Be Kind to Authors

pupsmallWhistling in the dark, we sometimes call it, but it’s painful, hearing emerging and establishing writers speak self-deprecatingly of their work.   We don’t hear that sort of self-mockery much in other professions.  And, even in our own, with a few Fitzgeraldian exceptions, we would be shocked if top-of-their-field authors spoke with destructive irony about their work.

Furthermore, feeling down about writing interferes with our management of our planning, drafting, and editing time.  Well, I’ll never get there and the world’s not waiting, so I might as well check my emails.

Instead of speaking harshly about our own work, we would be better served to give our inner writing minds all the encouragement we can.  And give that encouragement with our eyes wide open, and sincerely, because we know what our strongest skills are, and which skills we’re working on.  With persistence, hard work, and learning we will always get better still.  And that’s why we’re in this game, isn’t it?  To write superb stories.  To become our highest writing selves.  To do that, we look to our great goals, and show up for the work.  And, we don’t kick the authorial dog.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

 

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: You’ve wisely employed all the skills your hero gained in Act 2 in your final showdown. Your Writing Muse @pulpliterature

 

For more daily writing inspiration from Mel, check out The Writer’s Boon Companion, available in our bookstore and on Amazon.com.

Bowen Breakfast LST

Recipe for Writing (aka How to Bake a Perfect Muse Retreat)

Take one part beautiful island in BC (I recommend Bowen Island, the birthplace of Pulp Literature) and one part historic lodgings and add a gourmet chef with a laid-back personality. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine eight writers with different styles, preferably from a variety of locations. (This year’s combination of writers from the East and West coasts lent a tangy flavour and I’d advise repeating this balance of flavours).

Set the timer for one hour, five times during the course of the weekend. (Yes, we wrote five sessions and not only had time to read out our works to each other, but fit in a critique session as well).

Garnish with praise and encouragement and honest admiration for each other’s talents. Serve with a warm heart, and enjoy for the rest of the year.  And share this recipe with others, because next year will come again faster than you think!

Next year’s Muse retreat is pencilled in for the 12th – 14th of January.

old dorm

The Writing Life: All Systems Go

We’ve got to have great big goals to get us out of bed in the morning. But we need to set systems into place in order to move towards them. The last thing we need is for goals to turn back into dreams.small coracle

Systems for limiting time on the Internet, keeping chaos at bay, making time for people, and keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy. If we give some time to creating these systems, then we have the peace of mind that comes from life that is not necessarily perfect, but is warm and reasonably calm, and we’re working towards creating, for example, our five novels in five years.

Great goals set our course. Systems are about the process of moving towards them, and most success experts say that process, not product, gets us where we want to go.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse:

You make a point of learning new skills every day. No wonder your work is so good. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

For our monthly newsletter full of writing tips, contests, submissions openings, and news sign up here.

Domenichino155

Dear Muse

musefinalbwDear Muse, thank you for showing up at our retreat on Bowen Island. Just when I thought I had no more words to write, you rescued me and my manuscript.  I don’t think Superman has better timing.  I hope I don’t come that close to crashing before our next retreat.

Dear Muse, I also want to say it was a nice touch to expand my horizons in the way you did. The selection of people at our table was like a vase of flowers with eight very different varieties in bloom. To see the contrast in our voices, yet to affirm each other in our different styles, brought health and a sturdy platform of confidence to my writing. Together we were stronger. Support is such an important part of long term success as a writer.  Thanks.IMG_0128

breakfast 2Dear Muse, I’d also like to thank you for the food.  I don’t usually get such careful cuisine for so many meals in a row.  Or even one meal in a row.  I felt the respect and craft that was put into the cooking seep into my body like some physical artistic elixer.  And that didn’t even include the wine.  I guess you are the Muse of chefs, too, aren’t you?  And the Muse of bubble baths.  And that was also a lovely walk through the snowy forest.

Dear Muse, please help me to remember how great this retreat was when I get discouraged later this year.  Remind me that such places and spaces exist still inside myself.  And when more opportunities come, let me grab hold of them and say yes.  Saying yes was important.

