Last week I was at a rented cabin up at Minnedosa, writin’ words and takin’ photos. I had a bunch of goals for the week, but how’d I do?Continue reading “Writing Retreat 2021: The week in review”
On Friday, I:
- Continued outlining “Praise The Torch”
- Did some update work on my grant application
- Read more Zero History—I think I’m just about halfway through now
- Went for a bike ride—not a long one, but I climbed a lot of hills and got a few photos
- Watched a few more Firefly episodes
I decided that, even though the sky was clear, I’d stay in and not keep myself awake past 2 am again. I was in bed reading by 11 and asleep before midnight, and I think that was the right decision.
And now I’m going to start packing up the cabin. My time here draws short. As always, I’m feeling conflicting emotions: I’ll be happy to be home, but I’d love another week doing this kind of thing too.
Vacations: They’re Never Long Enough.
- Worked some more on “The Slow Apocalypse” (minor edits in several sections, and a new chapter in the “What we will lose the fire” sequence, excerpted below)
- Also worked on the “Praise the Torch” outline—I feel like I’m getting close to endgame, but I keep going back and adding things in so they’ll pay off later
- Watched a truck try to maneuver a new cabin into the cabin area (eventually they did it, though they had to trim a couple evergreens back)
- Drove back out to Spruces for some more Milky Way photos (it was calmer, and I got to listen to the waves on the shore and the occasional loon)
Jane had fallen asleep. No, that was too gentle a term for it. Jane had collapsed into unconsciousness, and soft snores, well-earned, came from her bed. Night had fallen, outside, and Mímir paced slowly back and forth in front of the window, looking out onto a view of parked cars under a light dusting of snow, six stories below, the lot illuminated by great lights, bright white fringed in violet, on tall, thin metal poles. The boy slept against his shoulder, wrapped in a white-and-blue hospital sheet of napped cotton fleece.
Mímir wondered what his dreams might be, if they would even make sense to anyone not a newborn.From “The Slow Apocalypse”
The two images above were taken with my 50mm lens, which results in a much tighter shot than the 11–14mm that I usually use for night photography. Both the images above are composites; the one with the trees is 2 shots merged into one (you can probably see the seam), and the other is a stack of 6 images, manually merged, to try to bring out the detail in a segment of the galaxy.
The image at the top is one of about 200, the only one where I caught a Perseid meteor in the frame. (I did see quite a few last night, about a dozen or so, including three very bright ones. I think the one in the photo is one of the earlier ones, and I remember thinking after it had burned up, I hope I got that on camera.)
- Wrote more in the outline for “Praise the Torch”
- Went for a bike ride (it was cool when I started, but warmed up as the sun came out)
- Read about a dozen chapters in William Gibson’s Zero History—it’s been a long time since I read it, so it’s pretty much like reading it again for the first time
- Reworked a chapter in “The Slow Apocalypse” and made minor changes in a few other places
- Watched some Firefly
- Met up with my friend Tim (who was camping at Wasagaming) at Spruces for some very dark sky photos (it’s been a long time since I saw the Milky Way so prominent to the naked eye)
I saw a couple of meteors at Spruces, including one large, slow one that unfortunately wasn’t where my camera was aimed.
I woke up thinking I heard hail. It turned out to be only rain—at times heavy rain—but almost every cabin around here has a metal roof, which amplifies that kind of thing.
No bike ride and no kayak trip. I wisely forgot to pack a raincoat for my retreat here, so that was great planning on my part.
- More development on the “Praise the Torch When ‘Tis Burned” outline—the story is firming up in my mind, at least, and that’s a good feeling
- Rewrote the bulk of a scene between the POV wizard and his lawyer wife, sippin’ Welsh whiskey in a restaurant called Swansea, in “The Slow Apocalypse”
- Watched a couple episodes of Firefly
- Tried to get some photos of the rain; the only one I liked is above (it’s been a while since I saw water beading on a telephone line)
Some of the thunder was pretty exciting—shake-the-cabin exciting—but I couldn’t get a good angle to set up and try to get some lightning photos. Oh well, can’t win every time.
In my first full day at the cabin, I:
- Worked on the outline for “Praise the Torch When ‘Tis Burned” (aka the “ghosts in a derelict starship” story)
- Went for a bike ride, snapped a few photos (one of which I liked—the “On Reflection” below)
- Stopped in at the store for a couple of groceries that I forgot
- Decided, on seeing how many people in the store were maskless—including at least one employee—that I’m going to make do with what I’ve got for as long as I can
- Went for a drive to check out a possible photo site discovered by my friend Tim
- Met up with Tim in Sandy Lake for a physically-distanced chin-wag on the sidewalk
- Worked some more on the “Torch” outline
- Realized at about 10:15 pm that
- I didn’t have enough fuel to get me to the photo site I’d checked out earlier and back, and
- all the gas stations in my vicinity were closed
- Watched an episode of Firefly
- Checked the sky just before midnight—nice and dark and clear—then looked up “Dark Sky Sites Near Me”
- Decided to check out a fairly close site, about fifteen minutes’ drive from the cabin
- Got the header photo (and a couple others)
- Returned to the cabin at 1:30am and dropped into bed.
