Thursday, November 27, 2014


Here in the US it is once more the day of eating to excess, getting dopey off tryptophan, hanging out with family, and being thankful for stuff. I skipped the first three this year, but here's my shot at the fourth.

In a year in which I have moved countries (again), changed careers, and run a successful crowdfunding campaign, I have a huge amount to be thankful for. I could list achievements, I could list obstacles overcome, I could list the various comforts I'm lucky enough to enjoy, I could list many things.

But all of the things that I'm truly grateful for come down to people. I'm grateful for the people in my life. And not just the people who are always loving and kind. Don't get me wrong, I am SOOO grateful for my friends and family, for everyone who has supported me in some way over the past year (of whom there are many); people who have administered hugs when needed, people who have had faith in my ability to accomplish my goals, people who haven't told me my dreams are crazy, or discouraged me from trying new things.

Yet, I'm also grateful for the people who have challenged me. I'm grateful for the people who have disagreed with me. I'm grateful for the people who have told me I'm wrong, or that I shouldn't do something, or that I am - in fact- crazy. I'm grateful for these people whether they were right or wrong. I'm grateful because challenges teach us so much about ourselves, whether they challenge us to prove others wrong, or challenge us to accept that we are wrong ourselves.

I'm grateful for the strangers who have reached out to support my writing. I can't tell you how much it means to me that people I've never met before or had any contact with are willing to read my stories, enjoy them, pass them on, tell others about them, or write me a note to let me know that they were in some way moved by my writing.

I'm grateful for the strangers who have dismissed or belittled my writing, because they have helped me grow a thicker skin and reminded me not to take myself too seriously.

I am grateful for everyone who has smiled at me as I pass them on the street. I'm grateful for everyone who has held a door for me, picked up something I've dropped, or nodded in greeting when I've said hello.

I'm especially grateful for my husband; for being my support, my cheerleader, my coach and my teammate. I'm grateful that he makes me want to be the best possible version of myself.

I've already mentioned my family and friends, but I will mention them again, because they have been so supportive of me and I have been distant in many ways this year, but not due to lack of love.

I'm grateful for my dog, who makes everything better, even when I've lost my ability to believe in myself or other humans.

I'm grateful for everything. I'm grateful for life. I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to tell people how damned grateful I am.

Here's Artemis being grateful for dog beds and mirrors.

I'm thankful for so much on a day that's set aside for giving thanks (and every day). As you can tell from that list, I am most thankful for people (and dogs) so I would like to leave everyone with the following thought:

Today is an excellent day to reach out to the people you wouldn't normally reach out to. The people that you care about, but who maybe don't get to hear it that often. The people that might be alone today. The people who you love, but you assume someone else is telling them they are loved today. Reach out to them today and tell them you're thankful for them. 

It's a message that everyone needs to hear, but most of us don't hear it enough. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Back at it! (Bonus: Final cover art)

Hey folks, just a quick blog update today featuring bullet points of exciting things and a picture of my workspace for the day (ok... and a bonus at the end).

  • I'm back at work after two weeks of working for my old job leading students on a climbing and leadership field trip
  • I managed to finish up writing (with a lot of help from others) a back cover blurb and some teaser text for the book cover 
  • The above was much more difficult than anticipated, but I think the end results are solid
  • I have proofs for the final cover and it's amazing. When I have the final final cover (yep that's two finals) I will share it with you here (although my Kickstarter backers get the first look as part of their insider rewards)
  • I am going to spend the entire rest of today working on Blade's Edge revisions
  • The only two parts remaining after I finish applying my beta readers feedback (this is the part that got super delayed because of this trip) are my copy editor applying her revision and the formatters making everything beautiful
  • Once I finish these revisions the book will be largely out of my hands and I can't wait for that to be true
  • The cover is so nice that I find it intimidating to have to make the insides good enough to be worthy of the cover...
  • I am in Arizona right now and the weather is perfect
  • I miss my husband who is still in Winnipeg (where you would have to have a very different definition of perfect in order to describe the weather that way)
  • I'm feeling overwhelmed and beginning to worry that I don't actually have time to actually celebrate any of the holidays coming up (but I'm hopeful that that feeling is wrong)
  • Life is pretty damned awesome in spite of, and because of, everything I've just listed
  • Along those lines, here's my workspace today:
Photo taken with my laptop

So, yay for bullet points when paragraphs just take too much energy! I'm skimping on the blog so that I can actually focus on this book. I can't wait to show you guys the cover. I think you're going to love it. 