Sincerely yours,

Sue

IMG_0132

Publication Platforms for Writers: Fifteen Minutes Outside the Hermit’s Cave

barefeetwithapplesmallWhether we publish through traditional means or independently, we’ll most likely want to think about creating a platform to support a writing career connects us to the larger prospects of authorship, such as the publication and marketing of our work.

Like anything else in our writing careers, each of the following could take us all day, all week, or even the rest of our lives, but setting a timer for 5 minutes and getting something done on each will add up quickly to progress and an understanding of the channels available to us.

  • social media & connecting with other writers, editors, and publishers
  • banking and bookkeeping
  • learning something new about writing, social media, design, etc

Every writer’s schedules, interests, and mileage will differ, as always, but touching base with writing communities, financial sustainability, and professional development can keep us active in the greater world outside. Sure, writers sometimes feel like metaphorical cave-dwelling hermits, but even real cave-dwelling hermits communicate with nature, eat, and try to be the best hermits they can be.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel.

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve devised a great writing space. No wonder you get so much done. From your fan, your Writing Muse 

snow

North Pole Blue

A Story by Bob Thurber

This Christmas tale comes with a bite, as all Bob Thurber stories do.  For more, go to bobthurber.net, and look for some of his short sharp stories in Pulp Literature issues 3, 6, & 12.

The first time I saw Santa’s eyes they were the same pale green as the plastic holly my mother hung on the door on a hook she left up all year, and the rawness of the flesh around them was the same blood-shot red as actual holly berries, which are technically ‘drupes’ and contain the plant’s seeds.  The second time I saw his eyes (a year later, same store, after waiting in a line for nearly an hour) they seemed larger, but less round, and their color had cooled to the crystal blue you find in glacier ice — which, at the time, I called North Pole Blue — and this made sense, even though I was only six, still too young to understand the density and compactness of anything so old as a glacier.  That was the year Santa asked my name, and, when I stammered Bobby, he said, “Ah. Bobby. Of course.”  As though we were old friends.

The third time I sat on Santa’s lap and looked up into the old man’s eyes they had changed dramatically, become far less wrinkly and slightly almond-shaped, with pupils the burnt brown of old acorns.  I got a good long view because Santa was focused on the camera the whole time, fidgeting like he had someplace better to be, and he repeatedly scratched the same spot of his beard; in a faint and tired voice he asked what ‘big gift’ I wanted for Christmas, and though I don’t remember what I said, I do recall that he didn’t acknowledge the request, or in any way signal that he had heard, so when I climbed off his lap I felt less sure of everything.  Oddly, my mother always liked that picture the best because of the shy, inquisitive, almost contemplative expression on my face, plus the camera’s flash put a dot of sparkle in my left eye, so there is, I will admit, a dreamy magical quality, but it’s purely an illusion, a trick of light, because my absorption at that moment was really my gut-wrenching disturbance at the weariness I saw on the man’s face, and my utter confusion at his not remembering me.

Years and Christmases and more photos went by.  Santa took to wearing glasses with wire frames made of gold or silver, which I liked.  Though, whether I looked through their lenses or above them, I’d be lying if I said I glimpsed anything other than vagueness.

The last time I had an up-close, personal view of Santa’s face I avoided his eyes entirely, focusing on his nose, which had not only widened and flattened but now contained tiny broken veins like intersecting highways on a roadmap.  He asked how old I was and I said ten.  He asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said, “A pocket knife.”

He shifted me slightly on his lap.  “You a Boy Scout?”

I wasn’t, though I wanted to be.  But I felt he didn’t need to know that.

His breath rolled out the smell of coffee and cigarette smoke.  I turned my head, found my mother behind the elfish-looking girl working the camera.  Mom was waving, trying to get me to smile.  She’d painted her nails a garish Christmas green, and I didn’t like the color.

Right before the flash went off Santa pulled me closer and I felt his beard brush against the top of my ear.  “You know,” he said, “you’re a little too old for this crap.”

And that man, I’m certain, was the real deal.

