Thursday, 29 September 2011

My Chrysalis friend...and an update!

I just wanted to give Jenn's blog, Hunting Sea Glass with Wolves, a little plug, since she's started using it a bit more lately. Jenn is one of the two gals I run the Chrysalis Experiment with. I met her on the NaNo forums in 2010, after she put out the call for critique partners. She wanted to form an 'elitist' group where we could start swapping chapters for critique. A bunch of people responded (I think it was about 8 in the end), but now over a year later there are a core group who are still active and in touch. Basically four of us. I think that's pretty good as an end
result. I'm pretty stoked with the friendships I've made through this group (we call it ElitistCritiques, and I think that's cool), and I'm excited to see Jenn posting on her blog more!

Jenn is the sort of CP who constantly inspires those around her. She has the most amazing imagination, and regularly makes astonishing suggestions for where your story could go. I've been privileged to read her (often weird and wacky) stories during this year's Chrysalis Experiment. You can read some too, here. I guess I'm posting this now because I would love for other people to benefit from Jenn's creative brilliance. So go, check her blog out!

I also want to update on my editing progress, since I haven't in a while. I'm up to page 170 of my paper edit (that's out of 188 pages), and about that I'm pretty excited. The end is in sight! Then it'll be time to transfer my paper scribbles into my electronic document. That's a rather daunting prospect, but an invigorating one as well. When I'm done with that, I'll be getting serious with seeking out beta readers. If you're interested in reading a rock star romance, let me know!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thick Skin - my story

The following blog post was inspired by Ruth Schiffmann's "Thick Skin" blog post. Thanks Ruth!

Recently I read a blog post in which a fellow writer asked the question: Do you have a thin skin/thick skin story to share? I'm going to expand on the answer I gave her here. I've gone through life being told my writing's great, albeit mostly by biased friends and family members. I've had some criticism from strangers that I'd call 'flaming'. They helped me develop what I thought was a pretty thick skin. But then I got serious about my writing, and joined Absolute Write.

For those unfamiliar with it, AW is a great place to go for honest feedback on your writing. I submitted a chapter for critique - a prologue. Feedback started rolling in, and for the most part it was pleasant but honest. Pleasant. Honest. Helpful. Encouraging, and constructive. Then it happened - I got some more critique, and it was harsh. Seriously HARSH. Like a huge bitter angry rant, intimating the reader's utter boredom with my writing. My writing was so boring she couldn't get to the end of the chapter. I was wasting her time, and that made her angry.

Fighting back tears, I turned off the laptop and went to bed. Couldn't sleep. I lay there stewing, feeling by turns devastated and angry and...confused. Didn't this girl have anything nice to say about my writing? Everyone else had! Not this one, though. And for all the 'niceness' of the other feedback, this brutal stuff was what stuck with me, whirled around in my head, plagued me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. And slowly it dawned on me that while the mean girl was seriously mean, she actually...had a point.

A really good one.

I got up again (it was a "school night", already way past bedtime), turned my laptop back on. I started rewriting. Mad scramble to fix what the mean girl had (rightfully) bitched about. It started slowly, but I wound up cutting about 7k of unnecessary words. Like, the whole prologue plus other chapters. Seven thousand words from a seriously bloated manuscript that needed trimming. Trimming is a funny word to use. Doesn't quite do the task justice. Point is, this horrible mean feedback that had so upset me resulted in huge improvements to my manuscript. It also taught me that I can take harsh critique. I can take it or leave it, but if my gut tells me to take it, I can do so and it won't kill me. It'll help me.

I'll say it hurt. Oh yeah, it hurt a LOT. But it taught me a valuable lesson. So I thank that mean girl, because she gave me a wake-up call and helped me develop this thick skin of mine.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Peace Blogfest (Sept 19-21)

I'm late, I'm late! This started on the 19th, and right now in Australia it's the 21st. But I'm going to cheat and post the first two days' components along with today's. For those who are currently confused, let me clarify: Aimée Beatrice Jodoin is hosting the Peace Blogfest, and here's how it works:

  • Monday 19 September 2011 - Peace Through Art
    Post something you have created that represents what peace means to you (video, drawing, writing, music, etc.)
            I decided to share some video footage of us driving in the snow in Canada, set to one of my songs which I would describe as slightly 'ethereal' and spacey. I guess this video sums things up nicely for me - I love music, both making it and listening to it (and seeing it live in concert). It brings me peace, amongst other things. I also love winter (read: the snow we never get here in Perth), and I love to travel. I guess I also love my family, right? This video footage features some of them.

