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Meanwhile, in Maine...

Meanwhile, in Maine…

It’s been a very snowy February in my region of the world, with this month featuring at least two storms a week with significant snowfall… and two blizzards! We’ve already passed twice the amount of snow that is normal for a typical winter, and we’re not done yet. January-February is always the roughest part of the winter here, but being stubbornly tough New-Englanders, we can endure it. Even with our stoicism however, the level of “snow fatigue” in the household is high.

The hardships of the weather, which trickle down into everything else in the forms of physical exhaustion, extra work, job stress, and social isolation can really wear you down. This winter has made me appreciate the simple pleasures and strengths that mean the difference between reaching that last straw or not. In the past, such hard times would have prompted me to put away my writing as too difficult to pursue, but something has changed. This time I didn’t give up and better yet… I had some victories in finishing some fiction! Here is the rundown:

Out to Pasture: I finally regained momentum with this short story two weeks ago thanks in large part to a snowed-in weekend that finally gave me some time to sit and write between outside chores. I finished the draft a few days after that and the final word count was around seven and a half thousand.

This story was a real challenge to write. It’s got a lot of humor, and I discovered that comedy really is hard to write. It probably didn’t help that it’s a dry humor, which seems even harder to peg; getting it right was a steep learning curve. There is a lot of dialogue in the piece as well, and finding the beat and rhythm for the two main characters’ voices was critical and elusive… The line between “good-natured sass” and “rude dickery” is a subtle one and learning not to cross it took time.

I kept at it however, and finished it! After a few edits, I sent it around for review and reading and the feedback has been solid and good. One critiquer said; “The funny is funny, you don’t overdo it or underdo it. The tone is consistent. I laughed out loud in places and I’m a tough sell.” That meant a lot to me because I tried really hard to hit all of those marks and was unsure if I had. It also came from a writer whose talent I know and enjoy.

So what is Out to Pasture about? Here is a blurb:

Out to Pasture TitleErden listens to the rumors and tales of the local heroes’ exploits knowing that he would never want to get involved in them himself. But today the Briar Fellowship has come to the farm looking for HIS help…

Currently I’m still waiting on some more feedback before I take it all in and work on finalizing the draft. Once it’s ready in a few more weeks I’ll most certainly be posting it up on Aethereal Engines, possibly in two parts. A new Burusian Tale! Huzzha!

After finishing the draft of Out to Pasture, I immediately was faced with coming up with a submission to the writing challenge in the Fantasy Writers community I participate in that started on the 22nd of this month. The challenge was to submit a fantasy story inspired by a song or piece of music.

The week leading up to the 22nd was brutal on my free time. Beyond running through some ideas and making a final choice as to what I was going to create, I couldn’t pull together any real writing until Saturday the 20th. From there, Oo-De-Lally went from rough idea to a finished chapter draft in only thirty six hours. Monday afternoon was spent doing edit and revision as I rested a bad back and by Tuesday night I had incorporated the feedback from my ever awesome and trusted alpha-readers. I posted it to the contest in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the 25th.

Although I couldn’t finish the whole story that I wanted in time enter it, I was able to get the first third of Oo-De-Lally polished into a three and a half thousand word chapter that stood on its own. I’m happy with this start, and now I need to finish the rest of it.

This story takes place in my science-fantasy Exerverse setting: a world almost like our own except for a single fantastical element… Recent outbreaks of a mysterious and lethal affliction that can leave some survivors “Exed” and often no longer genetically human. This is the same story universe as my recent short story, The Showroom.

As part of the challenge, Oo-De-Lally took its title and some inspiration from this folksy ditty found in one of my wife’s favorite Disney movies:

In the context of the story, this song is referenced as part of an ongoing in-joke between two of the main characters centered on the animated film that it is from. I’ll let readers discover the reasons why, but I will say that it even shows up as someone’s ringtone in the second chapter I’ve started writing.

Cool Art by louisroskosch

Cool Art by louisroskosch

One of the things that I like about writing in the Exerverse is how it allows me to tell stories about anthropomorphism with characters that know our modern, fictional anthropomorphic references. How would our world and the individuals in it view those fictional creations after actual mixtures of human and other species were a fact? How would the Exers, with their new fates and faces involuntarily thrust upon them, look at their fictional precursors? I don’t think that exploring this concept will be the major focus of Oo-De-Lally, but the references to a 1973 Disney movie featuring anthropomorphic animals is quite intentional to highlight that aspect of the Exerverse.

So, what are my plans going into March? My major goals are to finish the edits on Out to Pasture, then write the rest of Oo-De-Lally. After that, I would like to do some editing work on A Contract in Azure and Indigo and start work on a new Burusian Tale. This might be a fantasy adventure-romance I’m calling The Orgcrst… or something about pirates!

Either way, I’ll be writing! And recovering from the snows of February!

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