Book Review: ‘Write Smart, Write Happy’

Sometimes the right book finds you at the right time of your life. It’s happened before with How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White. Something as simple as “just do the dishes” has broken through a funk that has been crippling for me.

Write Smart, Write Happy: How to Become a More Productive, Resilient, and Successful by Cheryl St. John has had a similar effect on my writing. I finished reading it early in 2019, and it has already led to a much more productive 2019. I’m not writing every day, but I am at least writing numerous times per week.

St. John really encouraged me to examine my writing strategy, which had grown nonexistent, and reexamine the lofty goals I had created for myself — aka the goals I was never meeting. It really brought home how unreasonable I was being and how unfocused my efforts have been. But perhaps the most important takeaway was that I needed to forgive myself for each missed deadline and goal. Forgive and move forward. And by move forward, St. John recommends a hard look at goals and not setting the bar so high that you are destined to fail, perpetuating a cycle where you are never good enough.

While a craft book, St. John focuses more on the lifestyle of writers. You will not find writing prompts. It is more an examination of the process, time management, and even being a professional should you attend conferences. She also tackles writer jealousy, which is only human to feel but should never be acted on. It is important to acknowledge another writer’s hard work and not hold their success against them.

It is best to have a notebook when reading Write Smart, Write Happy as St. John provides a lot of homework in each chapter. I’ll admit that I only mentally did the homework as the bulk of my reading occurred during my lunch breaks while I was sitting in my SUV. Part of me wishes I would have used a small notebook; however, I still think I came away from the process with the core takeaways.

My only complaint about Write Smart, Write Happy is that it can get very repetitive, which could be a turnoff for some people. She can also fall on the side of tough love, another possible turnoff, especially if taken as a personal attack. Personally, I needed that tough love to push forward with my work.

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere, give Write Smart, Write Happy a shot. It isn’t a magical cure for writer’s block, but it will better help you examine your writing strategies with a critical eye.

As I noted above, 2019 has been the most productive year for my writing in a long time. I’m roaring toward the publication of Heritage Lost and have put together a short story prequel for it. I have almost gotten halfway through my historical fiction novel. I still have goals that I want to achieve before 2019’s end, and thanks to St. John, I’m trying to be realistic on what I can achieve with my time. The cycle of failure ends now.


Announcement: ‘Heritage Lost’ Release Planned For Dec. 6

A quote from Heritage Lost, which will be released Dec. 6, 2019.

If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve likely heard me mention my sci-fi novel, Heritage Lost. Admittedly, I’ve held quite a few details close to my chest, but that’s changing now! Having grown tired of brick walls standing in my way, I’m breaking through like the Kool-Aid man — complete with an “Oh, Yeah!” — and planning for a Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, release for Heritage Lost.

The story is a long time coming with numerous drafts that stretch back to my time as a sophomore at Purdue University. Since those early days, the story has evolved a lot, and I can’t voice enough how excited I am to share the fruits of my labor.

The Story

As for the story itself, here is its current book blurb:

At thirty-four, Captain Katya Cassius knew she faced the twilight of her military career as a Magistrate officer on board The Maelstrom. She just hadn’t imagined she’d be shoving it down a trash compactor and launching it into space. But no good deed ever goes unpunished . . .

One simple rescue mission. That’s all it takes to land Katya and her two-person crew in the midst of a cover-up with the discovery of the Magistrate warship Aletheia‘s slaughtered crew — save for one survivor, an Oneiroi toddler. Despite the species’ reputation as the Magistrate’s mind-destroying enforcers, Katya rescues him. This act of mercy only ends with her own comrades in arms turning their weapons on her ship.

To evade arrest or death, The Maelstrom crew deserts and fades into a region of Magistrate space known as the Fringe. But the Magistrate is never far behind. The boy’s uncle, Akakios, stalks each of their stops. Tasked with keeping his people’s greatest secret and sorrow safe, he must succeed even at the cost of his own nephew’s life. Under no circumstance is Plasovern to receive Sotiris.

Caught between former comrades in arms and a terrorist organization, the lurking danger buried in the boy’s genetic code might prove deadlier than both combined. An adopted child herself, Katya refuses to abandon or airlock the toddler, even as he reshapes her mind and uncovers her forgotten childhood.

