book a time to drop off the books, contact me.

One thing I know for sure, Sudbury is not a cultural void. Although it may be hard to find the group you're looking for, we're out here. Even more important, we're ready to start working together. The time to rejeuvenate the culture of Sudbury has arrived, and I can hardly wait.

Spring Cleaning

I've been a pretty busy little writer the past little while. I've come up with a few good pieces in the past little bit, and with some editing, I should have a piece sent out to a small press in the maritimes by the end of the month. New Found Spec Fic is looking for pieces for their second issue (with more to come I'm sure). Payout is at $0.01/word with a max of $45 plus one contributer copy. The piece I'm hoping to send out, "Raccoons", currently runs about 1100 words. It won't be much for income, but it will be a piece properly paid and published if I get accepted.

I've also begun work on two other short pieces. "Rifters" is a space-based economic adventure piece. It's coming along a little slower than I would have liked, but I should be able to call the first draft finished in a month or so. I figure I'll probably submit it to NFSF or another Canadian-based Spec Fic magazine in September.

The other piece, "Elder", is a horror piece that I'm getting a little excited about. I won't say too much about it other than it involves a crazy old guy and a spurt of blood. Hooked? Didn't think so. That little bit sounds so general that no one can pull my idea from it. Afraid I don't want the word leaking and someone stealing this bit from me. I don't really have a market for horror at the moment given than most places aren't accepting submissions at the moment.

Of course my big focus for the summer has nothing to do with these short stories. I have to crank out and fix up my necromancer piece. I began weaving the chunks together this past week and cranked out a half decent, but unfortunately melodramatic opening. I want a dramatic opening, not a melodramatic one. So I'll end up having to cut and shuffle about that portion and maybe have it come up as a segment of very vivid backstory after the main story problem arises.

The Sudbury Hypergraphic Society is still having meetings and trying to get things going in the Sudbury area. The radio show idea was supposed to be put into action this month, but so far no one seems to be putting a foot down and saying "Clay, book us a recording time." That means our short-shorts will not be heard on air as soon as we had wanted.

The Sawyer visit in May went off very well however. There were fourteen people present at the Buddha after Sawyer's reading at Chapters. He seemed very pleased to have the chance to talk about the craft with people that were looking to get into the field. Apparently we're only the second group to invite him to a small session like this. There were tons of questions asked and answered, plenty of experiences shared, and lots of learning accomplished.

For the first weekend of July, the SHS has a booth setup at the Northern Lights Festival. This is only a short distance away and we've done very little to prepare for it. I'm busy getting our new web page in order so it can be launched prior to the festival. We're also trying to find ways to pair some of our writing challenge pieces with art so we can have a sort of presentation of the types of things we do at our meetings to help hone our skills. On top of all that, I'm going to need to come up with some pamphlets for National Novel Writing Month so that I can try to promote the event during the festival. Someone else is going to have to come up with some sort of pamphlet to promote the SHS and the book sale at the end of the summer.

Speaking of the August book sale, it seems we've found our charity. The hope is that this will be an annual event, with word hopefully arising from this years event. We will be donating the fund to a particular school in the area for the purpose of helping them buy books for students to read. School libraries are nearly nonexistant and it's hard to convince kids to read when the options before them are their parent's age. So we'll be donating the funds to one school this year, a different school next year, and so forth. The book sale will be taking place downtown at The Market Square on August 22nd, 2009. Anyone in the Sudbury Area interested in donating books for resale is asked to drop them off with Danielle at Mimi & Lulu's or to contact me and make arrangements for drop off.

That's enough of an update for now. I need to BBQ some burgers and get back to writing.

Post Frenzy

So it's been a while since I've had the chance to write here. I've been focusing on my work, cranking out pages of short stories and working on a full-length novel. Time to review what's been going on.

Script Frenzy was a bust again this year, being just me writing a script by myself here in Sudbury. I managed to get it done, but not until a couple days after the deadline. It didn't turn out as well as I expected, but since I do plan on fleshing it out and converting it into a proper novel in the future, I can't be too disappointed with it. First drafts always look like garbage, it's up to the second draft to chip away the crap, sharpen the image, and blow the audience out of the water. Not looking at doing the conversion for a while though. Have a few other big projects on the go.

My major project this summer is a necromancer series. Originally I was writing a few short stories about a necromancer, but it seems to have evolved quite a bit into a much longer somewhat connected series. I'm in the process of ripping the stories apart so I can weave together a solid overarching thought. I want to have a "final copy" done by September so I can crank out a query letter and see about finding a publisher.

I also have a pair of smaller projects running right now. I'm working on a pair of Science Fiction pieces. "Raccoons" is a piece involving a man, his hat, BBQ sauce and raccoons. It's a little off the wall with a totally unreliable narrator. The other one, "Rifters", is a space business oriented piece dealing in the ultra-finance world of multi-planetary conglomerates. I'm working on the third draft of "Raccoons" and am sitting about halfway through the first draft of "Rifters."

Script Frenzy

Sitting about halfway through April, I'm also sitting about halfway through my script.  Maiden of pain is turning out pretty good in my opinion, though I should be a little further along than I am currently.  The characters are getting well fleshed out, the plot is moving along well (and making sense).  I think I even have the theme growing nicely.

I've mentioned my script idea in a couple of previous posts, including how I plan to actually expand it into a proper novel.  So far I've gone through the main opening, have begun to progress along transformative phase, and have been pushing the limits on my serial killer's murder spree.  The male lead is going nuts slowly, and the female lead is loving every minute of it. I've read a couple of gems of dialogue to a few people, who have been pretty happy with them and are eager for more.