Today is the release date for Cloud Lake Literary, Volume 2, which contains my very short story “The Atlas”, which features an atlas with at least one extra country, a bottle of absinthe, and a hunting knife.
I just checked my stats on The Submissions Grinder, and this one sold to the 18th market I submitted it to. 17 markets said, gently or bluntly, “Thanks but no” before this one found a home.
I guess the lesson is, Keep trying. Someone out there wants your story.
Writers: If you’re not using The Submissions Grinder, you owe it to yourself to at least look into it. It’s a market list for fiction and poetry, and it’s a submissions tracker, and it’s free. It’ll let you import your data from Duotrope (if you were using Duotrope before, it’s kind of like a less-polished Duotrope).
Cloud Lake Volume 2 is available for purchase from Cloud Lake’s site. For
$10.00 $7.50 (Canadian), you get fiction, non-fiction, children’s stories, poetry, and art from 16 Canadian creative types.
At the start of December I heard about an anthology looking for stories on the theme of “Derelicts”. The deadline was tight—stories had to be submitted by Dec. 31st—but I realized I had a story and so I slammed it out. I wrote 7,500 words about a colony world with a medieval-Iceland–influenced society—stratification into thrall, carl, jarl, and royal classes, for instance—that had been settled by a swarm of faster-than-light colony ships. They were surprised when, two centuries after the colony was established, a very old, slower-than-light vessel showed up. They were even more surprised to discover this new ship was empty, except, perhaps, for a ghost.
I sent the story off on about Dec. 29th, and this past week I got the rejection note. The anthology received 1,400 submissions, and could take only 20 stories. The odds were not in my favour.
But—after a few minutes of unhappiness—I’m OK with this situation. The story was a tight fit at 7,500 words. There’s more to tell, I think, things I was forced to elide to fit the word-count limit. And I was never really happy with the title, either. I called it “The Smoke” but that felt like a placeholder title.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire, as they say, and I’ve decided to dig into that. The new title is “Praise the Torch When ‘Tis Burned”, which ties into the Icelandic/Norse feeling I’ve got going on: One of the poems in the Poetic Edda is the Hávamál, the “Sayings of Odin”, which features a stanza that I’ve loved since I first read it:
At evening praise the day, a torch¹ when burned,
A weapon when tried, a maid at wedlock,
Ice when over it, ale when it is drunk.
It’s a very “don’t count your chickens till they hatch” piece of writing. I have adopted “Praise ice when over it” into my list of preferred proverbs, partly for its wisdom and partly because, where I live, you’re driving on ice at least four months of the year.
So my plans for the next draft of this story:
- New title
- New focus
- Improved world-building
Wish me luck!
¹ Some translations have it as “a woman when burned” or “a woman on her pyre”, and I don’t feel I’m the author to explore that.
My goals for this past week’s writing retreat were:
- Finish the last scene in “The Slow Apocalypse”, first draft
- 1,500−2,000 words a day in either Translations or “Dried Flowers”
- Photos of the Milky Way (possibly a video) and Comet NEOWISE
- Photos of the countryside
- Daily bike ride
- Some kayaking
Let’s see how I did.
- I finished “The Slow Apocalypse” on my first evening
- I wrote 13,000 words between Translations, aka Daniel, Daniel, Daniel, and “Dried Flowers”
- I got all kinds of photos of the Milky Way and the comet—even on the nights where clouds were forecast, there was usually at least some time where the stars were visible
- I also took all kinds of photos in the daytime
- I rode my bike every day, for a total of over 60 km (which surprised me)
- And I went out in the kayak three times, covering about 10 km in the lake
So, on balance, that was a good week.Continue reading “Writing Retreat 2020: The Numbers”
Series: Bike Ride PhotosThe entire series: Down by the river; Bike ride birds; The ex-garden and the weir; Snapshots of a ride; Across Town; Blackbird; North Hill campus; Lilacs and country roads; A pop of colour; Back lane flowers; More Brenizers; The river is high; A bird and a reflection; Rideau Park; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 7; Writing Retreat 2020: The Numbers; Storm damage, sunflowers; Eleanor Kidd gardens; Scenes from today’s ride; All right, autumn can be pretty; Bike ride, April 10, 2021; Bike ride wildlife; Bike ride, May 16, 2021; Some flowers for you; Lilacs; Under the bridge; A fence, a tree, and the sky; Turtle Crossing; Cemetery critters; On Reflection; Weekend rides; Upon Reflection; Deer and paparazzi.
Series: Writing Retreat 2020The entire series: Writing Retreat 2020; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 1 & 2; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 3; Writing Retreat, Day 4; Writing Retreat 2020, day 5; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 6; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 7; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 8; Writing Retreat 2020, Day 9; Writing Retreat 2020: The Numbers.
- Big breakfast, in which I discovered that Trapper Bites, eggs, and potatoes are an amazing combo
- 1,000 words in “Dried Flowers”
- 6 km bike ride
- A bunch of macro photos in the campground
- Also met with the owner of a “49-ish” Mercury truck (it’s a ’49, but it has A/C and an automatic transmission)
- 1,000 words in Translations (or more likely Daniel, Daniel, Daniel)
- And before bed, I set up my camera in the cabin’s covered porch, and took photos till the battery died about an hour later; the clouds rolled in, but before they did I got the star trails at the top of this post.