Orison Release Week

The Favored Orb. Cover by Tracy McCusker

Friends and readers, we are two days away from Orison‘s release date. Like many of Daniel Swensen’s eager fans, I’ve been waiting for his debut novel to be finished. Burn was released, and I wanted more. I beta-read for Orison, and still I wanted more. I designed a cover, a map, and a logo. It wasn’t enough. I’m giddy to be here with you now, counting down to February 28th. Until I can see Dan’s shiny first book in my Kindle Cloud Reader. Until I can share with my friends a good cheer for this solid first foray into the fantasy-heist genre.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of the shaping characters of the novel (and the character that had the most dramatic overhaul from the beta draft to the here and now). She is Camana Queen of Calushain, Ruler of the Jewel of the Red Cities…or as her subjects know her… the Queen of Storms. Camana’s citadel of Stormhelt oversees a prosperous trading city; but the Ladris Empire is keen to get its claws into the free city. To protect her people, Camana must play intrigues with the Lotus Throne.

Of all of Orison‘s characters, Camana is the most cloaked in mystery. Everything we know about Camana is filtered through her duality of a public figure: there is “what she needs us to see” and “what she is”. It is whispered through the court of Calushain that Camana is a powerful being called an etheric, granted magical abilities by the dragons themselves. What we see is that Camana is a mythic figure to her own people. But Camana doesn’t hold power with overt displays of force; her power flows from her ability to sustain her myth with subtle political maneuvering.

Read more…

DFQWBS – Flash Fiction for Anna

Title – The Old Ways

Author – Tracy McCusker

eBook – Yes


The bride stood upon a cairn, on a broad groaning hill. There was no preacher, no festive cheer–just the wind and her blowing hair. She held a bridesmeet in her hands. A stone she’d worked with chisels until, at last, it became her token for her promised one.

Her grand-dame had covered her face at the oldness of the bride’s ways. “God love you, god protect you, don’t look into his eyes.”

Dressed in green, the bride stood alone waiting for her prize.

Read more…

Wanted: Outlaw Poets

What: Prose poems of 150 – 250 words (details below, read some poem walks here and here)

When: October 8th – October 21st

Theme: Horror/Suspense or Uncanny Nature

How to join: Send a tweet to @bullishink or @dustyjournal with the hashtag #poemwalk2012 and the link to your poem OR use the linky below

Prizes: 1st Place = $25 gift certificate / 2nd Place = $15 / Sign Up Incentive = If we get 10 or more participants, the Dusty Journal will gift a journal to her favorite entry!


A poem walk is a simple thing. All you need is yourself, a location that you’ve been before, and a bit of time. Perambulate through your favorite neighborhood, or give your entryway a stroll. The place can be huge (a park, a stadium, a yawning lake) or tiny (a garden path, a stop sign, a hallway). Move through it, casually, like you own the place. Use all of your senses. What do you see? Does the place have a smell? Many smells? Can you hear anything? Take a few breaths. What do you hear that you couldn’t before? Is there anything to touch or taste? Run your hand over an object you don’t normally touch. What does it feel like? Is it important?
Read more…

Hello, Goodbye! Week Twelve of ROW 80

Drumroll, please! The final tally:

82 / 80 poems


14355 / 15000 words

I started ROW80 with a higher word count (20,000), but I revised this goal to 15,000 after Week 3 when it became apparent that I wouldn’t be blogging for the duration of the challenge.

This round, I learned several things. One of which: blogging & using Twitter don’t help to me achieve writing goals. I would write off a few hours spent on Twitter in the evening as “research” or “responses,” and not get any poems written. Giving up Twitter isn’t an option. Professional contacts are important to a writer (and a designer). Friends gather on Twitter, and it’s nice to blow off some steam on a particularly hard afternoon. What I will do: no longer include social media / response goals in my writing challenges. It’s too easy to neglect the important stuff in favor of “research”. I won’t include blogging in my word count totals either, unless the blogs are creative, publishable pieces (essays, short fiction, poems, etc). Work blogs, and status updates, portfolio updating… the stuff around the writing rather than the writing itself.
Read more…

Reclusive and Reductive: Week One’s Goals

So! I started this week with a bit of a gentle slide into my ROW goals. To prepare for the weeks of serious writing ahead of me, I’ve been even more reclusive than normal (to those who don’t know, I am a crazy hermit! Hello!). Shunning instant messaging and family gatherings alike, I managed to recharge from a hectic scramble of projects in May & June. My goals for this round of ROW80 are similar as to what they’ve been in the past: write poems, write blog posts, do creative things in between. It’s a reductive set of goals, given my expansive desire to design and draw and write another manuscript in Round 1. But “laser focus” is my watch-phrase this round.

