Tag Archives: Writing

Leveling Up and Measuring Success

Ding! Level! It’s a satisfying noise and a satisfying feeling. You’ve put in the time, now your efforts have been rewarded. Whether it’s a noise, or pretty sparkles on the screen, video games tend to celebrate the achievement of leveling in a tangible way. They’ve also conditioned players to expect that with leveling comes other rewards – more powerful attacks, new skills, better gear, an increased chance of winning the next fight, and so on. It’s hard not to want to apply that same metric to other areas of life, for example writing. You pour your heart into your work, tear yourself open, bleed on the page, bang your head against the wall trying to get that one sentence, one word, one punctuation mark, right. And slowly, ever so slowly, you improve your craft. Ding! Wait, no ding? What’s happening?

Mario Level UpHere’s where things get tricky. That tangible reward system, that outside sense of validation, isn’t always there. It’s hard to write about things like this without it sounding like sour grapes or meaningless platitudes. This post isn’t intended to be either of these things, or to be dismissive of tangible rewards. Consider it a companion post to one I wrote three years ago: Permission to Fail, Permission to Succeed. It’s something I need to remind myself of every now and then, and maybe other people will find it helpful too.

As authors, we all love our craft, right? Otherwise why would we keep banging our heads against that metaphorical wall, agonizing over that one sentence? We’re passionate and most of us would keep writing regardless of reward or recognition, but deep down, wouldn’t it be nice if someone noticed? If a lot of people noticed? If enough people noticed to result in an award? Applying the video game metric, the logical conclusion is that as long as you put in the time, keep grinding and leveling up, an award nomination or even a win will be the end result. Level. Ding! But there are a lot of factors that go into award nominations, and nothing is guaranteed.

Every year, many wonderful, worthy, and amazing works get nominated, but only one can win. Does that make the rest of the ballot any less amazing or worthy? No. Many more works don’t get nominated – they just miss the ballot, or they miss it by miles. Does that make them objectively bad? Not worth your time? No. There are so many works published each year, no one can keep up with all of them. Incredible work gets overlooked and missed all the time. People make hard choices when deciding what to include on their ballots. The works and authors that don’t end up on the list aren’t failures.

Leveling up in writing, unlike video games, is not a strictly linear progression. Some people seem to burst onto the scene with immediate awards success, and from the outside, it looks effortless. We don’t see the years of work behind the “instant” sensation, the days when they too stare at the blank page and the words refuse to come, the days when they doubt anything and everything they’ve ever written, and doubt themselves most of all. Some people work steadily for years, build a career of small victories, then larger ones, and then finally, at last, they earn a coveted space at the top. Ding! Others zig-zag  all over the place and take unconventional routs, and others still put in the time, steadily improve their craft, and that ding never sounds. Sometimes, the cake is a lie.

Does that mean you’re doing something wrong as an author? No. Maybe there is an award further ahead in your future, and when that nomination comes it will be incredible and well-deserved and you will celebrate with glee. But there might not be. Awards aren’t a guaranteed landmark on your journey. If you don’t hit that way point, it doesn’t mean you’re lost. Again, it means the rewards, the way points on your journey, the proof you’ve leveled, aren’t always tangible.

There are other markers along the way, and sometimes it’s hard to see them. You’re running so fast toward that next level, that perceived endpoint, that sometimes the scenery starts to blur. You don’t always see that one person your words touched, or that your work meant the world too. You don’t always notice the improvements in your craft, or how far you’ve come from where you started.

The temptation is there to think if I could just win an award, I will have finally made it. I will be able to leave the self doubt behind. The dirty secret is, it’s never enough. Those people who win awards? They doubt themselves too. We all do. It’s what keeps us writing, keeps us striving. Even when you win, there’s always another level. The cap keeps rising. So what do you do? Keep writing. Make more words. A torrent of them. Don’t stop, but do look back every now and then. Give yourself permission to succeed. The metric may not be what you thought it was, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t made any progress. You may just need to learn to measure the journey in different ways.