Because I feel bad about not having shown you any of the final cover art yet, here is the cover art without the design. (Now that my kickstarter backers have had it for a week I don't feel guilty for showing you.) The design is almost finished and I will show that to you in the not too distant future.

And on that note, I leave you. I hope everyone is enjoying the last few bits of fall or, in many places, an early and unforgiving winter (and for my friends in the southern hemisphere SPRING!). 

I'm hoping the enjoyment for winter will come from an appreciation of snow and many warm delicious beverages. :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In which I briefly return from the wilderness, only to disappear once more...

Well, hey there folks. I'm actually still on my two week excursion with students, but I am back in the land of the interwebs for the final few days and currently have a moment to say hello (and am distracting myself from attempting to come up with a back cover blurb for Blade's Edge).

I just spent a week teaching students to climb in Cochise Stronghold and am now in Patagonia, AZ at a leadership/experiential education center with the same students. We're here until Friday and then as of Saturday the students will officially be on vacation and I'll officially be back to work. This has been a lovely and much needed two weeks of "vacation."

It's been wonderful and strange to be thrown back into VVS life for two weeks. In many ways it feels like I never left. It seems like I was just late returning this year and somehow missed the first trimester, but everyone was surprisingly ok with that. There are a number of new faces at VVS this year, but a high enough concentration of old ones that it feels like home still. Being on campus just before field trips started, when faculty were madly grading and prepping for field trips made me feel strangely guilty. I'm used to being part of that crazy mad scramble to get everything done in time to leave. This year all I had to do was prepare for a field trip. For two days I had this horrible feeling that I was forgetting to do something, that I had to be somewhere, or that I was shirking some obligation. I wasn't. I told myself I wasn't. That didn't keep the guilty feeling at bay. Oh behavioral training...

Now that we're on this trip instead of kicking around VVS campus the guilty feeling has dissolved and instead I feel at home in a role that I've played often over the past few years. It's fun to be back with students, some of whom I've known a long time and some of whom I'd never met until this trip. In addition, my co-leader is hilarious, laid back, and very easy to work with. So all is well on that front.

On the noveling front, I've been working on the edits for Blade's Edge when I have time, and also sneaking in bits and pieces of a new novel for NaNoWriMo. Blade's Edge edits definitely take priority right now, but November is always the month when I make the biggest chunk of progress on my newest work. This is important to me because a. as this is my eighth year participating it feels like an important tradition, but also b. because I feel that it's important to have a new work to focus some of my creativity on in order to have a place to put to use everything I've learned from my last project.

I have a large backlog of novels that need to be taken all the way through revision, especially Gwendamned, which is the novel that I tried to finish revising before I took Blade's Edge through revision. I still have 25% of that novel left to revise once I get Blade's Edge out the door and then, once I'm done with that, I have a stack of first drafts that need to go through revision as well.

My hope is that the next twelve months will be a chance to take a number of full length works all the way through to publication. Of course, that depends on a lot of factors, including whether or not I will choose to submit any of those books to the traditional publication process. That's probably it's own blog post of the future, but I'm no longer sure that traditional publication holds much allure for me. Of course, I shall reserve true judgement on that front until I've actually gone all the way through the independent publication process. I'm definitely not there yet, though it feels desperately close. We'll see what I have to say in January after the official launch. (And even then there will be parts of the process remaining that I won't have experienced yet.)

I do have the final artwork for the cover as well, but right now I'm only sharing it with my kickstarter backers. I'm thinking about waiting to share it here until it has its cover design. I will say that I think it's awesome.

Here are two pictures to keep you entertained in the meantime:

Demonstrating the warm climate that I'm currently enjoying, I present a lizard hanging out in the middle of November. Thank you, southern Arizona.

