The Friday Fictioneers of October

Pumpkins have started to pop up everywhere. Leaves have begun to display color. The air is crisp… Well, our dog days of summer here in central Virginia arrived a bit late. We’ve been in the 80’s the past few days. Richmond hit 90 degrees a day or so ago. Eighties wouldn’t be so bad without humidity, but it’s the south. We have humidity.

Still, this is my favorite time of year. It’s as if I’ve been running all out up until this point, then I take a breath and wind down–as much as one can do that with Thanksgiving and Christmas looming. Something about the fall makes me begin to reflect on the previous part of the year. So, let’s have a look.

I entered a bunch of contests and made a bunch of submissions. I placed third in one contest, and all the submissions were rejections save one; but its notification date is March 2014 and could still be a rejection. (There will be twenty to twenty-five works in the collection, and the editor has already received more than 200 submissions; the odds aren’t great.) I’ve revised and rewritten a novel which a workshop instructor believes has definite promise for being picked up by an agent. I’ve edited and revised other manuscripts, participated in two weekly flash fiction events, and again amassed enough espionage short stories for another collection. I’ve been to ten writers conferences or workshops, participated in two on-line workshops, and taught one on-line workshop.

A busy writerly year, and I can’t even describe how fulfilling that is. As the go-to analyst/tech writer in my government job, I probably wrote a lot more than I do now on a daily basis, but the key difference is time. The deadlines I had in my job were rigid and often capricious, the whim of some congressional staffer with an overblown ego. Though the feedback was always good about a white paper or a report or a Q&A I did, I never felt as if that work were polished enough. I’d always come up with a better way of saying it. Now, thankfully, I have luxury of time to make certain what I write is the best it can be.

And I don’t take that for granted. I have too many writer friends with full-time jobs and families they juggle with their writing. I know how precious it is. I admire these writer friends so much for being dedicated enough to their writing that they make it a priority among all the other priorities they have. After all, that was I not that long ago, and I’m glad to have them in my writer life to keep me humble.

Friday Fictioneers LogoOctober is also a spooky month–it culminates in Hallowe’en, after all. So, it’s not surprising that today’s completely innocent-looking Friday Fictioneers photo prompt sent me into Stephen King-land. The fact I’m reading his sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, may have something to do with my story, “White Noise,” as well. I’m going to see if I can’t make every Friday Fictioneers story this month have a little bit of horror going for it. Bwahahaha!

As usual, if you don’t see the link on the story title above, scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.

The Places We Write

This past weekend I spent a brief time in a place where I used to spend a lot of time–eastern Connecticut. My ex, before he was my ex, and I spent as many weekends and holidays as we could on a small lake that spanned the Connecticut/Rhode Island border. The lake is called Beach Pond, and up until a few years ago it had a small beach on the Rhode Island side; hence, the name. Our lake house on the Connecticut side had a small lakeside yard and dock, a large deck, and a great view, which looked across the lake onto the Acadia State Park in Rhode Island.

On the drive from Providence Airport to Preston, CT, where I stayed at my ex in-laws, I have to pass by Beach Pond. I’ve only done this three times since I was last there in 2005 before the ex became the ex. For some reason, last Friday on the third time, I recalled that I wrote most of the rough draft of what’s now a four-book series at the little gray house on the lake.

Now, I’m not much of a water person. I’m a pool swimmer, and bodies of water with fauna in it make me a bit nervous, but sitting beneath some good-sized oak trees with a beer at hand, and notebook or laptop with me, I was in writer heaven. On the weekends, the place was very active in the afternoons–water skiers, JetSki-ers, canoers, kayakers–but in the mornings, the place was quiet and still.

My ex had, as one of his many good qualities, an ability to understand what writing meant to me. He knew it went far beyond the fact I did technical writing for a living. He knew what I wanted to do with my writing, and he encouraged it. He never once complained about the fact a notebook accompanied every vacation we went on and that some part of the day had to have writing in it.

At Beach Pond, he would hop into a small row boat and explore all the various nooks and crannies of Beach Pond, and I would write–pages and pages, sometimes by hand, sometimes on a monstrosity of a laptop (This started in the late nineties.) After two years of these getaways, I had a complete rough (very, very rough) draft of a novel.

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that until last Friday as I passed by Beach Pond and felt nostalgia for the happy times I’d had there, but the feeling was something like remembering where you had your first kiss or the first time you made love to someone. The place has an unending significance. This is where I wrote my first, real novel. This is the place whose quiet beauty helped inspire me to do that.

Now, inextricably, that place will always be associated with that particular manuscript. Someday, I’ll turn the pages of the books it has become, and I’ll hear the lap of wavelets against the bulkhead, the rhythmic splash of the oars on the row boat as my ex explored a place he’d known since he was a child all to give me the time to create.

Place, or setting, within a novel is often crucial to its plot, but don’t forget the place where you wrote it. That could be just as crucial–and special.