  • Tuesday 20 September 2011 - Peace Through Tolerance and Non-Violence
    How can we overcome discrimination and stop violence? Share your experiences!
            I get into a fair bit of trouble over my political and religious beliefs. I'm basically a devout atheist (with a dash of agnostic on the side), but I'm also devoutly committed to a life of non-violence and political/religious/social/etc. tolerance. I can't stand war, and I loathe governments who use violence (murder, torture, you name it) to further their own interests. I am definitely not of the "eye for an eye" mentality (or the oft-favoured "my eye, your entire body" approach), and it upsets me greatly to hear how murderous people can become in times of grief and hardship. On the other hand, there are people who go through such awful experiences and manage to emerge with their humanity still in tact - like the grief-stricken father who lost his daughter to a suicide bomber, and said he didn't want to see anyone else die - not even other suicide bombers. That, my friends, is a man I can respect.
            Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and most opinions are bound not to align with mine. I'll let you have your opinion if you let me have mine. But sometimes it's best not to get me started on these matters, because neither of us will end up very happy.

  • Wednesday 21 September 2011 (Peace Day) - Peace Through Connection
    Bringing people together in celebration should be the goal for this day! What can YOU DO to be peaceful and to continue spread the word about peace?
            I really do try to keep an open mind, though I have very strong opinions that I feel passionate about. I love to hear others' opinions, and I work hard to respect them. But at the same time I get frustrated if I feel I'm not being heard or respected. As for what I can do to be peaceful and spread the word about it? I guess I can only continue to try and remind everyone that we are all humans, and yes some of us are twisted and have gone down the wrong path (or what I perceive as the wrong path), but we all started out as babies and I really can't wrap my head around the idea that anyone starts out "evil". People are victims of circumstance, and yeah they have to take responsibility for their actions...but I think it's essential that we stop and try to think what it would be like to walk in their shoes before we leap to conclusions and judge them.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Check out my favourite blog posts

I have a page on this blog called "Me Likey" (hey, I was trying to fit the title into my tabs so they didn't take up two rows...) on which I have listed some of my favourite blog posts written by other bloggers. However, until a few days ago, I had totally forgotten the page existed. I read a blog post today on C.A. Marshall's blog, and though it belonged on the page (so added it). Then I figured some of the other posts on there might be useful to you guys too! However, this is also a call for more ideas. Are there any awesome blog posts you've read lately that you think I'd like?

In other news, I'm getting excited about NaNoWriMo this year! I have a bunch of friends who are already talking about it, including some folks who will be new to the experience this year (YEAH!!), and it made me realise that it's not too far away. Exciting!! Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2011?

In closing, I thought I'd share a couple of photos I took recently of where I work (okay, so the library isn't RIGHT HERE, but this is a few hundred meters' walk from where I do work, in Fremantle, WA):

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Chrysalis Experiment - 85,000 words

This year, some friends and I started the Chrysalis Experiment, which I referred to as a year-long foray into the art and science of short story writing. We've posted 36 prompts so far this year, and so far I've written 36 short stories to go along with those prompts. We've had a steady core of participants who have continued to produce stories. Some have fallen behind but have not yet given up. We've got 16 prompts to go (16 weeks), and then we'll earn that sparkly shiny badge up there. But for now, a reflection on how the year has gone for me so far.

I did a word count yesterday, and I had about 86,000 words worth of Chrysalis stories. Yes, some of them blew out beyond 'short story' territory - one story is currently 22k, and not finished - but still, all of them started as a 1k-10k Chrysalis story. My latest story, titled "Case o' the Crazies", is posted on the Chrysalis blog for the world to read.

One of the things I've noticed so far this year is that I tend to write a lot of short stories that feel more like 'beginnings' of larger works. My co-hosts have said the same thing quite often. We've even got a few drafts of novels out of this whole thing. One participant has told us she thinks she's doomed to write flash fiction because she often doesn't make it to the 1k mark. I've discovered a tendency in myself to write post-apocalyptic scenes. I've written a few stories that could potentially belong in the same world.

At the end of this year when I've got 52 stories written, I'm going to take a closer look at all the things I've written about and report on the stats. Genre, word count, number of stories finished as opposed to those begging for more to be added. That kind of thing. I look forward to comparing notes with my fellow Experimenters at that time.

All in all, it's been fascinating, challenging and rather exhilarating.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

My first 'meme'!

I'm confused. But that's okay, because others have been confused before me, and still more will (or may) be confused after me. This is my first meme, and no I still don't know what the hell that word means. Care to enlighten me, anyone?! Anyway, thanks to Brooke R. Busse for tagging me and making my brain hurt. A lot. But here goes:

Are you a rutabaga?
a) I don't know what a rutabaga is, but I have a vague recollection from seeing Brooke's answer to this question that no, indeed I am not. I'm perfectly unvegetative. Even if I'm sort of a potato (the stuck-to-her-couch kind) right now. b) No?

Which member of Def Leppard do you have the biggest crush on?

You're seriously making me CHOOSE?

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.

What were you famous for in high school?
The Satanic cult I was apparently a part of (pssst. It's called being shy, people. No Satan required).