And to demonstrate the winter that I will be returning to at the end of my US adventures, here is the new (to me) parka that I bought in Winnipeg just before I started my trip south. I have apparently already missed the first snow of the year. :-(

That's all I've got for now. Time to get back to editing and writing. Hope this finds everyone well. Happy onset of winter! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Oh revision you tricky b$@!h...

And yes, I mean that as in revision is like a cunning canine adversary (like a female fox, the most cunning and intelligent of all foxes).

There are a lot of pitfalls for writers when it comes to revising your work. So many traps to fall into, or be led into by a red and white tailed huntress... It's easy for a writer to finish a first, second, or third draft of something and think, "Yeah, I nailed it. Everyone will love it," and then balk when it turns out people don't. It's easy for a writer to pour their heart and soul into a revision because they know that the last draft just wasn't good enough, and get to the end and feel like the amount of work and love they put into it will be obvious to everyone who reads it... and then find out that it wasn't. It's easy to feel justified in ignoring other people's critiques because they simply "don't understand your work." And it's also easy to let someone else's words break you, convince you that you're so far from the mark you'll never get there, and maybe you should consider giving up.

I like to think I don't fall into any of these traps frequently, especially not any more. I've developed a pretty thick skin over the years receiving rejections of short stories, critiques on longer works, etc. and I've also come to really value other people's input on what could make my writing better. But we're all susceptible to these traps no matter how far we think we've come since we started. Never is that clearer than when you are at the stage of your process that necessitates feedback from others.

Objectivity, though difficult to maintain, is of prime importance. Conflictingly, so is trusting your gut. It can be hard to do both at once.

Other people's input can be paramount in holding yourself accountable as a writer; making sure that you're producing something worthy of an audience, making sure that someone other than you can follow the thread of your story, fall in love with your characters, see the world that you're trying to build. You need people to test that and make sure that you're doing your job.

On the other hand, no one else knows your intent the way that you do. No one else knows exactly what you're trying to say and how you best need to say it in order to express yourself as you intended. Every reader who picks up your work will take something different away from it and you cannot possibly account for everyone's tastes and interpretations. Also, *gasp* not everyone who reads your work will like it. You cannot please everyone. Truly you can't. Not everyone agrees about what makes a good book (not even Shakespeare, Hemingway, Austen or Woolf are universally liked) and if you worry about everyone liking your book you're in for a life full of non-stop worry.

Yet, while trusting your gut when it comes to your work can tempt you into thinking that whatever you've put on paper should be good enough for "the people who truly appreciate you" (whoever they are) and everyone else can eat shit. Heeding the critiques of others can cripple you from ever having the confidence to hold a pen in your hand and decide that it's worth your time to put it to a piece of paper.

You need balance. Any story ever written (yes, including all the ones currently in print) could be improved upon. The changes you can make to a piece of work are infinite, (as are the changes someone else could make) and if you ever reach "perfection" in a particular turn of phrase or scene it is sure to be a fleeting thing. If nothing else, time and perception will turn it into something less than perfect; all you have to do is wait. So, to refuse to publish anything until it's "perfect" is to never publish anything at all.

Conversely, to simply put words on paper (or screen) and deem them "good enough" without ever attempting to improve yourself or your craft is to give up on yourself as an artist. Anyone can put fifty or one hundred thousand words down on paper, but pushing yourself to make those words matter, to make them beautiful to yourself and hopefully some others, requires art. You can always improve and you should always strive to.

When, then, do you say "enough?" If a work can always be made better and you should do your best to improve yourself, how do you ever declare anything "finished?"

I imagine the answer to that is different for everyone. For me it comes from knowing that something is as good as I can make it with the time I've allowed myself. Because when it comes right down to it, I could spend years and years fixing every first draft I've ever written and never release a single book. But, I'd rather get things to the point where I'm proud to have my name on them, release them into the world, and then learn from my mistakes and incorporate that learning into my next project.

If I were only ever planning to publish a single novel I might feel differently. If I were shooting for the "Great American Novel," or seriously hoping that my first full length publication were going to win me some awards, I might delay further. Does it seem wrong to say that? Are you wondering why I would publish anything that wasn't the absolute best possible version of it that I could make?

