Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Blog Post Series

Today, I'm starting a new series of blog posts based around a collection of old family photos I've had in my possession for a number of years. These photos and the stories told about them inspired my first novel, "Belle o' the Waters," the story of a young girl who came west with the first set of Mormon pioneers. I will post more about that novel soon (stay tuned!) but wanted to start this blog post series now, since it's Thursday. I'm thinking of calling it Throw WAY-back Thursday, since the photos in this series are a lot older than most people use when they post with the Throw Back Thursday, or #tbt, hashtag.

This photo, for example, of my great grandparents and their eldest child, daughter Alice, was taken around 1897, probably in Rexburg, Idaho, where they lived. My great grandfather, Albert Luthy, was born and raised in Switzerland and came to the US at the age of 19 with his parents, after the family was converted to the LDS Church by Mormon missionaries. They came west with a great mass of others and settled in 1881 in what was to become the state of Idaho.

Albert, known to his friends as Frenchie, met my great grandmother, Elizabeth Bean, better known as Nellie Bean, who was born in England and came to the US with her mother. Hers is a whole other story, to be recounted in a later post. Albert and Nellie were married in 1891. Alice, shown here, was their eldest child and my grandmother, Mabelle, was the second to youngest -- twelve children in all, who are now all gone.

More on this family story in the new year. Thanks for following along!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Annual Writing Report

I have had a busy and productive writing year, and even though I didn't reach all the goals I set out for myself back in January, I did accomplish a lot. One unstated goal was to revive this blog and post more, and while I started out strong with a lot to say in January and February, the poor blog has been mostly ignored while I was busy writing other things. Next year will be better!

One big accomplishment this year was finishing my second novel, "Fearless." I've been working on this for about five years, off and on, and did a major rewrite starting in January. After getting feedback from some readers, I did another major revision and finished around the end of September. I've been submitting it to small presses and will continue to do that until I find a home for this story. This slightly futuristic thriller  touches on issues of religious faith and the myriad ways people cope with fear in a fear-filled world. I'm very proud of it and was thrilled to learn that "Fearless" was a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom contest for "Novels in Progress."

My first novel, "Belle o' the Waters," is likely to be published in 2018, but I am still in the midst of negotiations about this -- so hold on for more news, hopefully as early as January.

And then there's the third novel, a science fiction tale that I've been working on since 2013. Just as with "Fearless," the early drafts for "The Kiss Catastrophe" were created during NaNoWriMo, and I am now rewriting the entire thing based on a new-and-improved outline I've finally settled on. Although one of my goals for this year was to get a finished draft of this book, that didn't happen - so it's now become my top priority for 2018. I am excited to be moving into scifi, a genre I have wanted to do more work in for a very long time -- since I was a teenager, basically. So, a VERY long time!

My main writing goals for this year involved these books that have been in the works for multiple years, but I have also been working on short stories, both writing them and submitting them. I had a goal to submit 100 times this year, and I am still going to try to make that goal. I submitted the Belle manuscript 6 times, the Fearless manuscript 8 times, but the largest number of submissions I made was of short stories. I submitted 74 times to literary magazines, so my total number of submissions for the year is 88 - not quite my goal number, but we still have 9 days in this year. I think I can do it.

Of those 74 short story submissions, I've received 49 rejections, withdrawn twice and given up on 3 literary journals that seem to have gone defunct. So, a lot of those submissions are still pending. One resulted in success and I was thrilled when my flash fiction piece, "Laundry Day," was not only published by the Same but nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

I was also happy that those 74 short story submissions included some for 4 brand new stories that didn't even exist before the year 2017. I continue to write short pieces, especially flash-length, since novel-writing takes so long and can get to be quite wearing without something I can finish and get out the door a bit sooner.

In addition to all that, I did a few other writing-related things in 2017. One was a book review I wrote for Washington Independent Review of Books about Melissa Scholes-Young's novel, "Flood." Check out both Melissa's book and the Independent, which posts lots of reviews of new books.

Oh, and there was this little thing called NaNoWriMo that I did, yet again. My 7th year in a row! I'm pleased to say I generated another 50,000 words for what appears to be a new science fiction story. I'm certain this is going to be a few years in development, but you may hear more about it later, since I think it's a pretty good story, actually.
Finally, last but not least, I have been quite busily involved in some paid writing gigs this year, and am thrilled to be on the team of freelance science writers working with the American Institute of Physics. I've worked on a couple dozen press releases and science highlight pieces, known as "Scilights," a new venture the AIP started in mid-2017. One of my favorite Scilight offerings is here, but there are lots more posted on the site. I also continue to write for the American Institute for Cancer Research, and contributed four science-based articles this year that were used in their newsletter for donors.

As we close down this year, I feel pretty good about how it turned out. I'm especially pleased that I was able to keep my focus on my writing, despite the endless distractions in the media and political world, not to mention my own personal world. Here's to another good year - 2018 is right around the corner!