Joe

The Update: November 2018

The Update: November 2018

Happy NaNoWriMo! It has been a year since the last mad scramble to complete a full 50k word novel, and I’m giving it another go this year. I’m excited for the project I’m taking on, I’m going in with an outline in hopes of having something worth refining once crossing the finish line.

This November is also exciting for another reason. I signed up for an online course through LitReactor. I love my local critique group, but I feel that, in order to bring my writing up to the next level, I need some instruction and feedback from a professional working in my particular genre. So I signed up for a course taught by a well known author and editor who is known to not hold punches when it comes to feedback. We’ll see how it goes. I have a feeling that my ego will take some hits, but I hope to come out the other side with a stronger understanding of where I need to focus and improve.

In other news, the 2018 Writer’s Corner anthology published by Village Books is out! You know, the one I have a story in and helped to edit for. It is ready for consumption and can be picked up and/or ordered from either Village Books location in the Bellingham area. I’ve yet to find a way to order it elsewhere and it’s not planned to be released as an e-book. I think it is also a limited printing. Do not fret though if you are unable to get ahold of a copy. I will be published again in the future. I’m determined, be it in genre magazines, small press, anthologies, or self published.

I think that is all my coffee starved mind can produce tonight. I’ll have another update for you all next time. Let me know if you are doing NaNoWriMo as well. You can find me as JWDonley if you need a writing buddy.

Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
The Update – October 2018

The Update – October 2018

 It has been yet another month. Time is slipping by faster and faster as I get older. It seems like, as the months pass, minutes and hours are robbed from my life leaving me with only the scraps to try and fill with the multitude of tasks I want to accomplish.

This past month has not been the most prodigious for me, at least not for my writing. I did make a little progress on a short story I’m working on, but nothing else. I need to get the first draft of that story wrapped up so I can start prepping for NaNoWriMo. It is only a month away, I want to come to it more prepared than I did last time.

Last year I went in expecting to attempt a handful of short stories with only a few notes on each going in. I ended up using one of them and turning it into a whole novel, and, because I was unprepared to do so, the end result was a draft I don’t think I’ll ever use. This time I will just do a novel and go in with my characters and setting fleshed out as well as have a rough outline started. I really want to have something I can use by the end of November.

That being said, I’d love it if I had to the time this month to take on a couple other tasks as well. I have a handful of  short stories with feedback that are ready for my next draft. I keep putting them off because of other ideas and projects that come up. Hopefully I’ll have some time this month to work on one of them.

I also want to spend some time thinking on how to resurrect my Patreon page, now that I have a smattering of content I can share. I’m still doing research on what to do there. So far I’m thinking about having three tiers. There would be a $1 support tier with no real perks other than the fuzzy happy feeling of supporting art. There will be a story tier where you will get a 1000 word or so story every month, and a slightly higher one where I may offer audio readings of my stories.

I’m also playing around with ideas about some sort of genre web-zine I’d love to lead, but that is not something I can do on my own.

I think that is all I have for this update. If you have any ideas for what sorts of things you’d love to see on my Patreon page, please let me know.

Thanks,
Joe

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The Update – September 2018

The Update – September 2018

Summer is coming to a close and the trees are already beginning to change color out here in the woodsy wilds of Northwest Washington State. Since my last update a few things have happened. The big news is (drum roll please) I made it into the Village Books Writer’s Corner anthology. It will come out towards the end of the year and it will be my very first published fiction. I’m beyond excited and am ready to hold a physical book containing something I wrote.

Other good news: I’ve broken through my writers block. Having completely let go of my Camp Nanowrimo project (at least for now), my writer self has been free to work on another short story. I think it will be a short story, though it may grow into a novella; we’ll just see how it goes. For this project I’ve decided to try and hand write the first draft, and it seems to be going well. I’ve already finished the first two parts, and there are still another two parts to go. Part one has already been typed and presented to my writing group with unanticipated praise.

It feels awesome making progress on a creative endeavor again, yet I am still seeking a wy to earn a bit of extra money with these efforts. To help with this I’ve signed up for an evening class on editing which takes place next month. I’m already getting some practice for this in my writing group, why not make a little money on the side?

