Writing in Seasons

Fall is my second-favorite season (spring wins because it’s warmer). One of the things I like about it is the sense of calm that comes after summer. Summer is typically busy — a good kind of busy, as it’s filled with trips and barbecues and movies and hours of light — but as evidenced by all those and’s, it’s still busy. As the weather cools, it’s easier to pause for a moment and sit in a chair with a cup of tea.

It’s also easier to pause and write. I write all year, but during the summer and spring, I find it more difficult to write anything long. I finished the first draft of Please Give in April, and sent it for edits in June. I thought I’d spend the time it was with my editor working on my next novel.

I thought wrong. It was a prolific stage, as I finished five short stories and started another, longer one between April and September. But it was prolific in a somewhat manic way, as I wrote in short story bursts as opposed to one long, lingering novel (though there were times when pounding out pages of Please Give felt like anything but calm and lingering).

Fall is back, and so is the book. I’ve been revising it for the past few weeks, and of course, I got ideas for my next novel once my current one was back in my inbox. And, I not only got an idea for the next one, but an idea that would turn the unfinished, longer short story into a proper novella — or maybe even a novel, once it’s done. Two novels to work on, and I’m still revising the first one. Thanks, brain, for having such a great schedule.

In all seriousness, I am starting to wonder if fall and winter have become my novel-writing seasons, while spring and summer are the seasons for short stories. Fall and winter do lend themselves beautifully to a book. It gets darker earlier, which puts me inside with my laptop. There are a flurry of activities with the holidays, but it still feels slower than the onslaught of Things To Do that comes with the excitement of the weather warming up and my winter hibernation coming to a close.

All year, there is a lot — and all year, there is a lot to write. It seems for me at least, the time of year dictates how much I’ll write until the story feels complete.

Progress Report: Decisions and Revisions

Fall is upon us. Last fall, I got the first idea for what became my first novel. It’s fitting, then, that one year later I’m in the midst of revising it.

I’ve never revised a novel after receiving copy-edits. I of course revised chapters as I wrote the book, and made revisions as I went back and read it from beginning to end. But my revision experience based on edits from my editor has only been with short stories. I can usually go through these in a few hours, and read from beginning to end with ease (and multiple times at that).

Understandably, it’s a different process altogether to try and do this with a novel — and a somewhat long one at that.

It’s an experience, though, that I’m glad to take on. I’m finding a balance between making edits as I think of them, no matter the order they fall in the narrative; and working from beginning to end. I’m in the latter stage now, as I’ve found it’s easier and better for the edits to read from one chapter to the next at this point (though I’ve made notes to myself for later changes to make when I reach where they’ll go in the story).

It’s a longer process than I had with the short stories, but I’m grateful for the length. I’m usually anxious to write it all and write it now. As such, I can sometimes write rather haphazardly. It comes together in final drafts — it calms down, if you will — but for a novel, I need to exercise that patience sooner. I need to write the revisions as a note, and let them settle before putting them into the manuscript. It makes for a calmer process — and one, I hope, that leads to a more rewarding finish.

I still anticipate publishing Please Give by November 28. I’m still writing notes and passages for other projects, but the novel revisions are my focus. There’s time for everything. “In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” (Side note: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is my favorite poem)

I look forward to sharing the book in its finished form with all of you. Thank you for reading!

And as a quick reminder, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Happy Birthday, Stephen King

Today is the one, the only Stephen King’s 70th birthday!

stephen king
I maintain that horror writers have the best sense of humor.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite story of his, though when trying to decide, I gravitate towards Pet Sematary, Hearts in Atlantis, and a short story that, for the life of me, I cannot remember the title of. I think it’s called First Date. I’m mad I can’t remember, because that story had a huge impact on me and the types of stories I both read and tell. It’s very short, and details a man as he gets ready for a date — gets dressed up, buys flowers, etc. He walks down the street and sees his date. He greets her. She stares at him, asks who he is. He gets upset that she doesn’t know, then angry as he realizes she’s not his date, then kills her. He’s a serial killer, and all those motions he goes through are his thing. It ends with him walking off innocently, like nothing brutal happened. It’s an excellent story, and if any of you can tell me the title, I’d be much obliged.

King is a big deal in my family. I still remember receiving my first book of his. I was fourteen and on summer vacation, and reading a comic book when Mom came up to me with a book. She told me if I was interested in reading Stephen King — a name I’d only heard uttered around the house and in movie trailers — that she recommend I read this one. She held out Salem’s Lot, and said she was around my age when she read it and that she loved it. I read it, and I loved it too.

I loved it so much that I got a steady stream of his books from the library. I still remember reading Stephen King on my grandmother’s porch one summer. She looked at my book, and with the blend of curiosity and judgment that she was a master at, she asked, “Stephen King?”

I nodded. I was used to these sorts of questions about my taste and interests. One needs to be when they’ve been into the weird and macabre since they were five. I also prepared myself to hear about how other relatives of mine weren’t into those things, the subtle message being that I was odd and that that needed to be noted at all times. Again, something I was used to.

She clucked her tongue, and rolled her eyes a little. “Just like your father,” she said.

I smiled.

My family and I still talk about Stephen King — I read Doctor Sleep on both Mom and Dad’s enthusiastic recommendation last summer — and I still enjoy both reading and watching his tales. Happy birthday, Stephen King. Thank you for the memories — the ones in your books, and the ones I have because I’ve read them.

