Essays, Misc

Talking Pets – A Flash For The Freestyle Writing Challenge

It has been a while since I posted any writing. The reasons for that are many, but the main two are 1) I’ve been submitting some of the more recent pieces to magazines and whatnot, and 2) I’ve been working like a beast to finish the draft of the third book in my Papilion trilogy (IT IS DONE!). And…I amidt that the fact summer is finally here after a long and horrible winter has lulled me into a kind of comfortable laziness.

But just this morning I was thinking it was time to get back to writing something, anything. Someone was listening because about an hour ago I got tagged by Tanya Miranda to participate in the Freestyle Writing Challenge.

freewritingchallenge

It’s scary to post something written so quickly and under duress (15 minutes with little prep time and not allowed to edit!!), especially while being so rusty. The last thing I wrote was a novel, so massaging the muscle to ease back to flash fiction was tough. But, whatev. When the challenge is laid, you gotta step up to the plate. So here’s my ditty.

Tanya’s prompt: Your pet of many years suddenly speaks human. What does it say?

My story: Communion

I’d always wondered what my dog would say if he could talk. We’d been inseparable for what felt like an eternity. A gift to me on my fifteenth birthday, Pongo warmed my feet every night and blissfully licked me awake every morning. He followed me to the kitchen, sat by my side while I ate, calmly awaiting the scraps of egg or toast or bacon I’d cunningly flip at him when I thought he wasn’t looking. He caught the scraps every time.

I grew up, went to CEGEP. My body and face changed, and even my mother claimed she hardly recognized the well over six-feet tall grown man with a face full of hair, and a deep barrel-chest. But Pongo knew me. Mom said he’d sit by the window long before I returned each day from long hours of study, whimpering and whining before the car turned into the drive. Walking into the house to Pongo’s excited yips while he dumped a red ball in my hand in greeting were the best welcomes around.

Got married. Had a couple a kids. But now, I saw that Pongo was getting on in age. His habits didn’t change except he took longer and longer to get them done. His silky black and brown coat shone less in the sun during our walks, and I even noticed some tufts of grey coming in around his brows and muzzle, just like a ‘real’ old man.

Then one day, while sitting on the porch, my hand on his head, his muzzle in my lap, I noticed his breathing coming less and less even. In fact, he struggled to breathe. I knew it was close, yet didn’t know what to do.

The sun was going down then, dipping just behind the line of houses across the street. And just as the roofs eclipsed the last rays of sunlight, I heard, ‘I love you.’

Then he was gone.

I looked at my beloved dog, best of friends. He was at rest.

Don’t know how he did it, how he’d managed to speak those words. But on the other hand, I wasn’t surprised. I’d known the truth all along because Pongo had saying he loved me his entire life.

****

There you have it. 370 words in 15 minutes. Here are my chosen victims, er, nominees…

Phil Partington

Cairo Amani

Belinda Hughes

Lela Markham

Scott Toney

My Prompt is: Falling down the rabbit hole…

And here are the rules for the challenge:

  1. Open a new document.
  2. Set a stopwatch or your mobile phone timer to 5, 10, or 15 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  4. Fill the word doc with as many words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it’s only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules).
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best.
  7. At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).

Thanks for reading! Leave your comments below, if you’d like to share your thoughts.  🙂

Author Interviews, Misc

Conferences and Public Speaking: Cairo Amani Reveals Another Side of Writing

Hello, all! I’m always thrilled when my friends do something cool when it comes to writing. I recently learned that Cairo Amani, who has graced us with their presence many times already, has done something extremely neat: spoken at an arts conference about literature. So, of course I had to find out more.  Please stick around! You won’t want to miss it, and if you’re interested in this kind of activity, maybe this will encourage you to get out there and try it. 🙂

Cai! It’s great to have you back. Can you summarize the purpose of this conference?

Steampunk to Afrofuturism was a two-day conference that offered space for writers, musicians, artists, and academicians to explore, expand upon, and rethink the implications of speculative humanities

image (3)

Why was it important to you to participate in it?

Science Fiction and Fantasy is such a huge part of our world and our upbringing and it has the potential for so much more than we realize. We are born hearing fairy tales not realizing that those fairy tales did and still can have relevance to our everyday lives. We use fantasy stories to teach kids, manners, trust, respect and then we stop. But what if we continued? The conference asked us as readers and artists to rethink the implications of Speculative Humanities–and we absolutely should.

