Spring into summer: a recap

The end of April has passed me by, leaving us solidly in May, the last month of spring. Life has been amazingly busy.

First, I submitted several short stories to different magazines throughout April. I’m very excited to hear back from them, as I know they are some of my best work in that category to date. Responses should start rolling in over the next few weeks, and I promise to blog about any positive news.

I got engaged in April, that’s a big deal. That was towards the end of April, and I really can’t remember if I’ve blogged about it here or not! The ring is gorgeous, the man is a gentle, lovely human who also happens to be my best friend, and the proposal was adorable and involved origami. What more can you want? A lot of my spare time over the past few weeks has gone into trying to get my ducks in a row to start wedding planning. House hunting has therefore been put on hold. There are a lot of political aspects to wedding planning that have involved me trying to reach out specially to different parts of the family to express that I really can’t keep up with drama right now. That has…had mixed results. The day job has also had some recent ups and downs.

Towards the end of April, I accepted a contract to have Mother of Creation produced as an audiobook. This is a wonderful thing, to me, as it makes my story more accessible. I’m excited for the potential new readers in the Creation Saga, though I will say this whole audiobook learning curve is pretty steep. For those who have self-published or still retain their audio rights, the service I am using is ACX, and Amazon subsidiary that produces books which will be available on Audible and ITunes. I have to say, the first time I heard someone reading my words out loud in a recording, I almost cried with joy. I definitely spun around in circles until I was dizzy, proving that I am still a five-year-old at least 20% of the day. I’ll probably do a more extensive blog on this process once I have gotten through it to inform you of some of the unexpected hurtles.

All in all it has been a crazy busy season, and promises to continue to be. But the flowers sure are pretty.


My writing process: novels vs short stories

A lot of people have different ways they tackle writing, and I suppose there are a lot of places where best practices kind of deviate. Given that, I wanted to take a minute today to talk about my writing process.

I am not a pantser. For those unfamiliar, a pantser is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. I will not go into a story without and ending in mind – mostly because I can guarantee if I do so that I will not have an ending to my story. It won’t ever get finished. This doesn’t mean that I don’t improvise, because I do, and it doesn’t mean that I know everything that’s going to happen before it does, because I don’t. My characters can still surprise me, and do. It just means I need a target to be aiming for.

What this often means in novels is that I know the ending to the book, but I may not know the middle. Most of my rewrites in novels, which can be extensive, revolve around the meat of the story. While there are exceptions, for books I focus on adding scenes and otherwise filling in gaps that affect the world-building and character development going on around the main plot points in my re-writes.

For short stories I can say that it is a little different. My short stories often spring full-formed from the page. The edits that are made are usually semantic edits – changing the wording of descriptions and actions so that they come through more clearly. Very occasionally, I will adjust a paragraph to add some missing information that will help the reader connect to the character in question. In fact, my short stories either come through with almost no edits, or don’t come through at all and must be completely rewritten, with only a couple of elements surviving – maybe the setting, or a character, or even only a paragraph that I particularly liked. It’s a very different process from my novels.

I think this comes from the fact that, for short stories, it is a lot easier to hold the whole thing in my head. A novel has too many moving parts, and so I will use outlines and charts to try to keep things straight. A curve ball can destroy this architecture, requiring weeks of reworking outlines before I can start moving forward again. By the end of the novel, I’ve changed the plot points and reorganized them several times, and so the rewriting involves dragging my characters to where they need to be for it all to make sense. But for a short story, the whole of it pops into my head pretty early and stays there. Reworking the plot isn’t necessary, and so the character takes her time revealing herself, and I’m free to focus on the craft of the sentences, the tone of her voice, on perfecting the language itself.

Either task is daunting and fun and rewarding. I am so excited to share more stories with you.

Rejection, the looming beast

Some people, when they are afraid of something, fall back on their religion, or some popular saying from their parents. I fall back on Dune.

I watched Dune first. I watched everything to do with it – all of the various movies that wandered into the house, and the Syfy (or whatever it was then) mini-series of Children of Dune. As a kid, I really enjoyed it, but I had never read the book until this past summer. I’m glad I waited, because it was such a dense book – lyrical, hefty prose curled around themes of theology and culture clash and evolution – that I don’t think I would have appreciated it as a younger person. Not because teenagers can’t appreciate deep thoughts and beautiful words, as they most certainly can. Instead, I feel like my earlier self wouldn’t have had the tools to critically analyse it. But I digress.

The thing that has always stuck to me, has always echoed in me every time I heard it is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear. “I will not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. I will face my fear, and I will let it pass through me. When it has gone, only I will remain.”