I’m also toying with some other ideas; like possibly resurrecting my Patreon account with a monthly short story and/or an editing service, or a new webzine covering weird fiction. Over the coming months I’ll continue developing these ideas and see where it takes me.

I know that I am still at the very beginning of my career as a writer, but I feel like I am making more and more progress with each little success. I just need to keep pushing and making weekly progress on my writing projects.

Stay tuned here to keep up with these projects.

Wish me luck!

Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
The Update – August 2018

The Update – August 2018

Last month’s update feels like it was a lifetime ago. July was such a ridiculously busy month. Here are a few things that went down:

  • I turned 35
  • Weekend trip to the coast for our 14th anniversary
  • Failed at finishing Camp Nanowrimo
  • Did the next round of edits for the Village Books Anthology
  • Slipped into a writer’s slump
  • and went on some hikes

I’m sure there were more things that I’m forgetting as well.

The Hikes

Let’s start with the hikes. I went on four of them last month. The first was the Ridley Creek Trail. This one was crazy. It is an unmaintained trail which starts near the headwaters of the Middle Fork Nooksack river and clambors up the southwest base of Mt Baker, eventually leading to a fire lookout at Park Butte. Apparently this is the long way to get to the fire lookout. At three hours in and around 1,500 feet of elevation gain in dense forest I turned around when coming to a small gully I would need to climb down than back out of. I was already pretty tired, and I still needed to make my way back to the car. I later learned that I was only another half mile from the end of the trail, but it would’ve been another two miles to the fire lookout anyways. I plan to attempt the shorter/easier route to the Park Butte fire lookout very soon.

I also hiked the local Rock Trail, here just south of Bellingham. This is a newer path that may as well be called the ‘Mile of Stairs’. Because that is what it is. It is one of the more interesting trails in the near vicinity that I’ve been on though. There are some massive sandstone rock cliffs and massive boulders that the trail winds around. At the bottom I made way around the back side of Lost Lake. I wanted to get to a waterfall marked on my map. I was a bit disappointed when I got there, since it was only a trickle running off from the lake. It was an extremely quite hike; I only saw a handful of other folks out there. Two of them were a couple of mountain bikers taking a quick skinny dip in the lake (that’s where I decided to head back).

The last hike was only a couple days ago. I attempted Heliotrope Ridge again. This is one that I’ve tried three times in the past, each time I was not able to make it to the end, which is an overlook view of the Coleman Glacier. The first couple times I was unable to get past the last couple creek crossings due to dangerous currents. The third time I took my son with me, and he dunked his boot and soaked his socks half way in. But this time, I made it! Those last creek crossings were a bit scary though. I used some water shoes to get past one, and on the last I dunked and soaked my socks. Luckily I brought a spare pair (which were waterproof) for the hike back. The image at the top is the view from the Coleman Lunch Bluff.

Celebrations

Yep, I’m now 35 years old. I’m not sure what exactly that means for me. I guess I’m finally getting to middle age. Do I have to accept that I’m “old”? Nah, that’s still years away. Right?

Also, Melissa and I celebrated our 14 wedding anniversary. For this we spent a weekend out in Forks, WA. We didn’t go out there for the vampires, but we went instead for the coastal beaches. On the way we swung by Hurricane Ridge, north of Port Angeles, as well. We drove up through the clouds, which cleared away at the last moment revealing the snow clad Alpine-like Olympic Mountains. The beaches the next day were awesome as well. We hiked down to Second Beach, just south of La Push on a Saturday morning. It’s a fairly short hike. The only downside is the massive piles of drift logs you have to clamor over at the end. Later that night we watched a fireworks show launched from La Push for Quileute Days from Rialto Beach. It was an awesome experience.

Writing

My writing ventures have really tanked this month. I just was not inspired most of the time. I’ve mostly cut out photography, though I do still love going on photo hikes. I’ve also almost completely cut out television and movies. This month career stuff has bled outside of work hours a bit, and the anthology edits took up quite a bit of time.

I’m still working to find a successful balance between family, career, writing, etc.