I love those points about how, at a certain point, we stop using fantasy to teach and to socialize youth, as well as to deal with important life questions. I believe childhood that thirst for the fantastic never really goes away, and that we continue to seek it in some forms throughout our lives.

How did you go about getting to be a speaker?

Most events have a “Call for Papers”. I try to do a search for calls weekly, to see if there are any that pertain to speculative fiction, that are open (no membership required) and where my subject matter may fit. Then I send in an abstract, which is a short summary of my presentation. Then I wait–because so much of writing is about waiting.

How did you manage your nerves?

image (1)I am not sure I ever did. I went with friends, I called my best friend on the phone just minutes before the panel began–and then I made the audience laugh. Throughout my entire career my plan has always been to make the audience laugh. When you open with a joke the crowd is ready to trust you–when you laugh with the crowd, you become ready to trust them.

How does speaking at this event fit into your long-term writing goals?

My ten-year goal is to be a professional scholar–meaning I’d be completely self-sustained by writing, teaching and public speaking. Writing queer people and people of color into mainstream stories is my form of activism. But those stories tend to be less popular on shelves. Meaning, I have to work twice as hard to find a place for my stories, to make a place for my stories. Public speaking allows me to show people that there is a need while also inspiring them to fill the need–so I’m not the only one.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

After the whole thing was over, there was a luncheon for all the speakers. I feel like it’s super rare that I get to sit around a table with a bunch of other Nerds of Color and talk shop. It was exhilarating!

 What was the essence of what you spoke about?

image (2)My presentation “Harry Potter Could’ve Saved Michael Brown” addressed how more diversity in children’s literature could lesson Xenophobia as those children grow to be adults. It also touched on how diverse literature that already exists could easily replace the texts we do read.

Message to our readers today?

Life isn’t Tetris, there’s not always going to be a place for you to snuggly fit yourself. But don’t let that discourage you. Think about where you want to be and then create that space. Don’t wait for people to realize they need you–show them they need you. Then be present.

… … ‘life isn’t Teris’. Love that.

How can readers contact you to learn more about you and your future activities?

Please visit my website to shoot me an email. There is also a “Find Cai” tab-which leads you to my calendar. http://www.cairoamani.com. I hope to speak to you soon.

Thanks for checking out Cai’s incredible experience. Please leave Cai a message below and/or go check out her website and drop her a line there. Also, she is speaking at an event this weekend called: AFROFUTURISM | Conference: Designing new narratives to empower the African Diaspora. Check out the Facebook page for details!

Have a great rest of the week! 

Misc

The Seven Things (About My Writing) Challenge

Recently, Ken Mooney and Lela Markham, two good author friends, tagged me in a fun and informal writing activity. The assignment: post seven things about your writing…

Only seven? Okay, okay. Write, then edit and revise, right?

*flexes fingers* Here we go!

Writing-Process-A-Blog-Hop

  • For the first time, I’m working on plotting a novel. For my first two published books, The Purple Morrow and Wolf’s Bane (and basically anything I have written until now), I wrote them based on what I felt the story needed as well as how the characters evolved. However, now that I am writing the last book of my trilogy, I decided to modify my usual method to make sure I hit all the essential story points. I’ll let you know if I survive.
  • I’ve been off my normal writing rampage in order to rest my elbow, which has been hit with tendonitis for the last few months. Not fun.
  • My kids like to write as well. I like to think they have been influenced by watching me. 🙂
  • I love to chat with readers and other authors, and I get really giddy when I find new messages and review requests in my inboxes.
  • Self-marketing and promotion are the biggest challenges for me. I just find them emotionally and mentally draining, not to mention time-consuming.
  • I’m thrilled to be surrounded by great author friends who include me in activities like this. When I started writing, it was a really lonely time. Now, it’s wonderful to know there are people I can turn to for ideas, information, contacts, writing activities and collaborations, and even a shoulder to cry on. Writing’s tough, man.
  • I enjoy blogging about writing almost as much as writing stories. I think it’s because I like communicating with readers in a voice closest to my natural one (i.e. without all the trappings affiliated with fiction writing). I feel like I’m still telling stories, just in a different, more conversational way.

Now, who to tag? Phil Partington, Katie Cross, Cairo Amani. You’re up!

 

Essays

Wolf’s Bane is here!

