Out and about – a new story on 365 Tomorrows today

A funny thing happened today. I woke up thinking today would be just like every other Saturday, so I got up, had breakfast and carried on as usual. You know, hoovering, a bit of cleaning, preparing laundry loads and the like. I finally sat down to watch some telly past midday – I know, midday  doesn’t sound like the right time to watch tv on a sunny Saturday but being past the 38th week now, this pregnancy is already taking its toll on me. To feel a little less guilty I decided to open my laptop and begin the edits on a story I finished writing last week. I thought it was a moment as good as any to check my mail and so I did and here came my big surprised. 365 tomorrows had accepted one story I had submitted earlier this month. Can you believe it? I still don’t.

So, drumroll, out today is my very first published story, The Renegade, which you can find today on the front page of the 365 tomorrows and indefinitely in their archives.

Hope you enjoy it – let me know what you think in the comments, either here or there.

Have a grand weekend!

 

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On rejections

Rejections.

They suck, don’t they?

No matter the reason or situation, a rejection is always a painful thing. Whether someone is ending a romantic affair with us or a prospective employer is giving us a negative response, rejections hurt all the same. And it is no different when it comes to writing, sending a manuscript and getting that dreaded mail saying, ‘thank you but no’.

Writing is a very delicate business and every person attempting to walk that road must have a very thick skin to endure all the blows that will eventually come their way. Each and every writer will surely know that there’s no guaranteed happy ending to this adventure; that this satisfying I-made-it moment might never come; and that rejection letters will be the most common mail they will receive most of the time.

Why bother then? Why would someone choose to put their time, energy and heart in such a heartless industry? Well, first because we want to and second because we like love writing. Or the other way round.

I have always loved writing and telling stories. I have not done it consistently, though. Too often I’ve been put off by my own fears. I don’t know how to do it; I’m not good enough; I don’t have the time now; no one cares about what I have to say … I mastered all kind of excuses to hold myself back. Until I realised that those reasons were only that, excuses. No more and no less. Last year I decided that the time to write, to learn and improve as I go, to try my luck out there, was now. Not later when I’m finally an expert, have way too much free time, or have signed an amazing book deal. And I was doing fine, mind you. I wrote nearly every day, I managed to finish several short stories, I began to learn the tricks of editing and rewriting. And then I suddenly stopped and didn’t write anymore for nearly half a year.

What did happen, you may be wondering.

Well, I got a rejection that hurt badly. It wasn’t the first one but for some reason that one stung more than the all previous ones. Why? I’m not 100% sure but I believe that several reasons combined and made me extremely vulnerable at that particular moment. Like when the planets align, if you want.

What happened was that I wrote this story, edited and rewrote big chunks of it, did some more editing and when I was happy enough with it I sent it to some magazine out there. The magazine policies stated that most rejections were sent within two days, unless the story was under serious consideration, in which case they might take up to two weeks to reply. No answer reached my mailbox within two days and my spirits soared foolishly. Yep, my hopes were high, so when I finally received my rejection letter almost two weeks later I felt totally deflated. It was another thank-you-but-no situation and instead of seeing things the way they were, thinking of how far I’d come this time and cheering myself up, I took it all wrongly and let this small incident eat all my hopes and dreams. I was done with this writing thing. I must add that this story was a very personal one and that probably made me feel this rejection as something personal, instead of the usual business of someone saying that my story/writing/characters were not interesting/brilliant/strong enough. Besides, I was in the middle of pregnancy’s first trimester, so hormones may have also played a part.

So, what happened next? How do you cope with rejections?

I wish I knew. In fact, if you have any tips to get through the endless rejection letters that any writer seeking publication usually goes through, please let me know in the comments. Truth is, that other than having a thicker than thick skin, I don’t know how people deal with so much negative reactions to their work. I know, however, that one day I realised that I missed writing and one fine morning, while snow was falling outside, I sat in front of my laptop with a cup of hot tea and began to write again. I typed one word after another and one sentence after another. Eventually I ended up with some new stories that were willing to be given a chance in the big, wild out there. I might or might not have learnt how to cope with rejections but I’ve already submitted three stories in 2017 and I’m playing the waiting game again. Patiently and calmly.