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Cover Reveal: The Kissing Booth Girl

The most excellent Lethe Press unveiled the cover and table of contents for my upcoming collection earlier today. The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories contains fifteen stories (eleven reprints, and four brand spanking new). Follow the link to see the full ToC at Lethe Press’ site. The cover is stunningly gorgeous, and I could not be happier with the way it turned out. The artist is Reiko Murakami. Do yourself a favor and browse through her portfolio; her work is incredible. The collection should make its way into the world in October. In the meantime, here is the aforementioned cover. Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands!

The Kissing Booth Girl


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Giveaway: The Flesh Made Word

FMWFree smut! Get it while it’s hot! Oh, who am I kidding? This one will stay hot indefinitely. Ten writers (including me) writing erotica about writing. What more could you want? The Flesh Made Word is published by Circlet Press, and it’s one of their rare print editions, being a publisher that specializes primarily in ebooks. What makes The Flesh Made Word extra special? There are blank pages for you to write your very own naughty, sensuous, and thrilling tales. All you have to do is comment below (or if you’re particularly shy, send me an email at a.c.wise (at) hotmail (dot) com, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. The winner will be chosen by the power of a Random Number Generator. The giveaway will be open until May 16, 2015.

The contributing authors include A.B. Eyers, Andrea Zanin, Benji Bright, Trish DeVene, Nadine Wilmot, Delilah Bell, Kannan Feng, Sasha Payne, Sunny Moraine, and yours truly. You can read an excerpt of my story at the Circlet website, and while you’re there, maybe pick up another book or two that catches your fancy? If you’re in a listening mood, you can also hear the full text of my story at the Nobilis Erotica podcast.

That’s it. Throw your name in the ring by May 16, 2015, and you might just get lucky. (See what I did there? See?)

 ETA: Random number generator says email entrant MLH is the winner. Thank you everyone who entered!


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Cover Girls

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron has a cover. Are you ready? It’s an amazing, incredible, wonderful cover and I love it to pieces. I might even go so far as to say it’s fabulous. The cover art is by Staven Anderson, whose portfolio can be found here. You really should click through; there’s some gorgeous work to be found. I couldn’t be happier with the way the cover turned out. I’m still kind of stunned my hyper/flailing description of what I had in mind turned into a real piece of art. That’s the mark of a true professional. So, without further delay, here they are – my fabulous glittering cover girls, ready to kick ass and save the world.

Glitter Cover

I am so, so excited for this collection. Now that it has a cover and an official title, it’s starting to feel real. If all goes according to plan, you should be able to get your very own copy from the wonderful Lethe Press, and other fine retailers, this Fall.

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All That Glitters is Fabulous

LipsThis is a scary post to write. Because it’s about something amazing and terrifying that doesn’ta feel quite real yet. Part of me is afraid that saying it aloud will make it vanish – like the opposite of Beetle Juice or Bloody Mary. Talk about it too much and it will just go away.

… But, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Collection is going to be a real thing. A. Real. Thing!

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron started with a short story in Ideomancer: Operation Annihilate Mars! Or, Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron. It was so much fun to write, but I thought that was the end of it. Then Bunny had different ideas. She stepped up and insisted her story be told. And so, there was How Bunny Came to Be, which appeared in Shimmer #17.

And after that, I fell in love. These incredible, fierce, amazing characters kept stepping up and insisting their stories be told. Their armor is glitter and sparkles and they are all the things that so many narratives tell us is the opposite of what ‘strong’ is supposed to be. They wear dresses and nail polish and high heels, and they fight and save the world over and over again. They think gender check boxes are stupid.  And they kick ass harder than you’ve ever seen ass kicked before. Did I mention I love them? I may be biased.

I was afraid no one would ever care except for me. But other people did, and as it turns out, Steve Berman of Lethe Press happened to be one of them, and is willing to take a chance on my gorgeous, glittering girls. I will be forever grateful. (Lethe Press is wonderful, by the way, and you should run out and buy books from them.)