This all being said, Camp Nano in July was a failure for me. I got about 4000 words in at the beginning, but then I just stalled out. I think I will still carry on with the project, but I have some doubts about it and need to spend some time developing the idea. I need to evaluate that I truly am writing the things I want to write. Am I writing the things that I would want to read? This is a tough question, and one I need to make sure the answer to is ‘yes’.

This Month

This month is much more quiet. I should have a little more time to come back to my writing and dig myself out of that rut. I will also, most likely, go on a few more hikes and take a few more pictures. I am also catching up on a handful of reading. It is important, as a writer, to always be reading. And, I need to finish my final draft for submission to the Village Books Anthology. I think my story for this is the most polished one I’ve ever written. A ton of work has gone into it in order to get it to this point. And it does still have a couple warts, but I should be able to smooth them out. I’m hoping that it will get voted into the anthology. (Wish me luck!)

Until next time, you all have an amazing month.

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
The Update – July 2018

The Update – July 2018

It has been another month and much has happened since last time I posted.

Chuckanut Writer’s Conference

The biggest thing being the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. This was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended. I made a handful of new writer friends and met a few published authors. I attended quite a few wonderful talks, a couple of which were way over my head, others were amazing and ultra inspiring.

The highlights of the conference were the sessions involving author Jonathan Evison. I’ve not yet read anything by him, but after hearing his infections energy-infused sessions I feel like I could tackle and succeed at any number of novels. I ended up purchasing his book, West of Here and made sure to get it signed. He mentioned that this particular book has a divided audience. People either love it or hate it. I think I’ll like it since it is a century spanning story taking place out in the Olympic Peninsula. I’m always reading up on the Peninsula for my own story research, it’s one of my favorite obsessions.

Open Mic

I also achieved a major milestone at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve ever read my own work, out loud, in front of an audience. I did this at the fiction open mic held after the end of the conference. The audience was small, and I don’t think any of them were really into my dark fantasy story setting, but I still consider it a success. Melissa and my son came to support me, and Melissa said I sounded good. I even felt like I did alright reading it. It felt nice to finally get over the hurdle of reading my work for an audience, and I sort of look forward to doing it again in the future.

Current Projects / Abandoned Projects

So, I’m just about done working on my short story for submission to the Village Books Writer’s Corner Anthology. I finished off the next revision yesterday and sent it off to the editors. I feel pretty good about it, and, if it doesn’t get in, I will definitely submit it to other publications.

My post apocalyptic future short story is also coming along. I sent my first draft to the rest of my friends who are also publishing in this joint self-published anthology. I’ve received critiques on it from my fiction work-shopping group and plan to start going through that feedback next month.

There is bad news though. For a couple years now I’ve been slogging away at a horror novel. I’m about 35,000 words in, which does not feel like very much at all. I think that my interests have changed since I started writing that story. Also I think I may have taken on too many main character arcs, especially for a first novel.  And so, I am currently planning on setting that project aside indefinitely. I’m keeping all of the notes, just in case I get the itch to give it another go in the future.

Camp Nano

Now that I have officially announced the abandonment of my first real attempt at a novel, I need to start a new project. After attending the conference I am itching to give a new novel a go. But I do not yet have a real idea of what it will be about. Right now the plan is to set it in the same universe as my post apocalyptic short story, as I have quite a bit of world building to work from. By the time you all read this I will be diving in, as I plan to write the first 30,000 words of this new project in the month of July for Camp Nanowrimo. This is like a mini Nanowrimo, but you don’t have to commit to a full 50,000 words and can set your own goal instead. A few of my local writer friends are doing joining in on the fun, and have also set themselves goals of 30K. So, after this month, hopefully I’ll have an update for you on the beginnings of a new novel.

Other News

In other news, I turn 35 this month. I think that officially counts as ‘middle-age’. I’m not really sure what that really means to me yet. Does it mean that I should be wanting boats and fancy cars? Because I don’t really have the urge to buy those things. Right now I’d really love to just have all of my student loans magically disappear and for us to own our dream home. But those things take time.

I think there is something more attainable for the shorter term. To be published. I mean, there is a high chance that I’ll have a couple short stories published soon in a couple anthologies. And that will be wonderful, my work will be out there. But, for one I’m pretty sure there is no payment, and for the other, I doubt there will be a ton of sales.