Did you read the part where I said you could perfect things indefinitely?


I want all my work to be good. I don't publish anything (or submit things for publication) if I'm not proud of them. But, what makes me proud in my writing today is different than what it was ten years ago, than what it was even a year ago, and even than it was last week. So the longer I delay the more apt I am to delay further. Deadlines help me move on. I have a LOT of stories in my head. I also have a bunch on paper already that are awaiting revision. I don't have infinite time to revise. At a certain point I have to simply look at the work and say: would I be happy if I spent money on this and then read it? If the answer is yes, it's probably time to move on.

I write for me. I write because I love writing and because I would go insane if I couldn't write. I write because I have no choice but to write.

I revise for me and for others. I revise because I like challenging myself to do better, because I like to see what ways the story could improve and to mess with all the variables and see what I come up with. I revise to make sure that other people see what I see, hear what I hear, live in an imaginary world of my conjuring and then make it their own.

I publish for others. Making things pretty enough to publish is simply an act that enables people to enjoy my stories in the simplest form possible, pages in hand. Of course I hope that the act of publishing will gain me more readers, but it is all about the readers. Gaining them, keeping them, giving them something to come back for.

Balance, balance, balance. Walking on a slackline over a canyon and trying not to slip.

Here is a picture of how beautiful the sky was yesterday just after sunset. Hope everyone is well on this lovely fall evening.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I don't know where to start...

Ack! It's been a crazy week. Well, ok, I say that a lot, and I mean it a lot. You guys can judge for yourself if it was actually crazy or not.

So, last week (not the one that today is still technically a part of, but the one before that) I got a plea for help from my old job. Due to one of the faculty being injured, they needed me to help lead one of their trips in November (if you've been reading this blog consistently you've probably noticed my tendency to disappear for most of November and then come back and post amazing pictures of the Grand Canyon). So yeah, I'm doing that again, only this year I won't be leading students in the Grand Canyon, I'll be taking kids climbing in southern Arizona. Awesome. However, it is also unfortunate.

First and foremost it's unfortunate because one of my good friends is injured and unable to go on his trip and that's why I'm going down to help out. That is seriously sucky, and everyone should send him healing thoughts. Second of all, it's unfortunate because I am in the middle of trying to get a book ready for publication by mid-December and disappearing from work for two weeks isn't exactly conducive to that. Third of all, it's unfortunate because it means I'm adding two and a half weeks to the amount of time I don't get to see my husband (I was originally headed south to see family and friends for the run from Thanksgiving to solstice/Christmas, but I was going to be leaving much later).

All of those unfortunate things aside though, I am very excited to be headed to Arizona again, and I am excited to be leading a climbing trip and getting to enjoy the southwest for a while. So that's all to the good.

I just have to figure out how to manage this whole book thing.

Oh, and then there's NaNoWriMo.

And now you're saying, "Surely, Virginia, you're not doing NaNoWriMo this year... That would just be silly."

To which I reply, "When has being silly stopped me from doing ANYTHING?"

Ha! Stumped you there, didn't I?

Yeah. I'm doing NaNoWriMo, though getting Blade's Edge published takes top priority, but technically, that's mostly managing/coordinating a bunch of other people's work rather than doing a ton of it myself. So, I am hopeful... We shall see. Right now I should be typing away on my NaNo project for this year. I will get to that shortly, but I have been neglectful of the blog this week. So I thought I'd give you guys an update. I had hoped to post a video, but I haven't managed to record one yet this week. Ah well...

I'm going to get back to that whole finish creating front matter/back matter, getting promotional materials together, washing all my climbing clothes, going to the climbing gym 'cause I'm out of shape, writing a new novel for NaNoWriMo, freaking out because none of my beta readers have gotten me feedback yet, and I still need to walk the dog- thing. Heh. Here's a picture of the Grand Canyon from previous adventures there to help calm everyone (me) down. Everything will be fine.

Taken with my phone the day before we entered the canyon last year. Smokey because of a controlled burn taking place on the rim.

And this is a reminder of all the awesomeness I'm going back to visit. Artemis is excited to return to the desert too!