My Writing

News about my personal writing projects, whether short stories or novels.

Post-Gen Con 2016: Reexamining Writing Goals


My Gen Con 2016 badge and Writer’s Symposium program.

The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium was amazing. I walked away completely refreshed and with a bumper crop of information and ideas. I cannot recommend enough finding and attending similar events to get the latest information about what is going on in the publishing industry or just to get inspired to take your craft to the next level. The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium stretched from Thursday through Sunday (Aug. 4-7) and offered more than 200 hours of programming and events. There was also a Writer’s Avenue in the main vendor hall; however, since my day was packed with seminars, I missed the opportunity to visit and mingle with fellow writers in addition to agents and editors from some of the main publishing house. Next year I will be better prepared and make sure I leave plenty of time to visit that avenue because valuable connections can be made doing that as was pointed out during one of the seminars I attended.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

In all I attended eight and a half hours worth of seminars on Saturday, Aug. 6. I say half because I was allowed into Eric Flint’s “Business of Writing: Understanding the Publishing Industry” half way through its start. The bulk of the seminars I attended were Business of Writing related since that is where I currently am in my own creative writing career. I did– for which I’m extremely grateful for–work in a couple Writer’s Craft sessions and one Writer’s Life seminar, which was invaluable.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the highlights from the Gen Con seminars I attended. The first, which I hope to have up this Friday, will be from “Writer’s Life: Structuring Life to Support Creativity.” I have been struggling with balancing life, energy, and my need to be creative, so this one was a session I truly needed. I know many other writers also struggle with carving out time to write, so hopefully, they too will be able to glean something from the session’s highlights.

Since attending “Structuring Life,” I have been steadily been making progress on Heritage Lost‘s sequel, and I feel in a better place in my creative life, even if I still need to continue training my brain, but all in good time!

Perhaps my greatest take away is I’m halting my agent hunt, except for one particular agent that I have in mind. Instead, I will do yet another read-through of Heritage Lost before directly querying publishing houses that allow unsolicited manuscripts. All of the panelists (and they included writers, editors from publishing houses, and an agent) over several seminars agreed new writers were more likely to be published through the slush pile than through an agent. It is important to note they all stressed there is no one way to publishing; however, directly approaching publishing houses had been my original path. I diverted from it when I kept getting advice that I needed to get an agent first, so I caved.

Additionally, in a month or two, I will probably have exciting news about another venture that I’m hoping to see launch in October, but I want to make sure all of my ducks are in a row before I share anymore on that. Until then, I’m excited to share some of what I learned at Gen Con!

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Staying Uplifted While Querying


The querying process is one of the hardest steps for a writer to face — even more so than the daunting editing process. A finished manuscript, after all, is our baby, and it’s hard to kick your baby out into the cold cruel world. And trust me, it can be a cruel world.

I’ve been in the midst of querying since February, with a few breaks in between when I’ve been overly busy. And I have been met with rejection after rejection, in some cases where my name couldn’t even be copied and pasted — I have a new appreciation of “Dear John” letters, ha!

However, I keep plodding along in hopes that my book will eventually find the right agent who will click with it and be as passionate about the project as I am (which is extremely important in your agent). Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep going, especially when you continue to receive form letters without any feedback — no idea if your pitch is failing; if it’s something to do with your book or your writing; or if the market is just over-saturated in the genre.

Still, no matter how disheartening, a writer must press on if they are to have any hope of finding an agent or publisher. Here are some of the things that have kept me going during the process. Continue reading

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Finding the right beginning


Some beginnings come easy; others, well, they bite, claw, and resist like no tomorrow, leaving behind frazzled writers. Take for instance my novel Heritage Lost: It’s beginning stuck from the very beginning, back when I conceptualized the novel in college. It’s sequel, which I’m am beginning, is already on its fourth (I think) beginning. None of them wanted to work; however, this one feels good. And funny enough, each “chapter one” has been moving forward chronological as I tried to nail down where the readers should be reintroduced into the world at. Continue reading

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So Begins The Jump

Keyboard and query letter start

The query letter is the writer’s rite of passage.

To borrow a phrase from Nick Fury (and countless other people over the years): “This isn’t my first rodeo.” I’ve queried before, often to no luck. Rejection happens more often than not: The publishing industry is a hard nut to crack. You just have to dust yourself off, get back up, and continue to submit, potentially with a new project. Doing just that was a tough decision for me. I put so much effort and time into Passage–its characters, its plot, its worldbuilding. However, as my SciFi novel grew and took shape, I had to acknowledge it had the best shot in the current market, so I put all my effort into bringing it to fruition.