Really, all I want is to get my writing out there, and possibly make a little money from it. Not a ton of money, I know that the chances of striking it rich as a writer are slim to non-existent. Just a little bit would be nice. So, this year, I will focus on producing and submitting my work to different venues. We’ll see where that takes me.

Wish me luck!
Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
June 2018 Update – Doing all of the things!

June 2018 Update – Doing all of the things!

Hello all of you folks who find me from across the interwebs! How are things going for you?

They are moving along nicely for myself. I’m still chipping away at a few different writing projects. I’m just about done with the first draft of a story for one anthology, and I’m working on a revision for another story for submission to another anthology. Once I get those done I will either go back to working on my novel, or do some more short stories. I haven’t decided yet. And, of course, I’ll let you know where you can get copies once available.

The fiction writing group I run at Village Books is still going well. By the time this has posted we’ll have met for our 4th meeting. It is an interesting experience facilitating a group like this. Facilitate really is the proper word, because I don’t feel like I’m controlling the group, I’m more leading the group along in order for everyone to get the most possible out of the experience. At least that is what I hope for. So far I’ve gotten positive feedback but I’m always open to suggestions on ways to improve the group.

In other news: in order to try and become more efficient with the use of my time, I’ve started using a ‘Bullet Journal‘. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a fancy way of using a blank notebook for personal time management. The basic system is great and I highly recommend it if you are in need of finding more time in your days. Mine is nowhere near as pretty as examples found across Pinterest. On there you’ll find beautiful hand drawn intricate layouts designed by professional graphic designers with washy-tape everywhere. Mine is very utilitarian and functional (I can’t draw). But I like it. In the past month of using this system, my little notebook has become an appendage, a second buffer storage for my brain. Maybe in the future I’ll share some of my more interesting pages on here.

Oh, and another plus of using a Bullet Journal is that it’s a great excuse to buy stationary and stationary accessories, ‘I tell you what!’

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
May 2018 Update

May 2018 Update

Time is a precious thing. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and so on. It is hard to find time for everything I strive to do.

Over the last couple months I’ve pared down greatly on blog posts and I even turned off my Patreon account. I’m hoping I can re-launch the Patreon again in a few months time, but for the moment I just do not have the time for it.

Right now my main focus, outside of family and day job, is running a new fiction workshop group, finishing a couple short stories for two anthologies, and editing a pile of stories for one of those anthologies.

Village Books Fiction 2 Group

I absolutely love the VB Fiction Group, but it reached a point to where it took over two months for the reading rotation to come back to you. Also, it happened to meet on the same night that to the local tech user group meets. For my day job I write code for a giant tech corporation, and it is important to network and stay up to date with industry standards in order to stay current.

So, starting this 2nd group has two benefits.

  1. Smaller group with faster submission rotation
  2. Better fits my schedule

We’ve had two meetings now with the new group, and it has been wonderful. The feedback has remained high quality and the other writers that have joined me are wonderful people. Though, I will miss the folks from the other group.

Anthologies!

And now for an update on my anthology submissions.

I’ve finished the first draft of one and submitted it for feedback to the editing group. So far the feedback has been positive. I’ve gotten some amazing notes on ways to improve the story. I’ve also learned that Kudzu doesn’t group out here in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m also in the editing group for that anthology and I have 11 short stories to provide feedback on by the end of the month.

I’m still working on the first draft for the other story. I wanted to have it done last month, but life got in the way. The current goal is to finish the first draft of that one in the next couple weeks.

Organization

With all of these deadlines and projects going on I decided I needed to revamp my time management tools. Starting this month I’m attempting to use a ‘Bullet Journal’. This is a super flexible way of doing a hybrid journal / todo list. There are so many beautiful examples of how people have customized there own Bullet Journals, but I do not have the drawing and calligraphy skills all of the folks on Pinterest have. Mine is super simple so far, just sticking to the basics of BuJo as laid out by its creator Ryder Carroll, with just an index, future log, monthly and daily logs, and a couple collections and trackers. Go here for more info on Bullet Journaling  – http://bulletjournal.com

Maybe after a few months I’ll share how I’m using my bullet journal.