Now I know the above is paraphrasing from the book. I can’t remember if that is how the movie adaptation quoted it or not, since it’s been years, but that is how I have always remembered it so that is the version you are getting. In any case, the point of this grave exposition is that submitting to any market is downright scary. You want so badly to succeed. If you are at an early stage in your career, you don’t go into a round of submissions with the possibility of rejection. That shit is coming. That shit is coming at you, and you will be lucky if they even tell you why. Your chances of not being rejected, of being accepted in even one market, are vanishingly low.

It can be a little hard to press forward with submitting, once you really understand that. It’s a bit like beating your fist against a concrete wall over and over. You know it’s going to hurt. You better have a real good reason for doing it.

But the thing about rejection is, it doesn’t really hurt. No one is beating you with a cane, or telling you what a terrible human you are. They are simply saying that your work is not for them. The only thing getting hurt is your ego. Without fear, you only die once. The only way to fail at submitting is to not do it. The worst thing they can say is no. Rejection does not determine your value as a human being.

So, with that said, good luck.



Oh, We’re Halfway There!

It’s that time again, folks. Time to sing the Bon Jovi song!

halfway there

This is a tradition. I will probably get tired of this song at some point, but for now, it’s what I blast when I’m celebrating my success in getting to the halfway point of a novel. It’s all downhill from here! I’m tentatively shooting for January for a publication date, but there are still a lot of moving parts so it will depend on if I can keep it together over the next three months.

I officially hit 50,000 words sometime Thursday. In celebration, I gave myself three days off of work and writing. The idea was that I would get some to-do’s struck off the list but I just ended up going to parties and baking things. Which is also fun. Look at this gorgeous blood orange tart that I made! I only ate a bite of it because by the time it came out of the oven I was too full of goat cheese and potato galette and magical pasta and salad to really dive into this, but I can testify that it was delicious. The crust is transferable to any fruit and it’s not the worst crust I’ve ever worked with, at least, so I may be making more of these as the fruit comes in over the summer. Peaches would be especially lovely, with cinnamon…yeah, I’ll definitely be making more.

I also went to a Greek gods and goddesses party as Demeter Friday night, which was tons of fun. I wish I had pictures from that event but I don’t. You’ll just have to imagine my awesome wheat braids and green toga, until I get someone to send me photos.

Oh, and Saturday was the Roanoke Author Invasion! That was a very inspiring event, it taught me a lot about the potential for marketing my books and gave me a lot of things to think about. And I found some great new books to enjoy! Generally a fun time, and again something I should have probably taken pictures at but such is life. You’ll have to imagine the amazing banners and such – or better yet come out to the next one!

That’s the news from my end. I hope you have all had a great weekend. Oh, and if you’re interested, I’ve created a Facebook group for readers of the Creation Saga which you can find here.


Random acts of kindness

This post is a shout out to Carol, the nice customer service person who handles my federal loans. Thanks, Carol. Though you may never see this, I remember you fondly.

So much of our lives depends on random acts of kindness.

I wouldn’t say that kindness is something that comes naturally to me all the time. Kindness is different from not being a jerk, of course. I’m mostly okay at not being a jerk, because I think it takes some effort to intentionally try to piss people off. This means that I try to be conscious of when I would, in fact, be pissing someone off, and I don’t do that thing. Unless I think it might be beneficial to piss you off anyway, for reasons. It’s not that I’m against conflict, or that I tiptoe around people, just that I don’t want to make your day terrible in order to make my day better.

Kindness, to me, is a little bit more than that. If not being a jerk is the baseline of human compassion, kindness is a level up. It is taking the time to put yourself into someone else’s headspace, someone who may not have your wants or values or concerns, and realizing that, that thing you were doing? The thing you really wanted to do and enjoyed? Maybe you should take it somewhere else, or cut it down a notch, because you are hurting this person and it is not helping anyone. Kindness is when I go out of my way, to no real advantage of my own, to do you a favor and make your day better. I like to think that I am kind sometimes. Regularly? Probably not.

I’m certainly not always kind to my characters. But here’s the deal. I’m not always a jerk either.

I think there are certain genres that lend themselves, at least a little, to throwing your character under a bus just to keep things interesting. This is a terrible thing. There’s so much missed opportunity in that. I like to throw my character under a bus, but it should serve a purpose other than just to keep things interesting. It should take your character somewhere. Or take another character somewhere as they watch their friend die horribly. There should be an emotional transformation, a natural jumping off point. Jack was hit by the bus, and now the plan to save the world is bust because Mary needed his strong arms to wrestle the troll guarding the portal to the world tree…or something. Being a writer means that you can’t just be mean to your characters for no reason, but you can’t be kind to them either. At least, not too often.