Progress Report: Circling Back

First, I want to do two things up top …

  1. Say thanks to all who’ve purchased, read, and left nice comments for The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales. Seeing the initial feedback helped make my first publishing endeavor a little less scary. So, thank you!
  2. Remind you all that The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! I hope you enjoy it.

The past couple months have mostly been focused on preparing The Crow’s Gift for release, as well as various writing projects. Most of them have either been new stories or continuing ones I started and didn’t finish. Some of them still remain unfinished, but I believe that stories worth finishing find a way to get done, in due time. Sometimes they just need to percolate.

I did start and finish one long story. I started it in Canada (and on my phone, since my laptop was on its own Canadian adventure), and started it on a random story thought: what if someone was friends with a married couple — friends with both the husband and wife independently — and when he met the wife for lunch one day, he did so with the knowledge that the husband was cheating on her? It morphed into a rather long short story that’s currently called Do Something. It’s a simple premise on the surface, but the choices Peter makes about what to say and not say to his friends take some interesting turns, ones I didn’t fully expect as I wrote. I started with a set idea of what would happen, but the story went pretty far from that idea by the time it reached the end. I like when that happens, though; and it’s one of the reasons I prefer to avoid outlining when I can. The characters tell me what happens as I write their story, and I become surprised by the results — it’s more fun that way. (I admit that works better for short stories than novels)

With the exception of Do Something, though, my writing has been a bit scattered — a revision here, an added page or two to an unfinished project there. I am used to working on one thing at a time, but I suppose as I write more, it’s to be expected that I’d be juggling a few projects at a time. I am still used to what it was like when writing became ingrained in my day-to-day — which was when I honed in on Please Give and almost nothing else for several months.

Please Give will be back for revisions soon. I’d shelved it while working on other pieces, though not entirely — I’d still think about some lines, or the characters, or a possible revision (though I’m not making any until I get it back from my editor and see what she says). It was around this time last year, though, that the story first came alive in my mind. What started as a title and a basic premise based on a shared joke with my colleague (now, sadly, my former colleague; though I’m happy he’s found a new job) morphed into a story I had no idea I’d get so involved with — and one I loved engaging with. I find it fitting, then, that it’s coming back for Phase 2 of its novel life around the time it became a story to begin with.

I look forward to sharing Please Give in its finished form later this fall, and the next batch of completed short stories in 2018. Thank you for reading!

Out Now: “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales”

I’m happy to announce that The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

the crow's gift and other tales by sonora taylor
Cover Art by Doug Puller

The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales features four stories of connections and their consequences. It includes “The Crow’s Gift,” “I Love Your Work,” “I Never Knew Your Name,” and “All the Pieces Coming Together” (note — you can still read “All the Pieces Coming Together” for free on the blog).

The collection came together with a lot of help. It features gorgeous artwork from Doug Puller, who drew the cover, title page illustration, and page breaks. The stories were also edited by Evelyn Duffy, who did an excellent job to help complete the stories with her edits, notes, and work. I thank them both for their amazing work.

I’m very excited to share this collection with you. You can purchase the collection on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook). I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope you’ll leave a review once you’ve finished it. Thank you all for reading!

Verse: September 1st

Happy September, everyone! September puts fall on the brain, even as the remnants of summer stick around for a while after Labor Day. Around here, September sees hot days but cooler nights — a sign of the season to come. Autumn is tied with spring for my favorite season. I love the changing leaves, cooking dishes with pumpkin, going to the Renaissance Fair, and of course, Halloween.

I wrote a quick verse about the first of September, which is below. I hope you all have a good weekend, month, and season!

**

In summer’s warmth, the month of August
Seemed to disappear.
September rolls around the bend
To bring a cooler year.

9.1.17

The In-Between

Last week, I shared one of my short stories for free, All the Pieces Coming Together. Next week, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales will be released, which contains All the Pieces and three additional stories.

As I sit in the in-between, one week before and after a story release, I find myself both nervous and excited. I’ve written for many years, but I’ve never published anything before — none of my fiction, anyway. I did submit some poems to my high school’s literary journal, and I’m glad for both your sake and mine that there’s no online archive of the issue.

I also converted one of my short stories into a treatment for television for my Electronic Media Writing class at NC State. It was called The Wedding of Bianca West, and the story cross-cut between an innocuous wedding ceremony and an attack the week before on Bianca and her fiance. It’s revealed at the end that her fiance had been turned into a vampire, and their “ceremony” was him converting her into one too. Wildly original, I know; but we all start somewhere. My professor called it “creepy, but effective.”

None of the stories in The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales feature vampires, and I kept all of them in the present day (oh yeah, Bianca West was set in 19th century England, which I knew almost nothing about except for what I read in fiction. Research? Pish-posh, I had a vampire bride to create). However, it’s my hope that when you read the collection, that you find the stories both creepy and effective; and more so, that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. I look forward to hearing what you think.

In the meantime, here’s one final reminder that you can read one of the stories, All the Pieces Coming Together, both now and for free. It’s available in EPUB (zip) and PDF (please bear in mind when you open it that pieces — heh — are NSFW). Thank you for reading!