Writing Retreat 2021, day 6

Blue sky with a few clouds above the road and the railroad

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.

Series: Writing Retreat 2021

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2021, Day Zero; Writ­ing Retreat, Day One; Writ­ing Retreat, day 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 3; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 6.

Writing Retreat 2021, day 5

Milky Way and Perseid

Thurs­day, I:

  • 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 1114mm 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.)

Series: Writing Retreat 2021

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2021, Day Zero; Writ­ing Retreat, Day One; Writ­ing Retreat, day 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 3; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 6.

Writing Retreat 2021, day 3

The Milky Way at Spruces in Riding Mountain National Park

Tues­day, I:

  • 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.

Series: Writing Retreat 2021

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2021, Day Zero; Writ­ing Retreat, Day One; Writ­ing Retreat, day 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 3; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 6.

Writing Retreat, day 2

A water drop glistening on a telephone wire during a rainfall

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.

Series: Writing Retreat 2021

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2021, Day Zero; Writ­ing Retreat, Day One; Writ­ing Retreat, day 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 3; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 6.

Writing Retreat, Day One

The Milky Way above the road and trees

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 
    1. I did­n’t have enough fuel to get me to the pho­to site I’d checked out ear­li­er and back, and 
    2. 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.
Milky Way (unprocessed photo)The Milky Way above the road and trees
The Galaxy, before and after image processing

Series: Writing Retreat 2021

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2021, Day Zero; Writ­ing Retreat, Day One; Writ­ing Retreat, day 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 3; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2021, day 6.

Publication day!

Image: scattered maps and old atlases

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.

Check it out!

Head­er image by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

Rejection → Rewrite

A torch burning in the dark

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!

Pho­to by Igor Lep­ilin on Unsplash.


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.

Writing Retreat 2020: The Numbers

Cloudy prairie sky

My goals for this past week’s writ­ing retreat were:

  • Fin­ish the last scene in “The Slow Apoc­a­lypse”, first draft
  • 1,5002,000 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 Photos

The 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; Sep­tem­ber Bike Ride; Corn & Sun­set; On Reflec­tion: Oct. 1st; Autumn Trees; A bit of graf­fi­ti; Novem­ber bike ride.

Series: Writing Retreat 2020

The 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.

Writing Retreat 2020, Day 6

Star Trails

Thurs­day:

  • 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.
A cloudy skyA cloudy sky

Series: Writing Retreat 2020

The 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.