There were moments when I thought Wolf’s Bane would never come out. I started writing it in 2012, and it has gone through many rounds of beta-readings and even more rounds of rewrites, then proofreading, and followed by more tweaking since. I was determined that the book following The Purple Morrow would be as good as it could possibly be despite being an independently published book.

Why was producing this book such a challenge?

WolfsBane_Cover_2015_smashwords

There are a few reasons. Bane is my third completed novel but it is also the most complex one I’ve written to date. After having enjoyed building the world of Marathana so much, I wanted to explore it more fully and give readers more of a taste. This meant delving deeper into the various cultures and belief systems, creating new characters and people groups, exploring new terrain…no small challenge. As well, Bane is a bridge book, connecting the story’s beginning to its end, and it was a challenge to find the right story balance. Some betas felt there was too little back story, others that there was too much. And as the author, I didn’t want to give away all the secrets too soon, nor did I want to leave the story so bland that people wouldn’t want to advance to the final instalment. Finally, finding the right balance between my two main characters was tough. Morrow is Jeru’s story and Bane is Kelen’s, though both men are integral to each other’s lives, destinies, and the overarching storyline. It was a big challenge and I hope I did both characters justice.

Wolf’s Bane owes its existence to many people, and I will include them here. It’s been a long road to get here so if I forget someone please, please forgive me:

Beta Readers: Judith MacNamee, Authonomy’s Christian Lit Forum members, Zach Bonelli, T.A. Miles, Joshua Evans, Katie Cross, Bernard Cullen.

Thanks to my writing group for their support, enthusiasm and helping me feel that being indie is cool. And special shout out to Cora Siré, who gave me pointers on the poetic sections of the book.

To the Quebec Writers Federation for supporting local writers and for being an excellent resource over all (workshops, networking opportunities, etc.) It’s great to be around people who love writing so much.  

Thanks to William Bryan Miller for proofreading. He was quick, professional and on time!

To Phil Partington for keeping me grounded and for being a tireless listener (‘Being a writer is so hard!’). To Cairo Amani for having more infectious enthusiasm than anyone I know. And when it comes to editing, she’s almost as terrifying as Phil. To my super-talented sister Amy Hands for providing me with fantastic digital paintings of Jeru, and more recently, Bane’s  cover wolf in all its raging glory.

And to my family. Kids, you guys keep me motivated and I’m thrilled that you are proud of me. And to Sam Lampron, my super-supportive husband, for designing my book covers and for encouraging me to keep pursuing this ‘writing thing.’

Wolf’s Bane is available NOW at Smashwords and its affiliates. It is available now via Kindle on pre-order and for purchase as of Feb. 27, 2015.

 

Essays

I Did it! I Applied for a Writing Mentorship!

As promised, I am writing a little about the fact that I recently applied for a writing mentorship offered through the Quebec Writers’ Federation–whose Sean Michaels just won one of Canada’s most prestigious and lucrative writing awards, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, as well as the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Yes, I have lofty goals, but a writer has to start somewhere, right? Besides, the mentorship program was one of the features that interested most me when I discovered the Federation, and I waited a long time to be able to try my hand at it.

From klinger.io
From klinger.io

Now, it was an interesting application process, which required a one page cover letter and 8-10 pages of my novel, both of which had to be presented anonymously. I believe the mentors are in the process of being chosen, so I had no idea who I was pitching to, or if there will even be a mentor keen on working with the type of story I presented, so I felt kinda blind. Still, it might have helped to not have a specific audience in mind because I went about writing my cover letter in the same way I usually write my blog posts: in my voice and with the same level of openness and sincerity. I wanted them to meet ‘me’ on paper. Time will tell if this proved the right thing to do, but it felt right to me, anyway.

As for the story (and cover letter), I was lucky to have the editing help and feedback of Cairo Amani, who is never afraid to say what she thinks. In the end, I think I ended up producing a strong pitch.

Will my efforts pay off? Who knows? But it was a great opportunity to practice presenting myself, my writing point of view, and my story, something every writer has to keep doing. Cuz you never know when it just might pay off. 😉

Thanks for reading! Have you been mentored? How did you find that person, and was it a successful pairing? Please share!

And, for those who are interested in writing about the Other, Cairo will be guest blogging about that in a few weeks. To see her last post, click here.

Have a great rest of the week, everyone!