How many people have de-friended you from Facebook?
My friend numbers seem to go up and down on a daily basis, so I think people are messing with me - adding me, deleting me, adding me, deleting me. Messin' with my miiiiind, you see.

What is the weirdest/most disgusting job you've ever had to do?
Ha. Easy. Worked at the rubbish tip. For one whole day. That's longer than most people last, or so I'm told. At least I wasn't there on a day when people's dead pets turned up in their trash (not even kidding on that one).

Where da muffin top at?
I ate it.

Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.
Octogenarian (minus about 50 years).
Okay so that one wasn't 'obscure'...sue me!

And I'm done! Now to pass this little ditty on to some folks who no doubt know much better than I what the heck a meme is:

P.S. I don't know about everyone else, but I choose not to track my own blog stats, as in my own visits to my own blog, blog pages, etc. So it annoys me just a little bit that every time Firefox updates itself, my settings for not tracking blog visits from myself are reset. Yes, it annoys me very much!!

Monday, 5 September 2011

First Campaigner Challenge!

Yes, I surely am! And it's time for the First Campaigner Challenge. Dude, sometimes it's not easy saying 'campaign' instead of 'crusade', but I'm doing my best to get used to it! Anyway, the challenge involves the following:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

Now, before anyone leaps upon my post accusing me of being a liar, my story is precisely 200 Scrivener. I don't know what it is in your word processor, but I have no doubt at all it's either over or under 200 words. But I SWEAR to you that Scrivener tells me 200. So, without further ado, here's my little ditty, all glorious 200 words (and by glorious I mean forced and unpolished and all that stuff, yeah):

The door swung open and Elsie staggered through, crystal glass flying from her hand. Bennett's heart stuttered then swelled. Elsie hit the ground seconds before her glass. The crystal came apart as if in slow motion, glittering shards spraying out. Mother and father care more about the family crystal than they do a human life, he thought. But now wasn't the time for bitterness.

It was time for Elsie.

She was all he cared about. And she was here, alive. With him.

"Elsie! Oh God, I thought— I thought they'd…"

Bennett trailed off, staring at her still form. She hadn't stirred since landing, and she lay so still. Too still. Fighting back fear, he sank to his knees beside her and reached out a hand, scared but compelled to touch her. "Elsie?" He gripped her shoulder and shook her, first lightly, then harder. "Elsie?"

Then he saw the dark tide of crimson pooling beneath her, and he knew. They'd got to her after all.

"Oh, how sweet," came his mother's voice behind him. "You two, together at the end." He looked up into her haggard, bitter face, and knew it really was the end. Behind them, the door swung shut.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Travel Series: AUSTRALIA

I do actually live in Australia, though I was born in the U.K., but just 'cause you live somewhere doesn't mean you know everything about the place. I learned a bit more about my country of residence in 1998 when I set out with my father and uncle on the first leg of a 6-month journey with my Dad.
This leg took us across Australia, from Perth to Sydney. We drove that little car you see in the photograph above. It was February, the height of the Australian summer (did I mention I hate summer?). And I was seventeen.

We drove from Perth to Laverton through numerous small towns in the WA outback, including Kalgoorlie. Along the way, I got my driver's licence. From Laverton, we headed into the desert, setting our sights on the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. Dad had calculated to the mililitre how much petrol we would need for that desert trek. We didn't take any extra.

It took us 4-5 days to reach Coober Pedy, and while I burned with teenaged hatred for much of that time (4-odd days without a shower? In February?!), I also had numerous amazing, breathtaking moments. I got caught in desert storms, crossed broad brown-gold-red plains, and learned that deserts can be incredibly lush and green even in
© Lester Farnan, 2009
the burning summer months.

I saw creatures in our headlights that looked like tiny veloceraptors. I still don't know what the heck those things were, but they were cool and...prehistoric-looking! I saw rolling hills and dusty dirt roads and wonderful trees. In short, I saw a side of my country I never knew existed. A side I can never forget.

My Dad is the kind of guy who likes to live on the edge. Prior to our departure from Perth, my mother's side of the family had concerns for my safety. Mum had travelled with Dad before, and she knew better than most what might be in store for me. Basically though, my Dad was notorious (and still is) for his love of living on the edge. Edge of a glacier, edge of a desert, edge of a war-torn region - you name it, he's been there. At seventeen, I'd heard the stories, but I soon learned that it's one thing to hear them and another to experience them yourself.

© Lester Farnan, 1998
The trip across the desert in February 1998 gave me a good taste of what was to come for the next few months. I think back on it now and still get inspired. I could go on all day about it, really. I could try to count the number of times I rolled my eyes or sighed or did any of those teenaged girl things.But instead I'm going to say that it 
was amazing. Especially that shower in Coober Pedy - being clean never felt so good!

© Lester Farnan, 1998