Nothing but troubleBob Thurber’s short story collection Nothing But Trouble is now available at bookstores everywhere.

better-watch-out

‘Better Watch Out’ by Anna Belkine

By now our subscribers should have received their digital copies of Issue 13, and many of the print versions have arrived at their destinations as well.  In the errata department we issue our profuse apologies to author Anna Belkine, whose name was inadvertently left out of the table of contents.  Fortunately, her creepy Christmas story, ‘Better Watch Out’ was not left out, and for those you who haven’t yet had a chance to read it, here’s a sneak preview …

 

Better Watch Out

by Anna Belkine

Sally and I were terrified of Santa as children.  No, not those impostors who hung around shopping malls.  The real Santa lived in our air conditioning vent.  You could hear him moving in there, every once in awhile — a sort of wet rustle.  We knew our parents could hear it too, but they tried very hard to be dismissive about it.  This was just the sound old vents made in the winter, they said.  Santa was just a myth, they said.  But the terror in their eyes told me he was real.  They knew he was real.  That he was there.  And they were lying.

He came out only when we slept.  Somehow he could always tell if we were just pretending.  Like in the song.  You would hear him come out just as you felt your body go limp, just as your consciousness slipped heavily out of your belly and you were no longer able to command your eyes to open.  You could feel him, moving around the room, the large round mass of him, dressed in the sort of shimmering red hues that creep behind your eyelids on bright days.  And he talked, a lot, all the time, using mangled sounds neither pronounceable nor reproducible.  All we understood at first was that his name was Santa.  The way he said it, it sounded like a heavy scuffling, followed by the noise of something viscous dripping heavily on a linoleum floor.  Sssss— tah.  Tah.  Tah.

We had no choice but to listen to him scuffling and hovering and looming there in the dark, behind our closed eyelids.  He never threatened.  He was just waiting.  For the opportunity to be mean.  And we were waiting too, immobilized by sleep, like insects under a pane of glass.

Some nights, we could make some excuse not to sleep in our beds.  Some nights we managed to stay awake until morning.  But in the end, we were still made to lie in the dark by ourselves, with him behind the vent.  Rustling.  Eventually we understood that it was important to our parents that we do that.  They let him visit us.  That must have been the deal they made with him.  Sally and I were on our own.

Especially Sally.  See, I was the favourite child.  Our parents made a token effort to conceal it, but it wasn’t enough; we both knew it, we both felt it.  She was in their way.  An embarrassment.  It’s not like they actively wished her gone, no — but it was clear they would have been relieved if she were.  Just as I could feel the evil skulking around in our room, I could feel her loneliness and her rejection clinging to me, a skinny bundle of ribs, knees, and gasps.  Without me, she had nobody.

… find out what happens to Sally and her sibling in Pulp Literature Issue 13, Winter 2017.

Bowen Snug Cove KTW

You deserve a writing holiday

twotwentytwosmallFor those of us who clock in at our keyboards and notebooks rather than stepping through the office doors every morning, ‘holidays’ are often a mixed blessing.  We love the time spent with family, the food, the festivities, the break from daily routine.  But in the back of our hearts we feel the tug of the loved ones we’re neglecting: our manuscripts.

Writers love what they do, and enforced time away from writing when the work is calling is a special kind of agony only fellow pen-monkeys can appreciate.  To make matters worse, during the holiday season we open our houses to friends and family, busying ourselves with cooking turkeys, decorating, and wrapping gifts while our notebooks lie unopened, and our keyboards gather dust.  We are in our offices, but unable to sit down and do the work we enjoy most.

As writers, we need a holiday from the holidays.  That’s why at Pulp Literature we book the second weekend in January for our annual Muse Retreat.  It’s a time for us to put the hectic holidays behind us, forget deadlines and production schedules, and simply write for three days while Dan and Julia at The Lodge at the Old Dorm pamper us with luxury accomodation and gourmet meals.

The Old Dorm setting perfect for Samll Meetings and Family Gatherings

breakfastAs always, we open the doors for a few other writers to join us.  There are two spaces left and the price is only $899 until January 1st.

Non-writing spouses are invited to attend as well at a cost of $699.  Bowen Island is a beautiful and inspirational place for walks in the forest, kayaking, and simply escaping the bustle of city life.

Your Muse deserves the gift of quality time with you.  Register here to start 2017 with a well-earned break and come away with at least 3000 fresh new words on the page.

See you on Bowen!

Jen, Mel & Sue

outdoors

 

 

 

longsword

Literary Launch and Swordfighting Salon

It’s a party, and you’re invited!

melissaJoin us at Academie Duello this coming Sunday December 18th for a festive afternoon of readings, last-minute gift shopping, tea and swordfighting as we launch Issue 13 and celebrate the success of Something Novel!