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to read all about The Glitter Squadron in Summer 2015. I’ll post more details as they’re available. But for now, I wish glitter to you all.


Image from flickr user Snowkei, cropped and used under Creative Commons License.


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A Game of Cards

StreetsofShadowsI’m a sucker for noir. I love the shadows, the rain-slick streets, the down-on-their-luck characters, all the classic dingy and dirty trappings of the genre. Up until now, I’ve never tried my hand at writing it. As I’ve said before, I consider Jessica Rabbit to be the ultimate femme fatale, and the fact that the stylings of Who Framed Roger Rabbit imprinted themselves on me at such a young age made me fear my view might be a little too…skewed to pull it off successfully. But then Streets of Shadows came along, and couldn’t resist. After all, isn’t skewed a good thing?

So I thought about noir and the close, gritty, rain-soaked streets I associate with the genre. Then I took my story and plunked it in the desert, Las Vegas, Nevada to be exact (though I did sneak in a freak rainfall, cuz, y’know, noir). I thought about the archetypal tough-guy lead, the straight, white, male detective with the perpetual five o’clock shadow outlining his perfect jaw. Then I wrote a story with a black, lesbian boxer-turned-bodyguard as the lead. I threw in magic and luck and grifters and card games. There is a femme fatale of sorts, but she doesn’t look like Jessica Rabbit, and whether she’s bad or drawn that way, I leave it for others to decide.

Streets of Shadows is now officially available for purchase. It blends noir and urban fantasy in tales spun by the likes of Damien Angelica Walters, Paul Tremblay, Nick Mamatas, Nisi Shawl, Seanan McGuire, and many more. You can see the full ToC here, and read Tom Piccirilli’s contribution, What I Am, for free at Apex Magazine.

I’ll even give you a little taste of my contribution, A Game of Cards, to get you started…

Times like this, it’s like I never left the ring. The crack of fist to jaw, spitting blood, and that first bitter-sweet pulse of heat that’ll be a beautiful bruise by morning. Except there are no spotlights, no crowds shouting my name, and it’s a lucky elbow thrown with a wild prayer rather than a punch thrown with skill that catches me.

One thing is the same: It hurts like a motherfucker.

The blow lands in just the right spot to send pain along an old fault line, the one that ended my career. Now I’m pissed.

I’ve got at least ten pounds on this guy, all muscle. He’s skinny as a rag soaked in kerosene; wiry is one thing, if you know how to use it, but he doesn’t. He’s flailing, cornered. He got one lucky shot. He won’t get two.

To read the rest, you’ll have to pick up your very own copy of Streets of Shadows.

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Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

Shimmer21As part of my secret, not-so-secret, not-really-a-plan-plan to appear in as many issues of Shimmer as possible, I have once again snuck my work into its fine oages. Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife was published a few days ago in Issue #21. It’s not quite erotica, but well…it is inspired by a famous piece of erotic art from the 1800s, Hokusai’s woodblock print, The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. (Image below the cut, in case you’re not into tentacle sexy times.)

If you’re curious how the story came to be, you can read my Shimmery author interview . I also wax poetic about poutine, and discuss my obsession with featuring bodies of water in my fiction. Or, if you prefer to skip straight to the good stuff, there’s a Shimmer Drinking Game in honor of Shimmer reaching drinking age. Once you’ve had a few Shimmery drinks, jump past the cut for the visual inspiration behind the story. Cheers!


Continue reading

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Apocalypse, Canadian Style

The moment Silvia Moreno-Garcia announced her anthology, Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse, I knew I wanted to write something for it. I like Silvia’s work. I like the anthologies being published by Exile Editions. I like post-apocalyptic stories. And I’m Canadian. It seemed like a natural fit.


However, I have this little problem when I try to write stories specifically set in Canada – I trip myself up by making it too personal. Instead of authentically Canadian details woven smoothly into a story, I end up with rambling tangents that go nowhere, people and places and things all knotted up in a way that would only be interesting to me. I get a lot of half-finished tapestries that way.