Well, that’s all I have time for this month. Hopefully, over the coming months I’ll be able to return to a more regular posting schedule.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
The Update – April 2018

The Update – April 2018

Another month, another update.

It's been awhile since my last post, I've not had as much time to create content for my site. Between work and trying to find time for writing projects I've had to neglect the blog. I've even shut down my Patreon for the month.

But I have not been idle.

Anthology Madness

I've yet to be published, but now I have not one, but two separate opportunities to get in anthologies.

The first is the Writer's Corner anthology, put together from the best writings from the multiple writing groups at Village Books, a local independent book store. I'm about halfway through a first draft for about a 4,000 word story. This story is set near the logging town of Forks, WA out on the Olympic Peninsula, and involves murder and retribution.

The second is an anthology some friends and I are working on. For this one I'm putting a ton of work into world and setting development, as I plan to use this new story universe for many short stories and possibly novellas and novels. All I'll say is it's a version of Earth with supernatural problems and a substantially higher sea level.

A New Group

In other news, I'm also in the process of starting a new fiction workshop group. I love the one I'm in over at Village Books, David does an amazing job of facilitating, but it has grown too large. At the last meeting there were 20 writers present. This is a lot of people for one group, even with 15 active submitting members each person is only getting read about once every two months.

And so, with David's blessing, I am working with the store owner to create a second 'official' fiction group. We're still working out the final details before we kick off the inaugural meeting.


So, as usual, there is an inordinate amount on my plate. Hopefully in the near future I will get things under control and begin to post more frequently. For now I will settle with posting when I am able. Be on the lookout in the coming months for info on a Patreon reboot.

Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

Before we get into this review I need to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Here it is. I may be a bit biased when it comes to works by Laird Barron.

There is a bit of history behind this bias. I first came across Laird Barron about a decade ago. Up until that point I'd only been reading Tolkien style fantasy and the occasional science fiction. At that time I was working at a large chain bookstore and I came across an intriguing book with a beautiful cover. It was so different from all of the other books around it.

This book was The Imago Sequence by an author I'd never heard of and published by Night Shade Press. Every other book was ultra glossy and they all looked just like the others, while this one had a gorgeous dust jacket printed on a slightly textured matte paper that made the different shades of absinthe tinted green stand out like a beacon among the gleaming rows of spines. Also, throw in the vague and unsettling image on the front cover. I had to have this book. So I used my employee discount and bought the store's only copy.

Up until this point my only real exposure to horror literature was a little of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, some Lovecraft, and Frankenstein back in high school. So the use of this level of nightmare imagery was something almost shocking. I'd never experienced anything like it before. It was new, exciting, and completely different, and it changed my tastes in fiction forever.

After reading this enlightening collection I began to search out other similar reading experiences and each time a new Laird Barron work came out I made sure to find a copy to devour. And this brings me to his most recent collection of short stories: Swift to Chase

Synopsis

Laird Barron's fourth collection gathers a dozen stories set against the backdrops of the Alaskan wilderness, far-future dystopias, and giallo-fueled nightmare vistas.

All hell breaks loose in a massive apartment complex when a modern day Jack the Ripper strikes under cover of a blizzard; a woman, famous for surviving a massacre, hits the road to flee the limelight and finds her misadventures have only begun; while tracking a missing B-movie actor, a team of man hunters crashes in the Yukon Delta and soon realize the Arctic is another name for hell; an atomic-powered cyborg war dog loyally assists his master in the overthrow of a far-future dystopian empire; following an occult initiation ritual, a man is stalked by a psychopathic sorority girl and her team of horrifically disfigured henchmen; a rich lunatic invites several high school classmates to his mansion for a night of sex, drugs, and CIA-funded black ops experiments; and other glimpses into occulted realities a razor's slice beyond our own.

Combining hardboiled noir, psychological horror, and the occult, Swift to Chase continues three-time Shirley Jackson Award winner Barron's harrowing inquiry into the darkness of the human heart.

{back cover copy}

My Thoughts

With this collection Barron is trying something new. The stories of his previous three short story collections all seemed to take place in a similar universe. These stories still seem to have a slight connection with his past work, but, at the same time, you can tell he is tackling new territory; and new styles as well.