Now Heritage Lost is wrapped up, and I’m putting together query letters and a synopsis while also toying with the idea of participating in #PitMad, which is Feb. 11. My ultimate goal is to begin querying agents throughout February, hopefully tantalizing one to bite. Continue reading

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How does a person get their $*** together?

Utter failure. That is really the only way to describe this year’s NaNoWriMo attempt. Illness struck quickly, taking a week, and then apathy swooped in and killed any desire to continue the trek onward. Really, does the world need my books? Are they really worth anything (not necessarily talking monetary value here)? I’ve been really delving into those questions a lot lately, among others.

One thing I can say about this epic car wreck of a failure is it did open my eyes: I have myself spread too thin and I’m not functioning in a productive manner. I need to break some bad habits and get back to being a functioning person, rather than responding to crisis after crisis and just generally being unhappy. Continue reading

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It’s the final countdown — NaNoWriMo prep


Join in the madness at It’s crazy, but so worth it!


This is me right now. (Side note: I have my tablet working again!)

In the background of my head, Europe’s famous riffs loudly declare “It’s the final countdown!” And my countdown is now practically three days — three days and the madness of National Novel Writing Month descends upon me. I’m not ready for this! Frantically, I look at my outline: It only stretches from Chapter One to Chapter Fourteen — then there is only blankness. Also looming over my head is the incomplete final read-through, where I’m in Chapter Six of Eighteen. WHY IS THERE ALL OF THIS FINAL-NESS IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW?! And where the heck did October go?! Ah, yes. Work invaded my personal time and held it hostage. But no matter, it is times like this that test one’s mettle — or some other platitude that people like to throw out. Continue reading

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The mobile writer


Even though I'm at a market, I'm connected ... always connected.

I often find myself marveling at how wired in I am as a writer. There’s the various Google apps that connect me to my writing no matter where I’m at; Evernote allows access to my writing notes no matter what device I have; and, of course, I have my social media and email apps.

As a matter of a fact, I’m currently writing this post at a farmers market while helping out my dad: completely connected in even when not at home or on one of my traditional device,  aka the desktop or netbook.

And recently I’ve been considering adding to my plethora of apps and software with Scrivener. Back when they had the Windows beta, I was one of the testers. I liked, and this is despite it not having all the bells and whistles.

Yet, when the official version came out,  I never got around to buying it,  probably since I failed to capture the NaNoWriMo discount. Still, I’ve continued to eye it,  especially after continually hearing such great things from my peeps on Twitter.

However, I then get to thinking: why? Between Evernote, Word and Google Drive, I have a pretty good thing going that allows me access and productivity in a variety of scenarios. Is it really worth it? Sure, Scrivener would organize everything into one location,  but really, my spread across various apps is not too messy.

Am I missing out by not using Scrivener? Is there something that it offers that I’m really not factoring into my equations? Please share your experiences with Scrivener below, particularly features that you really love.

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A writer’s reflections . . .


My silly boy loves the binder

I’ve buckled down the hatches and have really been polishing up my SciFi manuscript. My printout revisions are complete, my rewrite of chapter one is done, and now all that remains to be done is implementing the printout edits into the electronic master copy. At this rate, I’ll be on schedule to finish and submit by the end of May/early June.

So far, the working title is “Heritage Lost,” and at this moment, it looks like that title will stick through to the submission process. I have to say I am relieved. To date, this project has been perhaps my most challenging. It was my first foray into SciFi; I started it after coming off my longtime fantasy series, meaning the characters were strangers to me; and did I say it was my first time writing science fiction! SciFi is hard. I don’t think enough people appreciate all the hard work writers of the genre put in to their pieces in order to create good science fiction.

Now don’t get me wrong, my novel is no where close to being hard SF (I admire writers who can pull off that category), but I still had to put in several hours to create believable planets, species, politics, cultures, technology, etc. that would not go beyond my readers’  suspension of disbelief.  And believability is something I hope I’ve achieved, though I will always second guess myself on that.

No, “Heritage Lost” finds itself squarely in the the soft SF category, focusing on societal issues and characters. Of the subgenres, it probably best fits social science fiction and feminist science fiction. It addresses some challenging topics, particularly loss of cultural identity, expansionism, war, terrorism, radicalization, and gender issues — particularly as the series progresses. They are topics I hope I handle well and with the gravity they deserve. One of my main aims when tackling them is to do so in terms that nothing is black and white. People make varying decisions for varying reasons: One person’s wrong is another person’s right.