I usually write off the first week of ROW as my “gear-up” week, wherein I put into place routines and incentives to smooth my writing path (though it looks like I am staring at Twitter) and/or desperately attempt to make up those vitally lost days later in the challenge by heroically writing dozens of second-rate haiku. This week, however, I actually managed to make something!
Read more…

Airing musty curtains: Round 3 of ROW

Hello, and Hello! It’s been a while, Dusty Journal. Business took me by surprise in March. Some kerfluffle with with routines (trying desperately to build one) and hospitals (being a patient in one) kept me away these past months. Pardon me while I air your curtains; they’ve taken on the air of a complacent poet. In the intervening time when I was not strapped to a gurney, I launched my spiffy new portfolio site and started taking commissions for graphic design work.

With the new month comes a new round of ROW80, the third round of the year, and by coincidence, my third round participating. For those of you unfamiliar with A Round of Words in 80 Days (or ROW80), it is a writing contest where you set your own goals, writing or otherwise, for the next 80 days. Participants check in by blog once or twice weekly on check-in days (Wednesdays and Sundays), and share their progress (and their encouragement) with fellow ROWers on the site’s linky list.

I last participated in Round 1 of ROW with some rather shaky progress. My goals were disorganized (writing….and drawing! and, and, and goal setting! and time-tracking!!1); my health was crumbling (though nothing like what it became in late March). I did manage to proof, edit, and release my second collection of poetry Manifesto For All. But with the book nearly finished at the end of 2011, the wrap-up took a tremendously long time.

In the past, I’ve talked about hows, the whys, and the wheretofores of my productivity. I am a graphic design freelancer; it is vitally important that I know my creative process in and out, so that I can carve a portion of that time out for writing. In January, I declared that I had no idea when I was at my creative peak. That’s easy to answer now. Mornings from 6am to 8am, with an extra burst of productivity from 10am to 2pm. Afternoons and evenings are completely bust. I’ve discovered how I can track my creative time (tiny boxes on a page), and how I can schedule work (make a list! lists are amazing!)

So what’s in store for this round? Focused goals. A laser-guided lock on writing (and finishing) a set of poems for my next book of poems.

That translates into three simple goals:

1) Write 100 poems or 20,000 words–whichever goal I hit first.

2) At least ten “modules” of creative time during the week (painting, drawing, design, etc).

3) 1 blog post per week, and at least 3 responses to fellow ROWers progress reports.

So that’s it! I will take the rest of the first week to plan out the contours of my poetry project, write an update that explains the ins and out of the project for Sunday, and schedule commissions for the rest of the month. I will be updating progress on Sundays. To all of you–ROWers, writers and artists–I wish you good luck and good health!

Don’t Second Guess the Finish Line

Hello again, Dusty Journal. Nice to meet you at the finish line! Although there are still 3 check-ins left to go for Round 1 (and more than a handful of screwy goals left to accomplish), I declare myself across the finish line. For all of my high-falutin’ goal-tracking, this round was about publishing a book. Manifesto For All went live this week in paperback (an excerpt can be found here). It was only 1/3rd of the work I wanted to finish this round, but it was the goal I resolved to complete. As much as my disappointment might like to second-guess the work I accomplished, I crossed a finish line and let the other goals go.
Read more…

That Which is Done, is Done: a Proofing and a Vacation!

I am a mere hours away from driving to the airport, to be whisked off on a grand adventure. I’ll be visiting the Surly Muse in the Great Cold North! This update, then, will be uncharacteristically short. The big news of the week is that I finished the manuscript for Manifesto for All. It has been uploaded, the cover has been futzed into printable form and a proof copy has been ordered. Thanks to the crash-course in Kindle poem formatting faux-pas that I received on Letters from Nowhere, I will be releasing the Manifesto for All ebook at roughly the same time as the paperback. Huzzay!

The second large piece of news is that, in conjunction with Bullish Ink, I am hosting a poetry contest for visual & prose poems. Prizes in Amazon gift certificates (or other online book/ebook retailer) will be awarded by participants & judges. The contest is tailored to entice non-poets to give it a try. So, poets and non-poets… give it a thought. Check out poem tickets and poem walks.  The linky list for entries opens on Monday. I hope you’ll join in the fun.