Sometimes, it’s important to let them heal. It lets your reader heal, too. Really everything you’re doing to your characters, your doing to your reader, too.

So sprinkle in that kindness when it’s right and good.

Writing Bootcamp

I did something unusual this weekend that I’m hoping to continue. I walked down to my local coffee shop and camped out until I had produced a lot of words. About 4,000, to be precise.

One of the things that surprises me about my productivity is how inconsistent it can be. This is a direct function of time and distractions, I suspect, and of how much awesome regenerative activity I’m engaged in. I came into this writing day with two weeks of awesome dinner parties and heavy physical activity to prop me up. I came into it having meditated for days on where my characters were going, and gave myself a day off of writing to finish reading a book I had been nibbling away at the night before. In essence, I came into this weekend of writing rested and brimming with experiences that could be made into words.

There were other factors, of course. I have been writing every day for the past two weeks, even if I only managed a few sentences. That kind of regular exercise of my writing muscles keeps me in shape. But while I blasted through the first 3,000 words on Saturday, and slowly meandered through another 1,000 that evening, I had to scrape the last 1,000 words out of me on Sunday. I really think, given that, that rest and reading and good food with friends was a large part of the equation. It has the advantage of being an element that I’m more than happy to repeat.

In any case, it was a wonderous, 5,000-word weekend, and I hope to capitalize on my new profligacy.

Surviving a Con

Every conference or convention is individual. This means there are different rules and tactics you, as an attendee, can use for success. You also might have different goals than another person attending the same event.

I, for example, am almost always going to a con trying to make connections that will further my writing career. At this early point in my career, mostly I go to conventions in order to meet other writers, literary agents, and publishers. I also hope to meet readers, of course, though I’m still getting my feet under me on the marketing front. Depending on who you are trying to meet, you may undertake different activities or go to different conventions. For example, I regularly attend the World Fantasy Convention, which this year will be held in Columbus, Ohio. WFC is predominantly an industry convention, so most of the attendees are writers, agents, and publishers. The best way to meet the people you want to meet at this convention is often to hang out in the bar or go to panels. However, if the goal is to meet readers and sell books, I would be more likely to head to a fan-oriented convention such as DragonCon. There an author might get a table or be on a panel (as opposed to attending one) in order to attract readers.

Obviously there is some overlap between conventions and the kinds of things you can accomplish at each of them, but its important to be clear about what your best chances are for accomplishing your goals at a given event.

Regardless of which kind of convention you are going to, there are some things I always try to do in order to be prepared and have the best experience.

  1. Pace yourself. I am an introvert who really likes people some days. That means that it’s really easy for me to overextend, especially at big events where a lot of strange people are crammed into a tiny space. Big conventions like DragonCon are essentially tiny cities that pop up overnight inside a series of hotels. You might never see the sun, but you won’t get bored. It’s best to not push yourself too hard and know your limits.
  2. Go with a friend. If you can, try to make sure you know someone at the convention you are going to. It is hard to constantly be wandering around looking to meet new people. But don’t get bogged down in your existing relationships either – you’re there to meet people, after all, so it’s important to put yourself out there occasionally. I sometimes go to conventions with my boyfriend. He gets to tour a strange city while I’m in panels, and sometimes gets invited to the parties with me afterward to help me break the ice as my personal extrovert and conversation starter. Plus it’s nice to have someone to talk about ideas with after the fact, part of that whole INFJ processing method.
  3. Bring a tote. You need a comfortable bag of some kind that you can pack all your stuff in. Stuff you might put in your tote includes: water, for hydration; emergency snacks; a notebook; pens and other writing materials; business cards; promotional materials; and anything you’re trying to sell. So it needs to be a pretty comfortable bag, as it is going to be heavy. At WFC, they also give you a giant bag of free books (squee!) which is awesome, but you are either going to need to find a place to stow that quickly or carry it around all day so that is something to keep in mind when selecting your bag. No one wants two heavy bags, one on each shoulder. Other conventions don’t give out decent bags at all. In either case, be prepared to carry some weight.
  4. Make sure you eat. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I sometimes forget to eat when I am stressed or really engaged in some exciting thing, so make sure that you take the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’re going to be going full speed for several days and then probably jumping right back into your work week. Not to mention that if you’re going to be hanging out in the bar drinking, you’re going to need some food to absorb that alcohol. Which leads me to the last thing.
  5. Don’t get drunk. Buzzed is fine. But if you are acting a fool, it’s not going to make you any friends. And alcohol on an empty stomach is a guaranteed way to vomit on someone’s shoes.

Let me know about your convention-survival tips and tricks! And have fun!




I attended MystiCon this weekend for the first time!