True to pattern, the story I excitedly started for this anthology got stuck. I let it languish. But lo and behold, months later, when I’d all but given up inspiration struck. Driving back from a trip to the Southern U.S., a climate decidedly the opposite of Canada’s, I started thinking about Canadian mythology, and things that were quintessentially Canadian. I tried to find the Canadian equivalent of the Matter of Britain (Arthurian Legend) or the Matter of France (Charlemagne). I came up with Anne of Green Gables. I mean, what could be more Canadian?

Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse is now available. I hope you enjoy my odd little contribution. And if not, don’t fear. As you can see from the ToC below, I’m surrounded by an awesome amount of talent, so you’re sure to find something you love.

No Man is a Promontory, Hilary Janzen
Persistence of Vision, Orrin Grey
The Dome of St. Macaire, Jean-Louis Trudel
Kalopsia, E. Catherine Tobler
White Noise, Geoff Gander
Edited Hansard 116, Miriam Oudin
The Body Politic, John Jantunen
D-Day, T. S. Bazelli
Matthew, Waiting, A.C. Wise
Jenny of the Long Gauge, Michael Matheson
Snow Angel, A. M. Dellamonica
Keeper of the Oasis, Steve Stanton
Manitou-wapow, GMB Chomichuk
Saying Goodbye, Michael Pack
Of the Dying Light, Arun Jiwa
@shalestate, David Huebert
City Noise, Morgan M. Page
Brown Wave, Christine Ottoni
Ruptures, Jamie Mason
River Road, Amanda M. Taylor
Last Man Standing, Frank Westcott
Dog for Dinner, dvsduncan
Maxim Fujiyama and Other Persons, Claude Lalumière


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Join the Cyborg Revolution

UpgradedNeil Clarke recently announced the ToC for his upcoming anthology Upgraded. As far as I know, it is the first anthology about cyborgs edited by a cyborg. How cool is that?

Among many fabulous stories by wonderful authors is my own contribution, Taking the Ghost. Because the first thing you think of when you hear the word cyborg is secondary world fantasy with metallic limbs powered by ghosts, right? Or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, I’m thrilled to be in such good company in this anthology, and I’m looking forward to reading the other contributors’ stories. I’m also thrilled to be in an anthology with cover art by Julie Dillon. Her work is gorgeous.

Upgraded is officially out sometime in July, but it’s available for pre-order now.

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Year-End Round Up 2013: Writing

This is the last of my year-end wrap-up posts, I promise! Since my final short story for the year went live over the weekend at Three-Lobed Burning Eye, it seemed an appropriate time to gather together everything I had published in 2013. Looking at them all together like this, it was a pretty damned good year. Just as a general FYI, not a suggestion, everything here is eligible for all the usual awards in the short story category. If anyone is interested in reading anything that isn’t readily available online for award consideration, drop me a note in the comments or send me an email (a.c.wise at hotmail), and I’ll happily provide a copy.

With Tales in Their Teeth, From the Mountain They Came Lightspeed, January 2013

Tasting of the Sea Shimmer 16, January 2013

Kid Wonder, Masked Mosaic (Tyche Books), February 2013

The Last Survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution, Clarkesworld, March 2013

Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, Ideomancer, June 2013

Lesser Creek: A Love Story, a Ghost Story, Clockwork Phoenix 4, July 2013

The Book of Her, Bibliotheca Fantastica (Dagan Books), July 2013

How Bunny Came to Be, Shimmer 17, September 2013

For the Removal of Unwanted Guests, Halloween: Magic, Mystery and the Macabre (Prime Books), September 2013

Chasing Sunset, Whispers from the Abyss (01Publishing), October 2013

Love Letters Found in a Secret Fortress, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, October 2013

The Hush of Feathers, the Clamor of Wings, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales (Prime Books), October 2013

Her Last Breath Before Waking, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, December 2013

At the Everywhere Cafe, Coffee (UFO Publishing), December 2013

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