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.

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.

Writing Retreat, Day 4

Canola field panorama

Tues­day’s action:

  • Processed last night’s astropho­tog­ra­phy (it was past 2 AM when I got back to the cabin)
  • Biked up 16A again, fur­ther this time (a bit over 10km round trip), and got a cou­ple panora­mas of the fields and skies (the image at the top is a wide panora­ma of a canola field)
  • Wrote 1,000 words in the morning
  • Went to town for some gro­ceries and a (short) cof­fee / WiFi break
  • Read a few more chap­ters in The Knight
  • Wrote anoth­er 1,000 words before supper
  • Took some comet and Milky Way pho­tos, since it was clear again despite the forecast

I wish I’d noticed that there was some flick­er­ing north­ern lights just as I was pack­ing up for the night; I’d have stayed longer, even though I was tired.

It’s sup­posed to be clear again tonight, and hope­ful­ly the solar wind will strike twice.

As always: if you’re inter­est­ed in prints of any of these pho­tos, let me know. We’ll see what we can work out.

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 3

Mon­day, I:

  • wrote 1,100 words in the morn­ing (even­tu­al­ly)
  • went for a 11 km bike ride (top speed, com­ing down a hill: 48.5 km/h)

This rein­forces my pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence with the Lens­ba­by lens: it’s great for macro shots, like the one with the sin­gle stalk of flow­ers against the grass, but in most oth­er uses it reduces most if not all of the frame to an impres­sion­is­tic blur. If that’s your aes­thet­ic, great, but more often than not I’m dis­ap­point­ed in the pho­tos I take with it.

It’s still fun to play with, though.

  • wrote 1,000 more words before sup­per (a lot of con­ver­sa­tion; sto­ries being told)
  • evad­ed clouds and fog (oh my so much fog — I had to change loca­tions 3 times because fog rolled in) to cap­ture shots of Comet NEOWISE and the Milky Way

The bluer pho­to of the comet, the close-up, was tak­en with my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Look close­ly, and you’ll find I caught both tails. You might have to view the pho­to at full size.

As always: if you’re inter­est­ed in prints of any of these pho­tos, let me know. We’ll see what we can work out.

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.

These things happen

fountain pen on notepad

And then I got home, and made some notes, and it turns out that the “bril­liant sto­ry sug­ges­tions” intro­duce some more con­flict, at the cost of mov­ing a few scenes around.

No spoil­ers for the short sto­ry, but it a) makes my antag­o­nist a more inter­est­ing char­ac­ter, b) makes my pro­tag­o­nist have to make a very dif­fi­cult deci­sion, and c) allows me to illu­mi­nate how the pro­tag­o­nist plays games with the truth.

And now, to actu­al­ly fin­ish this draft.

Two sentence Tuesday

fountain pen on notepad

All the lies he’d told her were, so far as he knew, still undis­cov­ered. To his cred­it, they were few, and most­ly unimportant.

₣rom “The Slow Apocalypse”

I’m work­ing on the last flash­back sec­tion of my short sto­ry. It’s still in first draft. I’m not sure if these lines will sur­vive the even­tu­al edit, but I feel like they’re important. 

Tonight’s writing

The river

I ham­mered out 1,100 words, give or take, in “Sum­mer­time in the Void”, which is a new short sto­ry about a man left behind by the Singularity.

Here’s a sam­ple, but be kind, it’s first draft material:

His dad, not long before he left, had told John that you can’t ever cross the same riv­er twice, and John had asked why not and his dad had just smiled and told him “You’re smart, fig­ure it out.”

Because the water’s nev­er the same, he decid­ed. Some­times it’s swift and deep, and sometimes—like now, after a long, hot, dry summer—it was shal­low, lazy, and muddy.

I’ve got about 3,900 more words to make this into a coher­ent sto­ry. I think I can make it work.

Writing Retreat, Day 6

The Milky Way

Sat­ur­day, I:

  • wrote my 2,000 words in two stints;
  • crossed the 100,000-word mark in my novel;
  • debat­ed chang­ing the title from Trans­la­tions to Reflec­tion, Trans­la­tion, Inva­sion (which is a not-com­plete­ly-inac­cu­rate sum­ma­ry of the sto­ry, at a very high level);
  • turned on the air con­di­tion­ing, because it was get­ting pret­ty hot;
  • bor­rowed the neigh­bours’ kayak and pad­dled on the lake for a half-hour or so right at sunset;
  • went and got some more pho­tos of the Milky Way and (serendip­i­tous­ly) the Auro­ra Borealis.

Can I help you with some­thing?” Head­less man­nequins wore flim­sy cot­ton dress­es in earth tones. Coun­ter­top racks dis­played neack­laces and bracelets made of beads, pearls, or smooth and pol­ished stones. A sign at the back said RESTROOMS FOR PAYING CUSTOMERS ONLY.

I need a wash­room,” I said.

She motioned at the sign.

No, I need a washroom.”

She sighed, though I couldn’t tell whether she was exas­per­at­ed with me or with the sit­u­a­tion I was evi­dent­ly try­ing to put her in. “Pol­i­cy,” she said. Then, giv­ing me a good look­ing-over, she said, much more qui­et­ly, “You okay?”

Yes, I want­ed to say.

No.”

From Trans­la­tions
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Writ­ing Retreat, Day 6

Series: Writing Retreat 2019

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2019; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 1; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 2; Writ­ing Retreat: Days 3 through 5; Writ­ing Retreat, Day 6.