Writing Updates – February 2014

Happy new year! It’s still early enough in the year to say that, right? It usually takes me till about the end of January to stop dating things with the previous year.

For 2014, I set some reading goals and some writing goals. I set goals for last year, too, and missed just about all of them. But that’s okay, because at least I know where I stand right now. Without goals, it’s hard to measure your progress or results. I know what I did and didn’t do that caused me to come up short. So this I know what to change.

I’m still editing the first book of The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala fantasy trilogy. The critique group I’m part of has been of invaluable help in getting some pretty rough scenes into something readable. My goal for this year is to finish a full revision/rewrite of the book, incorporating the feedback from my critique partners for the parts that they have read.

I’m on the home stretch with the first draft of book two. This past year I discovered that I am a first draft lover. I’ll go out of my way to start something new just to avoid the rewriting process of something I’ve finished. This is not very productive if I ever want to get something published and have it be of decent quality. So that’s where goals (and discipline) come in.

In other news, I started a second job at the end of 2013. I’m working for a social media company called Helps2, writing and managing content for the Facebook and Twitter accounts of several of their clients. I love writing and I love social media, and this job has been a fun opportunity. And I’m basically getting paid to write. Always nice!

And talking of goals, I’m also planning on attending two writers conferences this year. One is the James River Writers conference in October – it’s pretty local for me, but I’ve managed to miss it for one reason or another the past couple of years. Not this year!

The other conference is not so local – it’s in Iceland. As most of my regular readers know, I love Nordic things, and I’ve been to Iceland before. This writers retreat in like a dream opportunity, and it’s the first of its kind. It’s a big (but worthwhile) expense of time and money to commit to going, and so I launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to help me get there. Please consider donating if you can, and please share the page. Much appreciated!

So that’s how my 2014 is shaping up so far. Anyone else set any reading or writing goals for this year?

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Looking Back, Looking Forwards

Like so many others at this time of year, I find myself musing on the past and dreaming of the future. I thought I’d share a few reflections of 2013, and what I’d like to see myself accomplishing this coming year.

Highlights of 2013:

-I got to see one of my favorite singers, Eivør, live in concert. Definitely a dream come true – especially since the concert was not only here in the US (unusual for her touring schedule), but a mere two hours from my house.

-I made my first official submission and got my first official rejection. I submitted a short story to a fantasy anthology, and it was rejected. I was very excited about this, because even if I decide to self-publish my novels rather than trying for agents or publishers, I wanted to get some submission experience under my belt.

-I took a trip to Iceland. It was my first trip to that country, and also my first solo traveling experience. I loved the city, the country, and the culture, and I know that I grew a lot from the experience of being all alone in a foreign country.

-I wrote several guest posts for other blogs. It’s exciting to see my writing featured on other websites besides my own blog, and hopefully I’ve added value to the readers of those blogs.

Goals for 2014:

-I want to go back to Iceland – specifically for the Iceland Writers Retreat. Networking with other writers in the land of the Nordic Sagas would be more than awesome.

-I want to finish the first book of my fantasy trilogy. My original goal was to have the second round of rewrites and edits done by the end of 2013. That did not happen. So 2014 will be the year to finish the edits, get it off to my beta readers, and at least begin the publication process.

-I want to get something published. Whether it’s the fantasy novel, a short story, or even getting paid to write a blog post, I want to have a published piece of work to my name before the end of this year.

-I want to read more. Writers need to be readers; and while I of course love reading, I didn’t do much of it this past year. I had a rather short to-read list for 2013, and I didn’t get through very many of them. You can track my reading habits on Goodreads, if you like – and I want to post more books on my profile this year than last.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! Did you have any goals accomplished or dreams realized in 2013? What do you have planned for 2014?

A Few Thoughts on Iceland

I’ve been away for the past week, checking another country off my places-to-see list. I then suddenly remembered that I should put up a blog post, so here it is. This is me working off of several days straight of must-have-more-fun-faster traveler’s exhaustion, and trying to compose words that do not contain the letters ð and þ.

I quickly learned the all-purpose greeting of “góðan dagin” (that was about all the Icelandic I mastered). But apparently I did master that one phrase so well that when one cashier told me the price in Icelandic and I asked her to repeat it in English, she gave a laugh of surprise. “You said góðan dagin so well that I thought you were Icelandic,” she told me. Score one for me, the professional linguist hopeful.

They say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. Well, I had to wait a whole day, but I did experience weather of all sorts:

Mt Esja on a sunny day

Mt Esja on a sunny day

Mt Esja the next day. Clouds and snow rolled in!

Mt Esja the next day. Clouds and snow rolled in!

Iceland is volcanic (no kidding. Eyjafjallajökull, anyone?) So there are lava fields everywhere. Or big chunks of lava. Or both.

Lava, lava everywhere

Lava, lava everywhere

Walking around the city, it felt like everything was uphill both ways.

Walking around the city, it felt like everything was uphill both ways.

I went into a few books stores, of course, and did buy some books (all in English. My mastery of góðan dagin isn’t quite enough for me to read an entire book in Icelandic). One book store sold knitting supplies in the basement. Why not, right?

If you like to knit, Iceland is the place to shop.

If you like to knit, Iceland is the place to shop.

Apparently Icelanders do not want tractors cluttering up their city streets. C’mon, Reykjavik needs a few tractors, surely.

Tractor-free zone this way

Tractor-free zone this way

Stay tuned for more Icelandic-themed posts in the future, and maybe a guest-post by me on a blog about Iceland!

Music Review: “In the Silence,” Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir

There’s a lot of musical talent in Iceland, and frankly, the rest of the world needs to know about it. Greta Salóme is a young Icelandic musician who just released her debut album, In the Silence (released in 2012 by Hands Up Music). Greta began her career as a classically-trained violinist and still performs with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.  But on this album she displays other talents, as well—composing, lyric-writing, and singing.

Most of the songs (written and composed by Greta) are in English. “Mundu Eftir Mér” and “Aldrei Sleppir Mér” are the two Icelandic songs on the album.

The song “Never Forget” helped to gain her international recognition as it was Iceland’s official entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. She sings a duet with Icelandic music star Jonsi (real name Jón Jósep Snæbjörnsson).

Folk, rock, and even dance styles are featured on this album—punctuated throughout by Greta’s violin, especially evident in tracks like “These Last Days of Summer,” “See you There,” and “Never Forget.”

For those who want an easy folk-rock sound, there are songs like “Take this Empty Heart” and “Coming Home Soon.” For a faster beat and more of a rock or dance feel, try “In the Silence” and “Everywhere Around Me.”

Greta’s clear, powerful voice shines in every song. “A Thousand More Goodbyes” is a beautiful showcase for her voice alone and the simplicity of the arrangement can make you want to fall in love just by hearing it. And her voice is not diminished in the slightest by sharing the music with Jonsi in “Never Forget,” and “Mundu Eftir Mér,” the Icelandic version of the song.

All of Greta’s lyrics speak of love, life, and hope. Personally, I enjoy songs that are positive in their words, even if it’s a song of sorrow or pain. “We Are” and “Everywhere Around Me” are songs that just make me feel good. And a song that makes me feel good, I’ll listen to again and again.

For anyone who wants some new music with some musical and even linguistic variety, I’d recommend this album. Greta’s first releases were a couple of singles (“Vor” and “Bethlehem”—not on this album) and I’m looking forward to more singles and more albums from her. Here’s to bringing more Icelandic music to the world!

Greta Salóme’s Facebook page

“Never Forget”