A blend of space opera and military SF, if you’re a fan of FireflyBattlestar Galactica (2004), and Dark Matter, it’ll be right up your alley.

Be On The Lookout

In anticipation of the impending release, I’ll be sharing more about the story’s characters, alien species, and the galaxy of Heritage Lost at large. In September, look for the regular releases of two short stories from The Resnik Days collection, which will show what Katya and crew were up to before they landed on The Maelstrom.

For anyone wanting to stay in the loop, follow my blog or any of my social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and my newest, Instagram.  I will also be launching a newsletter soon.

Closing Thoughts

I really look forward to sharing this journey with you all, from the really fun parts to the moments where I’ll want to pull out my own hair. If you’re a reader, I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the behind the scenes of putting a novel together. If you are a fellow writer, I hope something from my experience will be beneficial to you, especially if you opt to self-publish as well. I will continue to update my blog with topics not related to my impending release, too.

Currently, the manuscript is undergoing final line edits with my editor, and I look forward to getting those corrections back so work can begin on formatting. I intend to do the formatting myself. Additionally, I’ve commissioned an incredibly talented cover artist; she’s already working on a custom-painted cover. So far, I’m just blown away by how beautiful everything looks. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Wish me luck as I embark on this crazy adventure. I just hope I keep my sanity intact.


#JuneWritingChallenge19 Day 2: What’s Your MC Like?

Day 2 of the #JuneWritingChallenge19

It’s hard to believe, but for the longest period of time all of my main characters were male. Now, for the first time, I have two female MCs heading my current works in progress: a sci-fi series and a historical fiction novel. And they couldn’t be any different, so it’s been quite interesting dipping into both of them at the same time.

Katya Cassius, from the tentatively called Heritage Verse series, is older at 34, has seen so much of the world — galaxy really — thinks quickly on her feet, and is quite clever in dire situations. She has doggedly pursued a military career all her life, largely being confined to planetary posts, including one of the roughest on a planet called Resnik, before landing a captain position on the outdated Maelstrom. She was adopted by Faustus Cassius, an anthropologist, at the age of three or four after being removed from her homeworld that had just wrapped up a world war and a series of blood-letting purges. For the most part, she avoids looking to that past out of love for her adoptive father and fear of what she might find. While not always emotive, she is capable of great compassion, taking in a preteen and later a toddler.

Dinah Schwartz, on the other hand, is only 15 at the time her story begins and lives within an Amish community in a rural Indiana community at the outbreak of WWI. She easily follows the life she was born into (though she dreads beginning a courtship) and is completely clueless to the world beyond it. However, with the coming war, her world is upturned and she embraces roles normally reserved for Amish men in order to keep her family’s farm a float. She really grows to realize that people both inside and outside her community are not perfect. She finds great joy in her unconventional, frowned-upon friendships and literature — something she’d left behind after leaving school.

These two characters couldn’t be any more different, but I like to see them as kickass in their own unique ways: Katya in a more literal way while Dinah does so in a less physical/more quiet way. They both lead and find their own stories, no matter what craziness is occurring around them.


JuneWritingChallenge19: June Goals


Here are the daily challenges for Em Rowene’s #JuneWritingChallenge19

For the month of June, I’ve decided to participate in Em Rowene‘s #JuneWritingChallenge19 — though not on Instagram (I don’t have an account there). Instead, I’ll be doing a combo of blogging and Twitter/Facebook. I think it’ll be a fun endeavor and I’m looking forward to each day, even though I’m off to a sluggish start. With luck, it’ll give be the drive to stay focused and really cross off some writing-related projects on my to-do list.

Day 1: June Writing Goals

I have a ton of goals for the month. The biggest being the continued work on a series of prequel short stories for my sci-fi novel, Heritage Lost. Currently, I’m wrapping up story one of the series called The Resnik Days, but I have two more (hopefully less extensive) shorts planned. This is but a small portion of the work I have planned throughout the month of June for what I’m tentatively calling the Heritage Verse.

I’m also implementing final revisions from my editor on Heritage Lost and am beginning the formatting process for that book. While I’m still waiting on a response from a partial manuscript request, I want to be proactive start prepping the book for an indie release should that be the route I take. I’m still trying to be optimistic about the agent wanting more; however, I also don’t want to sit on my laurels.