Now that I'm crossing the halfway point, I need to grow the love sub-plot, push the spree over the top and make it personal, and get the transformations fast-tracked as we come closer and closer to the final revealing ballroom scene.  I'm very excited about how this is going, even if I'm a little behind where I think I should be at this point in time.  Thankfully, as this piece currently has no purchaser, I don't have a horribly strict deadline (just 100 pages by the end of the month).

If you want to know how I'm doing, or what I'm doing, at any particular moment in time, I am available on Twitter.  Having people pop on to cheer me on, and jeer any posts of laziness would be a big help.

Pushing Ahead

It's been a week since the Ad Astra convention, where I spent almost every waking hour surrounded by writers, editors, publishers, and adoring fans... Ok, they weren't my adoring fans, but they were still adoring fans. Biggest fan moment for me, seeing Robert Sawyer and Ed Greenwood sitting on the same panel. Drinking in my room until 4:30am with Gord Rollo, Ken Lillie-Paetz, and Miriam H. Harrison was another big moment for me.

I attended most of the panels I had planned, with only a few minor modifications at the last minute. I ended up having to skip Marketing Yourself for the second half of the Instant Fiction panel. It was well worth hearing the winners read their pieces aloud. One author had written a story from a responding traffic officer's POV about a demon coming out of a pothole on the 400. That was an absolutely fantastic short short (250 word story). My own piece needed an extra 20 words to give the ending I wanted, so I ended up using the crappiest ending imaginable. I've since rewritten the ending the way I wanted it at the beginning. With some more tweaking, I may stretch the story to 500 words and turn it into a half decent filler piece for a science fiction magazine.

I also skipped out on the panel on Paranormal Research, Urban Legends, Tesseracts Anthology, and First Contact. The last couple happened after the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society decided to return to Sudbury, and the first two were on the Friday night and were really just optional in my mind anyways. I have a full notepad of notes that I have to digest and a list of books longer than my arm to try to get my hands on. While at the con, I kept my purchases modest and ended up coming home with only a mounted Shadowrun poster and a chainmail teddy bear for Sabrina.

Since I've been back, I've been busy. I haven't updated my works in progress page yet, but I've completed a few more short stories, and am just one or two stories away from tieing up my necromancer series. The SHS had its meeting at Mimi & Lulu's, covered what we picked up at the con, and chatted about a few upcoming events: The Northern Lights Festival, The Sudbury Hypergraphic Society Radioshow, and the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society Summer Book Sale.

The Northern Lights Festival: We will be getting a table to help promote our members and their work. We'll also be promoting Script Frenzy and NaNoWriMo. I'm going to be booking the weekend off my day job so I can man the table most of the weekend. Hopefully I'll have something up for people to grab.

The Sudbury Hypergraphic Society Radioshow: Starting in June or July, the SHS will be performaing readings on the local radio station. We'll be reading and performing our own work to the listening masses. It's another way to get some exposure for ourselves and the art community here in Sudbury.

The Sudbury Hypergraphic Society Summer Book Sale: Sometime in August, the SHS will be hosting a summer book sale. We'll have a load of fiction, craft books, and some other great books up for sale. All proceeds will be going to a literacy charity. We haven't chosen one just yet, but once we choose one, I'll pass it on. At the moment, people wanting to donate books for the summer book sale can drop them off at Mimi & Lulu's (c\o Danielle), The Source by Circuit City at the New Millenium (c\o Shawn), or to any SHS member they happen to know.

And finally, Script Frenzy started on April 1st. Day 5 is just about over, and I'm sitting happily at 25 pages of script. As some of you may already know, I've writing a Dark Romance script temporarily titled "Maiden of Pain." Think of it as Pygmalion meets Saw. I've been chewing through it pretty steadily, and I'd be very surprised if I stopped at the 100 page mark. I plan on expanding the description after I've completed the rough of the script, and turning it into a proper novel. All in, I'm thinking 300 pages.

Ad Astra

This weekend I head down to Toronto for the Ad Astra science fiction, fantasy and horror convention. This will be my first year attending the event and I hope to get a tonne of advice out of it. At Ad Astra, there will be numerous fans of the genres, but more importantly, writers, editors and maybe even publishers may be in attendance. It's fully possible to hang out at the bar with someone like Robert Sawyer and pick up a few tricks of trade. That's why I'm heading down there. I'm not a well-published author, nor have I had much experience in the field. There are a lot of areas within which I can learn and grow. This will be a working weekend for me. Although I would love to see the Steampunk Fashion Show, or attend the Masquerade and Dance, that's not what I'm heading down to see. Instead of enjoying that stuff, I will be attending panel after panel. Check out my time-table:

Friday Mar 27:

7:00pm Opening Ceremonies
8:00pm Paranormal Research
9:00pm Hectic Day Jobs: Sparking Creativity?
10:00pm Instant Fiction
11:00pm Urban Legends

Saturday Mar 28:

10:00am What's in a name?
11:00am Effective Combat Scenes
12:00pm How Not to Submit Your Work
1:00pm Editing Yourself
2:00pm Different Kinds of Fantasy: Epic, Urban & Everything in Between
3:00pm What is Real Evil?
4:00pm Creative Block
5:00pm Supper Break
6:00pm Strategies for Short Stories Publication
7:00pm Gore and Torture: Is it Horror?
8:00pm Free time?
9:00pm Move over Meatbrains
10:00pm Evolution of the Zombie

Sunday Mar 29:

10:00am Conflict Within
11:00am Working with a Smaller Press
12:00pm Dueling Openings
1:00 pm Marketing Yourself
2:00 pm Tesseracts Anthology
3:00 pm First Contact
4:00 pm Closing Ceremonies

Maybe next year I'll be able to take in a few of the lighter events!

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August 2009