December Musings

Yeah, so in November I started pretty strong with the kick-off for NaNo, but by mid-month I was falling behind and stressing too much. I’ve done NaNo four times, so I know what it takes, but this year I’m so involved in paying projects (in addition to a full-time job) that my NaNo work-in-progress just had to go on the back burner. On the plus side, I have about 24,000 words of a novel that I think I can finish outlining to have a decent story.

The other plus was unexpected: once I made the decision to put my novel aside, it was as though a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I gave myself permission to not do something. That had repercussions for my contract work, too, and I felt like the massive writer’s block that I’ve had for months dissolved. Since the end of November I’ve had a couple of days to organize my workload and set specific task goals that are doable.

I also cut back my step-count exercise goal (10,000 steps a day) because I was almost never reaching it. At some point this led to a failure mentality and eventually I fell off the exercise bandwagon. By readjusting my goals to something just a little beyond reach — 7,000 steps a day — I’ve made it easier to tell myself that I can do it if I just take a few more steps. Last week I made my step goals six out of seven days, and that’s a new first for me. Don’t laugh, but much of my “workout” is going up and down the stairs or jogging in place. I live in a pedestrian-unfriendly area and sometimes just getting ready to go out turns out to be a way to avoid doing anything, so for now this is a start.

At Corrugated Sky we’re working on getting our third anthology ready for its release in February 2019. This one is called Cold as Death and will be four stories about zombies.

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Thursday Writing Prompt No. 147

Ah, it’s past midnight, so technically this is a Friday writing prompt, but I’m not going to break with tradition and change the name of the post. It’s been a long week at work and my eyes are bleary, but I just can’t sleep, and so here I am working on the blog.

I lay awake in bed for an hour and I kept seeing airplane lights out the window until I realized that it was fireflies that I was seeing. Here it is mid-June already, and usually I’m peeking out the window in the evening waiting for the fireflies to appear, but this year I haven’t even thought about them. I suppose that has a lot to do with my troglodyte existence these days, although I did pry myself outside today and went for a walk in a local park and got some sunshine.

My zombie short story is coming along very, very slowly. Actually I should say that it is shambling along, which is par for the course as far as zombies are concerned. We are still hoping to have the anthology out by Halloween (in case you missed my earlier post about it, this book will be Corrugated Sky’s third anthology and will contain four short stories). In other news, I signed up for the Zombies, Run! pro app and I’m restarting season one.

I was going to do a prompt about alliteration, but since I’ve spent so much time writing about zombies, I guess that gives us a natural topic for this week, doesn’t it? Okay, maybe zombies are not exactly “natural,” but let’s go with it. Your task is to create a zombie character and write a description about it. Put some effort into making the zombie a real character so it’s not just another moaning shambler out on a brain-search. How did it become a zombie? What was it before it turned? And can a zombie have a goal other than eating brains? Maybe … that’s your department. Now go forth and write, and don’t let the zombies bite!

More Steam!

This week we are promoting our Steampunk anthology, Smoke and Steam, Corrugated Sky’s second title. The four stories are novella length, and yes, there are airships!

I’m answering the question about what inspired my story “Hekatite.” When we first decided on a Steampunk theme for the second anthology I began thinking about Victorian adventure stories, which is something that’s always had appeal for me. Journey to the Center of the Earth? Check. The Time Machine? Check. The Mysterious Island? Check. Check.

Combine that interest with the fact that I’d written about Arctic and Antarctic exploration a couple of years back for an encyclopedia that is coming out this year, and I suppose the germ of an idea was hatched. Oh, and throw in a James Bond-esque island with a hidden warehouse inside it, and you have Seacombe.

My story “Hekatite” takes place in the same world that my novel Seacombe Island is set, and includes three characters from the novel. The events in the novella take place roughly five years before the events in the novel and the story fills in some back story for the characters as well as information about Hekatite, the mysterious fuel that everyone wants to get their hands on. Hekatite is a volatile energy source that is refined from the Hekate orchid, a fictitious plant that grows only on Seacombe. Unfortunately, while the Hekatite is a great source of energy, it’s also quite poisonous.

Ha! You knew there was a catch, didn’t you? Well, there wouldn’t be much story if everything was so easy!

Now as it happens, I wrote “Hekatite” before I finished the final round of drafts on Seacombe Island. I found myself stuck on a few details about the protagonist and his interactions with a few of the characters, and writing the short story helped me sort out quite a few plot issues that I hadn’t managed to get a handle on. “Hekatite” is a fun read and I think you’ll be hooked and want to read the novel. Or, if you’ve read the novel, pick up the anthology. And if you haven’t read either, get both books! It won’t matter if you read the story or the novel first; while “Hekatite” fills in some blanks, it won’t spoil the plot of the novel and you’ll feel superior when you have an inkling of what’s happening while the novel’s protagonist, Thomas Ashton, is still trying to figure out what’s going on at Seacombe Island.

And actually, I’m still trying to figure out Seacombe Island. I’m sure the island is big enough for a few more mysteries — and a few more stories.

 

Encountering the Black Dog

Tales of the Black Dog was Corrugated Sky’s first anthology.

When you tell someone that you’re a writer, the first thing they ask is what kind of things you write. The second question they ask is where you got your inspiration for a story or book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

When we decided to form our own publishing company we put our heads together and came up with some themes for anthologies. The black dog legend has a long history and surprisingly is found in cultures around the world. For my story I was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as well as traditional English ghost stories that I grew up reading. The atmosphere of a lonely country road, the local inn where the country folk harbor some dark secret, and being stranded or trapped in a place or situation that you can’t get out of are all part of the setting for these traditional stories, and they worked their way into mine.

During the summer when we were working on Tales of the Black Dog my husband and I went on a trip to Maine. We stopped at a coffee shop for a bite to eat and took our coffee and sandwiches outside, where there were tables and Adirondack chairs for guests to enjoy. I went back inside the shop for something, and when I came out there was a huge black dog sitting next to my chair as though it were patiently waiting for me to return. No kidding, this really happened!

My husband gave me one of those knowing looks, and I burst out laughing. I sat back down and for a few minutes the dog didn’t move from that spot. Yes, it was really weird, but despite reading old legends of black dogs being associated with death, I’d read other legends that said the black dogs were protector spirits, especially of women. I’m pretty sure it was a real dog, and that is was just a coincidence, but there’s always that small doubt … in any case, that particular black dog did a good job of protecting my chair and making sure no one else sat there until I got back!

And now we’re working on our third anthology, which is about zombies. I hope I don’t meet one of them!