There’s something I’ve learnt, though, about this tricky business of publishing. After much thinking I realised that editors are not these evil bunch of people that send rejection mails on default. They’re just trying to do their job the best they can and they better do so, for they have quality standards to maintain, they’re also putting themselves out there hoping their work will be recognised during the award season, and they’re facing rejection from their readers with every decision they take. Yes, they’re only humans working under rather stressful conditions and often not being credited or remunerated enough. And the thing is, that by doing their job the best they can, they’re also helping you to be the best writer you can. For you can be sure that when they finally pick up something you’ve written for publication, this something will be really worthy of their trust and the standards of their publications.

 

A lengthy post, this one. Kudos to you if you made it this far. Here’s a short story about publishing and rejections as a reward (not by me – it was written by Doug Hawley). Funnily enough, this appeared today on 365 tomorrows and I couldn’t help smiling to myself.

 

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Short stories I read and loved in 2016

A couple of days ago I posted a summary of the books I read and loved in 2016. Today I want to round up my review of the past year with a list of the short stories that I specially enjoyed reading last year. Unfortunately, just like I did not write consistently during 2016, I wasn’t a constant reader either. I read quite a lot during the first half of the year, then I had a nearly two-month hiatus and resumed my reading by the last quarter of the year, though I was reading more sporadically by then. Similarly, I did a lot online reading of short speculative fiction during the first half of 2016 and completely neglected those joyful and sometimes thoughtful reads during the second half. I should definitely try and be more constant this year.

Anyway. Without any further preamble, and again in chronological order, here’s a short list of my favourite stories of 2016. Also, a new year means a new awards season, so if you’re looking for some outstanding works eligible for this year’s Hugos, Nebulas or whichever award of your liking, these are some great stories to take into account.

  • We Will Walk Among the Gods, Among the Stars, by Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January/February 2016)
  • Seven Ways of Looking at the Sun-Worshippers of Yul-Katan, by Maggie Clark (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 2016)

 

Besides original fiction, a couple of reprints also made it to my favourites of 2016.

  • Hereafter, by Samuel Peralta (Lightspeed Magazine 2016, originally printed in 2014)

 

I hope you enjoy the works I’ve shortlisted as my favourites. And do not hesitate to share the stories which rocked your world in 2016 in the comments. I’d love to know about your favourites too.

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Books I read in 2016

Last year was definitely good year regarding reading. I wanted to read at least twenty-four books – that’s only two books per month, I know – and I managed to exceed my expectations by finishing a total of twenty-six books. And I was already halfway through two other books before 2016 came to a close. Not bad.

Besides quantity, quality wasn’t bad either. I read a bit of everything: fiction and non-fiction; short stories and lengthy novels; bad, good and outstanding. Some books I have already forgotten, while others made quite an impression on me and fortunately there are quite some in the latter group. You can go and check my whole year in books in my Goodreads profile (btw, let’s be friends!). Otherwise you can scroll down and read on to find out what the highlights of my reading year were.

So, sticking to the chronological order of reading, here’s a list of my favourite books of 2016.

 

PLAYING BIG, by Tara Mohr.

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I borrowed this one from the library and I’m more than happy I did. I’m not really into self-help books but I loved this one and I am glad this was my first read of the year. Playing Big is a book for women who want to thrive, who want stand out from the crowd, who want to be the best version of themselves and achieve their every dream. Playing Big is an empowering book for women written by a woman but it’s not your typical discourse on how to become a fierce, competitive and successful woman over night. It’s not geared towards women who want it all and want it all to be perfect. The beauty of Playing Big is that it is addressed to all kind of women, no matter how big or small their dreams are; everyone can learn some piece of wisdom from it. Besides, Tara Mohr seemed like a very genuine and likeable person, which is always a bonus in this kind of books.