Having said all of that, I'm not sure if this collection was as good for me as his previous work. But, this is not necessarily a bad thing. He has said in recent interviews that he is trying to branch out his writing styles to appeal to more than just the niche 'weird fiction' market, and this collection has some traces of that. There are some stories that verge on slasher thriller and there is one that is futuristic science fiction. If this means bringing more people to the wonderful worlds of Laird, I'm all for it.

I did absolutely love the story Frontier Death Song. This one was about a man who comes across the mythical Wild Hunt in progress while in the wilds of Alaska. (Wild Hunt – it is bad luck to see the Wild Hunt, click here to read more about it on Wikipedia) The Wild Hunt was also a major story component of another recent story I've read and enjoyed: The Brotherhood of the Wheel. I think I may have a thing for folklore based horror.

Conclusion

Do I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book?

Yes, very much so. Bit with a caveat: don't read it as a collection of short stories. Instead read it as a single story arc covering the plight of a group of people connected to a series of events in an Alaska town. Having finished the book I find much more value in the stories after the fact while thinking over who the all connect. I think this book would be a very enjoyable one to read a second time, and possibly more enjoyable than the first read.

If you are interested in reading some of Laird Barron's work I would suggest picking up a copy of his first collection The Imago Sequence as well as this one. You will not be disappointed.

Also be sure to check out his blog.

Posted by Joe in Reading
Monthly Update – March 2018

Monthly Update – March 2018

Well, another month has passed and things are crazy as usual. Somehow I always seem to be more and more busy between my different interests. I find myself having to give up other hobbies to focus on my career and only one or two other items.

Photography Winding Down

You've probably already noticed that I've not continued my photo of the week series.

I've nearly stopped practicing my photography as of late. Thought this may be a seasonal thing. With the sun setting so early, and being engrossed with my different writing projects in the evenings photography has gotten pushed to the corner. I have started to upload my work to stock photography sites to try and earn a little money on what I have done. And I plan on taking a passive approach to taking new photos. By 'passive' I mean I will just take my camera along with me on little trips and take some pictures if I am inclined and not feel like I have to take amazing photos every day.

Family Olympic Peninsula Trip

With that being said, I did get a few nice pics a week back. We took a little family trip out to the Olympic Peninsula and spent a few days at a small fishing resort in the off season before prices starting going up. On the first day we did a hike out to Shi Shi Beach. Some say that this is the most picturesque spot in the Pacific Northwest, and I agree. It was a two hour hike through occasional rain, heavy winds, and extremely muddy conditions, but it was worth it.

The next day we went down to Forks to get my son some new boots, since his were still soaked in mud from the day before and visited Rialto Beach before heading back north and hiking out to Cape Flattery.

I've got more pictures, but I haven't had a chance yet to edit the rest.

Fiction Workshop

In other news, the fiction workshop group I'm in reviewed the second chapter of Shadows Beneath Us, the horror novel I'm currently working on. The feedback was amazing and, as usual, I came out of the meeting energized to continue working on the story. I do have a ton of improvements to make on that chapter and all following chapters based the feedback received.

From this meeting I learned that I need to focus on maintaining tension. For each scene and detail I need to ask myself if it adds to the tension of the story. I horror story without tension will be lacking.

Finding time to write

Here's what sucks though. Even though I'm all energized to get this writing done, I'm finding myself with less and less time to actually write. Between my day job, making sure I am still up to date with current industry practices, and normal family life, writing time has dwindled. To make up for this I've started to whittle back on my other hobbies (photography, hiking, guitar, etc). Things should start to settle down soon.

Writing Distractions!

It also doesn't help that I keep getting distracted from my main writing project. After the little family trip to the peninsula I want to write a ton of stories set in the gloom of the Olympic Forests. The logging industry has me enamored at the moment. Also, I want to throw together a story for possible entry in a locally published anthology. I am seriously considering setting aside Shadows Beneath Us for a bit to try a couple side projects.


I think this is all will ramble about this month. I hope it was of interest to you. I will report back next month! Bye!

Posted by Joe in Random, 0 comments