Technically, it was my second time registering for this event. The first time was last year, but because of school deadlines and such I couldn’t make it that weekend and ended up bowing out to work on papers. This was my first smaller, local fantasy convention, and it was definitely an interesting experience. I didn’t realize there was such a vibrant social group of local authors in my area! If you are one of those people interested in one day becoming a writer, I can’t recommend this kind of con enough. I learned a lot about what other authors of all stripes are doing in the area, especially in helping one another with marketing opportunities. Did you know that since last year, local authors have been coming together for what is called the Roanoke Author Invasion, a giant bookfair/signing event for regional authors of all kinds? I didn’t, but thank goodness I do now.

That was just one of the great things I learned about in the two days that I was able to attend MystiCon. I can’t wait for next year, when I will be applying to attend as an author and get a slot at one of the signing tables.

On the fan side, this year’s MystiCon was pretty big because the guest of honor was none other than George R.R. Martin himself. I am not going to lie, I was totally in line at 9:00 am Saturday morning for his 11:00 am event. He read two chapters of Winds of Winter that I hadn’t seen released elsewhere yet, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were no pictures allowed, but I sat right on the front row. He talked a lot about the burdens of fame, and how he wished he had become famous when he had more energy and could keep up with the demands of this new phase of his career.

Really, that brings me to what was, for me, the theme of the conference. What I kept hearing over and over was “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” This is something that keeps coming up in my life recently. I was inspired to see that most of the writers at this conference were also juggling day jobs, like me, and making that work. They spoke about how a writing career builds itself slowly, and no one is an overnight success. Even authors already living off their work said the same thing. One author, Liz Long, had a panel on marketing for writers, and she emphasized that pretty emphatically by talking about her own career. Liz has six books out, and a seventh on the way, all self-published. She told us that, as a self-published author, one couldn’t expect to make money back on the first or even second book. Any extra income should be reinvested in the next book, if the author did earn out. That was really important information that I wish I had heard when I was a younger author. Too often, it seems, self-publishing is talked up as a silver bullet approach to a writing career, as opposed to an alternate path that has just as many pitfalls as traditional publishing.

In any case, I have a lot to think about and work on in the wake of this conference. I’ll leave you, then, with the only picture I have (I know, that’s a bit of a fail) for you to enjoy. Behold, the Woman-King of Westeros.





There’s this thing that happens sometimes when you push yourself too hard or aren’t being honest with yourself. It’s called burnout. It may also be called writer’s block. Take your pick.

I prefer the first term, because to my mind this is an overall issue. Writing and writing well is dependent on the balance of your entire life. It doesn’t occur in isolation. You don’t have a separate reservoir of writing energy that remains untapped no matter what other activities you get up to. The opportunity cost inherent in living each and every day remains no matter how much you really want to finish that book. Sometimes especially if you really want to finish that book.

Today, I sat down at my computer and wrote around 150 words. That was it. 150 words towards my end goal of 100,000. Meaning that if I wrote 150 words every day, I’d still have like 600 days of writing left. Which is two years. Two years of writing. It’s less than that because I’m already down to 75,000 word to go, but still. That still is like 1.5 years. I’m supposed to be doing about twice that. Hell, maybe three times that.

To be honest I have been over writing this book since I started. Don’t misunderstand. I want to write the book. But my passion for the world is not quite there. I am not quite in the place I need to be to write this book, mentally, emotionally, what have you. That said, I am WRITING THE DAMN THING. I have the whole damn book outlined and mapped out, I have made it this far, and I am going to freaking GO FOR IT.

Suitably, I have recently received some great advice on the subject.

You may or may not listen to Writing Excuses, a podcast run by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, as well as Dan Wells and Howard Tayler. I’m pretty sure these people write full-time. I had a wonderful epoch of my life that lasted about three months or so where I was writing full-time. I finished a whole book in three months. There have also been a few blessed breaks in my time as a college student during which I could crank out half of a manuscript or so. But having a full-time day job is a hard sell for a writer, especially when I use all the same skills in my day job that I do for writing fiction. It often means that, by the time I get home or get to a place where I could write, my brain is as crispy as an overdone piece of toast. This is burnout. This is the place I live right now. The Writing Excuses team did a whole piece on this. It is called Newton’s Laws of Writing. You should totally check it out, but I will sum it up below.

Writing has momentum.

See, I’ve proven this fact with this post! Here I have already written 500 words! Really, though, the theory here is that once you start, it is hard to stop. The greatest threat to the writer is long absences from the page. Even if you only write for 10 minutes, only scrape out a sentence or a paragraph, the thing that keeps you going is to return to the page, again and again.

So, with that said….

…here I go.

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