All in all, I loved this book and would definitely recommend it and read it over and over again. It was a very inspiring read and gave me the courage to say out loud that I want to be a writer, to put myself out there and try, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. It is the book that taught me that I am worthy to pursue my callings and do it now.

FOUR SISTERS, by Helen Rappaport.

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Four Sisters had been on my reading list for a while and luckily, I found a copy in my local library. Now, this is probably not for everyone; I assume you must have some sort of interest on Russian history or royal families to pick this one. But as it happens, I am interested both in Russian history and royals of all kind and I found Four Sisters to be a gorgeous book. It really delivers.

Four Sisters is intended as the biography of the four daughters of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife Alexandra. But the book goes further in its research and scope and actually provides a very intimate portrait of their simple family life and the complicated circumstances that conspired to produce their dramatic ending. Though not dwelling that much on history, Four Sisters also give a detailed account of Alexandra’s life and her woes and eventually, one can only wonder if that woman and her woes really able to bring down and empire and destroy her family along the way.

A beautiful book, in spite of all the tragedy in it.

KING LEAR, by William Shakespeare.

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“Thou shouldest not have been old till thou hadst been wise” (Act 1, Scene 5)

2016 was the year when I read Shakespeare for the first time. I know, I know, it took me quite a while but it was totally worthy.

Actually, I had read Othello and Romeo and Juliet in Spanish before but last year I felt ready to deal with the real thing, the original works of William Shakespeare. It wasn’t always easy but it was a very enjoyable experience and now I have many other of his plays in my TBR pile.

King Lear was one of my favourite reads last year and, again, one that I could reread many times. The story is tragic, yet powerful, and it is chocked full with quotable lines. Besides, the story has aged rather well and it is still of great relevance nowadays. I should probably dedicate a whole post to King Lear in the future.

CLOUD ATLAS, by David Mitchell.

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A pleasant surprise, this one. Yet another book I borrowed from the library and loved.

I was mildly interested in Cloud Atlas because I knew the Wachowski brothers (now sisters, I guess) had done a film adaptation of this story. It wasn’t a particularly easy read but I devoured it and found it totally mind-boggling. I watched the film after having read the book and I was sadly disappointed, though I could totally understand why it had been a flop.

Besides finding it an utterly beautiful and poetic tale of the doom of the human civilization, I also learnt from it that a book of big ideas, such as Cloud Atlas, usually translates in a poor film.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, by J. K. Rowling.

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I was very late to jump in the Harry Potter bandwagon – the books bandwagon anyway – and something funny happened along the way. I have seen all the films probably more times than I should admit and HP and the Goblet of Fire has always been the I liked least. Too cheesy, too silly, too reckless, too whatever. However, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has been my favourite book so far. Again, great books don’t always make memorable films.

Harry Potter is already in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy and soon he finds himself in more trouble than ever before. Harry, Ron and Hermione are growing, the relationships between them are evolving and their magical world is changing as well. In HP and the Goblet of Fire, the main characters begin to become their own personas and the transformation of Hermione Granger is particularly outstanding. She is a very fine example of a strong female character, who happens to be a bit of a feminist as well and a fighter for universal rights. Or house-elf rights, as it is the case in the book. Besides, HP and the Goblet of Fire introduces a couple of subplots that add complexity to the book, making it a departure from the simple fantasy adventure books that the HP series were until then.

 

Apart from the outstanding books, there were also the regular books and the very bad ones. Yes, unfortunately I had a couple of big disappointments, among them A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab; Tintin and the Secret of Literature, by Tom McCarthy; and Swiss Life: 30 Things I wish I’d known, by Chantal Panozzo. Very BIG disappointments, as I said before.

Finally, I also read quite a lot of speculative fiction during the first half of the year and I’m planning a post on my favourite short stories. So stay tuned for that one.

 

So, that was 2016 in reading. This year is looking a bit more complicated than the last year so I am only aiming for twelve books this year. Hopefully I’ll many more, but I don’t want to deceive myself too much so I’m keeping it sweet and simple.