When I return from vacation, I’ll likely have little to say on the ROW front… but I will be sharing a few poems from Manifesto for All…and giving away a few free copies in another one of those delightful give-away type deals.

Best of luck to my fellow ROWers and non-ROWers! Read more…

Trigger Stones and Poem Walks: A Poetry Contest!

What: A Poetry Contest In Two Parts
Who: For Poets and Storytellers Alike
When: February 20 – April 10, 2012
Why: For Amazon Gift Certificates and Assorted Swag. See the contest page for more information!
Judged By: Your fellow submitters and a panel of judges
Hosted By: Bullish Ink and the Dusty Journal
Max Submissions: Two poems from each category

Poetry is not as well understood as it should be in this day & age. It is an art that makes more poets than readers, and pushes “real writers” away from poetry quick as they like.

But poems grow with the world around them… and they come up between the cracks like the most stubborn ragweed.

Nearly everyone has seen a picture with a few lines of poetry attached to them; a sentimental image macro, or a poetic meme. A few of us have seen their photographic counterpart: a hand-written label stuck next to an incongruous object. A prose account of a stroll through a town or next to a river bed would be recognized as journal fodder, or a choice descriptive passage for a novel.

These are, as Susan Woolridge calls them, two poetic forms: Word Tickets and Poem Walks. In honor of two new poetic forms that scarcely would have been called poetry a hundred years ago, Bullish Ink and the Dusty Journal are proud to present a poetry contest.

Entering the Contest

1. Create a Word Ticket or a Poem Walk (or both if you like!). Read on to learn about word tickets & poem walks.

2. Post these poems in a single entry on your blog. You can enter up to up two from each category.

3. Enter your post URL into the contest linky-list (will be available beginning February 20th). The linky list code to add to your blog is provided below.

4. The contest closes on April 10th.

5. Your fellow entrants will vote to award the Jury Prizes. A panel of judges (your hosts) will also award Judges’ Prize.

Word Tickets

A word ticket is a photograph of an object and a name tag; the poetry is half image, half linguistic ledgerdomain. “Trigger stones,” if you will.

Cut out words from a magazine, or choose random words from your favorite story (article, etc). Nouns & verbs work the best (concrete words!), but feel free to choose any word that strikes you. Choose one, or two, or three. Create a “word ticket” out of any material that you like (an index card, the back of a theater ticket, some delicate strapbooking paper, etc) and stick your words to the tag. Tags can be as ornate or simple as you like. Go around your house, neighborhood, work place, until you find an object that you feel pairs up with your word.

What strikes you?

What triggers you?

What object/word ticket combination speaks to you?

When you’ve found the object, attach your name card, snap a photograph, upload and voila–you have a word ticket.

Poem Walks

A focused prose account of an experience in a familiar place of no more than 250 words; the poetry is in its incisive description

Take a walk through a familiar place. Do you normally go out with headphones and an iPod? A phone that you flick through carelessly? Keep all technology out of your hands, and just watch everything that there is to see. When you get home (or to a convenient resting place), jot down some notes about the experience.

What was new?

What was unexpected?

How did you feel about the place when you started–when you finished?

Did your feelings change towards the place?

The trick with any observation poem is to observe closely and write, but not to let observation or writing get in the way of the other! Craft a prose passage about the place, as though you were writing a description for a novel. Now pare it down to its essential bones. Make sure no word is wasted. Try to evoke the sense of you moving through a space and the emotions it brings up. Keep in mind a poem should have a beginning, middle & open end like flash-fiction, but the parts are an emotional arc. There! Now you have a poem walk.

Poetry is no longer the exclusive domain of people who can read meter; we encourage everyone to enter! The contest closes on April 10th.

Good luck!


Linky list blog code!

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Roll Up, Roll Up! The Tremendous Week of Twitter

Twitter, my new mistress and stealer of time, sometimes seems as though I am in a bizarre market of promoters bellowing at the top of their lungs. “Roll up, roll up! Come see the contraptions on equal footing with Edison and Tesla. Yes, the two giants of industry and science today meet their match in this outstanding offering! Just 7.99 to enter!” It’s a wonderful song, and I flit from booth to booth to see what the self-publishers and indie-promoters are doing. They are in the boat that I am, and their successes, their triumphs, are stuff of budding legends. I have opened my own small booth on this green–@dustyjournal–but I seem to chat with the other booth owners more than attract a new clientele.

This has become a stumbling block. I’m ostensibly a professional poet, and ostensibly I sell poems. Read more…