In the background of that, I also want to get the bulk of my marketing binder done and printed. Once again, I just want to be proactive.

I also hope to visit my historical fiction novel, Under the Black Oak, even though I plan to make it my July focus during Camp NaNoWriMo. I’d rather ease back into that project rather than dive in cold during that event; I believe this will improve my success rate.

These four areas (short stories, Heritage Lost edits/formatting, marketing binder completion, and reacquainting myself to Under the Black Oak) pretty much summarize my writing goals. Though, I have to say I also want to adopt a more productive writing regime, including writing almost everyday. I was doing good, but fell behind. So here’s crossing the old fingers that I can shake of the rust and pump out words while crossing off goals.

Fictional death: Should it come for all?

Fictional death header with grim reaper

On a forum that I frequent, one poster launched a discussion in regards to death in fiction, asking why the majority of authors feel the need to resurrect characters or never kill them all along. This, in turn, got me thinking about fictional deaths both in the books I read and the ones I write. Ultimately, I think it is unfair to say that the majority of writers will reverse character deaths (or make it so they’d never actually happened), though there are plenty of death tropes (I’m sorry, but you clicked the TvTropes’ link on your own accord … it’s on you) that show writers do from time to time give into this temptation — though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The statement that “a majority of authors” do this, however, rubbed me wrong. And since I predominantly read fantasy and science fiction, I was further peeved when it was suggested that these two genres don’t have  room for realism when it comes to death. Yes, some fantasy and sci-fi worlds have resurrection or death workarounds built into their fabrics, and that is fine. When you pick up these books, you very often have a good idea of what you are getting into. However, both of these genres also have entries that strive for death realism. And as far as I’m concerned, there is room for both in fiction, especially when the rules around death are clear and honored within the world. Continue reading

Let’s Research: Filling In The Gaps

Let's Research Header 5

You’ve done your research, like really, copious amounts of it. There are a piles of books scattered around your house and don’t even mention the hoard of URLs and downloaded journal articles clogging up your computer or other devices. What’s this?! There’s a loose end, there’s another one, and no, are they multiplying? Don’t fret. No matter how thorough your research, there will be gaps that sources can’t answer. Records get lost or destroyed, near contemporaries erode others, and certain bits of historic minutia go unrecorded. Life would be boring with all the answers, right?
For a fiction writer not knowing is frustrating and can leave a project on uncertain grounds. If I don’t know X, how do I proceed? Can I proceed? Don’t let X derail your writing project. You are writing fiction, which gives you the opportunity to use creative license to fill in gaps. It is something historical fiction writers have been doing forever.

Continue reading

Chilling in Limbo

Writing Life HeaderOnce again, I kind of dropped off the radar. February was a tough month. I said goodbye to my beloved corgi, Gracie. I also had to undergo a series of medical tests and got, while not horrible, results that I really didn’t want, but with my family history, I knew constant monitoring would be a part of my future; it’s just happening a lot sooner, though I consider myself lucky that it was caught now. In light of these two events, blogging didn’t seem that important at the time. Now, with time behind me, I’m ready to dust off Blood and Ink, finishing off the Let’s Research series with at least one more entry — possibly two (see below). After this particular series is wrapped up, I have plenty of other planned posts, including fictional deaths, the historical woman, the beauty of imperfections, and much more.

Gracie the Corgi

Gracie got her real angel wings on Feb. 15. She would have been 13 on May 14, 2019.

My querying adventure is at a standstill, with me sitting in limbo with Heritage Lost, my sci-fi novel. After the full manuscript request fell through with the agent requiring a sudden sabbatical, I did receive a partial manuscript request from another agent. I haven’t heard anything back as of this point, and in the background, I’m working on readying the book for a self-publishing release with it being in the trusty hands of my editor. It’d always been my intent that this agent would be the last attempt at the traditional route. Sure, I will be over the moon if she responds back with a “GIVE ME MORE!” but I’m very much a realist and a prepper. I want to make the transition from querying to self-publishing seamless if I get a pass. Yes, there are still plenty of agents I could reach out to, but I’ve made peace with the self-publishing approach — yes, I won’t be in brick-and-mortar stores, but the story will be out there and that is all I want at this point. Continue reading