And what about you? What were the books you read and loved last year? Or read and loathed? Any reading goals for 2017?

 

Fotos via Goodreads.com
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My goals for 2017

We’re already one week into 2017 and I think this is the perfect time to reflect on everything that happened last year and think about what I want to accomplish during this one. Now the euphoria of the new year is gone, now the past year is definitely behind us, I don’t think there’s a better time than now to sit down with a cup of tea and have a quiet chat with myself.

Last year wasn’t a bad one; it was actually a rather good one on many fronts. Family, health, happiness, all those get very high marks in my year review. But in this post I’m going to focus on writing, on what happened to my writing throughout the year.

I started the year with a bang and was writing daily for most of the first half of 2016. I wrote many flash and short stories and I even completed a couple of novelettes. I did solid reviewing and rewriting of some of them and I even went as far as writing a quarter or third of a novel-length story. But then I suddenly stopped and didn’t write ANYTHING during the second half of the year. Well, I did write things but no fiction at all.

Two things happened that put my writing in this unnecessary halt. First, I found out I was pregnant and was exhausted with first trimester fatigue. And second, even it was only on a subconscious level, I took one particular rejection badly and somehow let go of my writing aspirations. These two very different reasons combined in a wicked way and the result was … well, I already told you.

Keeping in mind that 2016 wasn’t that bad, I wanted to resume my writing journey this year. 2017 is going to be a tough year, I already know that. With a second baby at home coming as early as in February, I don’t think I’ll have that much time left for writing. However, I am hoping that this will take some pressure off my shoulders and help me focus on what really matters: enjoying the scarce time I have left for writing and learning as I go. No need to finish a certain number of stories, or fulfil a given word count or having something published by the end of the year.

That being said, there are some things I would like to accomplish this year. A few very simple goals if you like.

  • I’d like to finish a first draft of a novel I have in mind. Not saying much yet but it is the story of an art graduate who leaves her life behind to join the first manned colony on Europe.
  • I would like to write at least a short story per month, even if it’s only flash fiction (which is as good as any). That would be twelve short short stories by the end of the year.
  • I would like to blog regularly around here – after all, blogging is just another form of writing and any practice is more than welcome.
  • And while I try to accomplish all those things mentioned above, I would like to improve my skills, to become a better narrator of stories and to continue broadening my vocabulary.

Not really that much, as you can see. But I think that’s more than enough to keep me busy for a year in a mad house with two crying babies and endless house chores.

So, up to you now. What are your writing goals for this year? Whatever you want and whichever path you choose, I hope you have a successful year ahead.

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Starting anew

Hi there. And welcome.

Welcome to My Life in Writing, a blog about both my life and my writing, as you have probably guessed. Last year I decided to treat my writing hobby a bit more seriously and try and improve my craft, and I even created a blog to keep myself accountable during this lifelong journey. However, halfway through the year I let go of my writing goals and fell behind. Long story short, I was too exhausted to write due to family commitments and I quit. Besides, I took a rejection badly and totally forgot about what I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

Anyway.

Here I am, starting all over again, though I know already that this is going to be a busy year and I won’t have that much free time to dedicate to my writing ventures. But even then, I wanted to resume my writing career and continue keeping track of my many failures and hopefully the odd success every now and then. And that’s where a blog comes in very handy, so I decided to begin a new one from scratch, without many pretensions; just sharing some random bits about me. Besides the content related to writing and reading, I am also planning to blog my travel stories here.

In case you can’t wait till I write my ‘About Me’ page, here’s some info to fill you in.

My name is Irene and I’m a writer. Well, I’m trying to be. I was born in Tenerife (Spain) and I’m currently living in Switzerland. I graduated in Mathematics and Econometrics and I have worked many different kind of jobs here and there. Until now I’ve also lived in Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland. Let’s see how many more adventures will come my way.

Hope you enjoy this blog and stay a while.

Cheers,

Irene

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