From 2 – 6pm we’ll be filling the salle at Academie Duello’s School of Swordplay at 412 W Hastings in Vancouver with artisan tables, books, and baked goods.

Sip a cup of tea, courtesy of the Granville Island Tea Company, listen to some of our favourite authors read, and enjoy thrilling swordplay demonstrations by Academie Duello.

Artisan Fair

ragnar1

Get your last minute gift shopping done as you browse the tables at our artisan fair.

There’s something for every taste:  jewellery that ranges from sophisticated to saucy, with steampunk, gaming, and fandom flavours from CrossedPromise, Vicborgian Princess & Friends and Kristen Kahila; exquisite  hats, clothing, and accessories from authentic period pieces to pure fantasy from Dark Anachronisms,

tell-tale-2

My Tell-Tale Heart and Ragnar the Trader; books for children and adults alike from Barefoot Books, Reality Skimming Press, and our author tables; carvings, paintings, and artwork from the Carnegie Vending Cart artists, Melissa Mary Duncan, and Marika Purisima; decadent bath bombs and irreverant needlepoint from Layne Moore and Miss Stitched.

Author readings

We are thrilled to have readings from CC Humphreys, JJ Lee, Eileen Kernaghan, Sebastien de Castell, Jude Neale, Rhea Rose, Elizabeth Armerding, Graham J Darling, Daniela Elza, and Sylvia Taylor!  Books from these authors and several others will be available for sale and and signing.books

devonSwordplay Demonstrations

Devon Boorman, director of Academie Duello will take you through the history of European swordplay in three thrilling demonstrations of long sword, sword and buckler and rapier with team of expert students.

Issue 13, Winter 2017

issue-13-cover-smallAnd of course we’ll have copies of Issue 13 hot off the press.  Pick yours up along with any back issues you may be missing!  If the shipping gods are good we may even have early copies of The Writer’s Boon Companion available!boon-cover

Admission is by donation, and proceeds from the event go equally to support our non-profit organization and Academie Duello’s Youth Outreach Program.  We look forward to celebrating the season with you!

Literary Launch & Swordfighting Salon
Sunday 18th December 2016, 2pm – 6pm
at Academie Duello, 412 W Hastings, Vancouver

 

 

Untitled-1

Editorial and Red Flags

Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind. – Woolcott Gibbs

Notes from the acquisitions editor

Every acquisitions editor has a few red flags in a top desk drawer.  This list may save you time with rejections.smallpenandink

  1. Ten cent transitionals like suddenly, then, next, and realized.
  2. Actions that come after they occur (eg Stella walked on, having shut the door behind her.)
  3. Bouncing blonde curls (You wouldn’t believe how often I read stories where blonde curls bounce around.  Also, raven hair.)
  4. Without a doubt, paragraphs jam-packed with sentences beginning with modifying phrases.
  5. Dialogue tags like “chuckled”, “said flirtatiously”, “shouted”, “gasped”, “For which better dialogue can be substituted,” Mel advised testily.
  6. Exclamation points. (Excepted, the masters Ray Bradbury and Tom Wolfe.)
  7. Frequent adverbs, (excepted, the master Bill Bryson.)
  8. ALL CAPS DAMMIT.

However, there are no hard and fast rules.  Many editors think all use of the passive stinks like old fish, but two of my favourite writers, Wodehouse and Churchill, use the passive form a lot, and for excellent reasons, so the passive is not much of a red flag for me.  One reason authors love writing is that we enjoy our creative freedom.  Do what you like, really, for there will be editors who are fine with ! and Iy.   I read somewhere that McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies was rejected many times for its slow start, and it became an adored bestseller. (Note: the previous sentence was in passive form because the manuscript was more important than the editors who rejected it).

How comforting it is to know that none of us will ever catch everything.  That’s why we employ brilliant, talented copy editors to work over our manuscripts.  Pay them. Pay them more than they ask.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

MuseThis week from @yourwritingmuseI admire the way your first paragraph gives us time, place, tone, and hints at the central conflict. Your Writing Muse

Get writing tips, submission windows and contest news in your inbox by subscribing to our free newsletter.