“Heritage Lost,” as its title hints, deals more with the loss of cultural, even personal, identity than the other themes, which grow as the series progresses. The main character’s personal and cultural identity is a mystery to her, lost in a war she’s too young to remember. Her lack of a past, which she’s ignored for a long time, is dredged up after she rescues a toddler who now finds himself in a similar situation. Along the way, she finds herself losing another identity, her home, her career, and her future.

I’m very hopeful this novel will be able to break into the publishing world, but I realize luck and timing will have to be on my side. I plan to try the traditional route, but I am also intrigued by the indie approach. Stories of success, like “Wool,” make self-publishing seem very tantalizing. “Wool,” for those unfamiliar with it, started as a standalone short story written by Hugh Howey, who later expanded the premise into a series. It became widely popular and was eventually picked up by Simon & Schuster while its movie rights were purchased by 20th Century Fox. And topping it off, Howey still retains full rights to his work, meaning he can still distribute it online. Who wouldn’t want to maintain rights and creative direction of their book?!

Creative freedom and maintaining full rights is very appealing, and I think that would be my main reason for choosing self-publishing, if I go that route. However, I have eight potential leads for the traditional method. First I’m going to submit the book to one of the biggest publishers of the genre. I probably have a snowflakes chance in hell of being accepted there, but I figure shoot high. My list also contains some smaller presses, too.

 I don’t know how many I will query, especially since the draw of self-publishing is growing. But I figure, take one step at a time: It will all work out in the end.
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A reflection on character relationships

I believe writers have quirks that appear across the broad body of their works — little nuggets of ourselves that we can’t help but deposit. Whether it is reoccurring themes or just elements of our life experiences, they appear in the black and white of our prose. And as I continue editing my Scifi novel, I found myself reflecting on one thing that seems to span the majority of my works, one commonality if you would: My characters are greatly impacted by their family units, but they lack in the friendship department.

There are no Frodos and Samwises, no Harrys and Hermiones (Ron gets excluded because there were several times he was just a lousy friend), no Dowager Countesses or Mrs. Crawleys — the list goes on and on — in the vast majority of my works. Continue reading

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Beta reading continues

“Heritage Lost,” the working title of my SciFi novel, is currently out to three beta readers, and the response has been very favorable so far. It’s always good to hear comments like “This will be a quick sell” or “I found myself wishing these characters were real.” Not only that, but two are stating they would recommend it to people that they know who like science fiction — that in particular is a relief since “Heritage Lost” is my first foray into the genre, and I won’t lie, I found it to be very challenging. In fact, my one reader has her mother, a big Trekkie, chomping at the bit to read it!

This time around, with the beta reading process, I have two “removed” readers who knew very little or nothing about the novel beforehand and one reader who knows a little bit more about the nuts and bolts of the piece, but not too much. In the past, I’ve usually had one or two readers who were more informed with the piece, so the final outcome of having only “outsiders” look at the piece will be interesting. To top off the experience, I think all three are going to have very different views and likes — always nice to have in a beta reading setting since final product readers will always have differing options. So far, it’s definitely been fascinating to see how different my two further along readers (or guinea pigs) react to scenes and characters differently. It’s also been a good reminder that I’m writing for multiple readers, not just one.

One approach for in-depth feedback that I did this time around was purchase my local/first-to-finish beta reader a coffee and then sit down with her to get her thoughts on the manuscript. Our originally intended meet up place turned out to close early on Saturdays … same case with our second destination. With options limited, we ended up at McDonald’s. But there was still coffee so all was well. Once seated with our coffee, I went through this wonderful beta reader worksheet with her and sat and listened — scribbling down notes with my handy-dandy notebook — as she provided feedback.

It was a fun experience, and I would recommend doing it if your beta readers are local (and do it one-on-one, too many voices at once could get overwhelming, at least for an severe introvert like myself). For the non-local ones, besides taking their Word critiques, talk with them over the phone or Skype with them, because sometimes they will think of different critiques while talking with you directly. I have personally received many great critiques by directly speaking with a reader and asking different questions, which in return sparked ideas from the reader.

While I’ve received very favorable feedback with “Heritage Lost” so far, there is still work to be done on the manuscript — as is to be expected. Starting today, I’m hoping to start fixing the grammatical errors that have been caught and maybe start tweaking some areas of the story. Hopefully, by the time the tweaks are finished, all my beta readers will be done on their reads, leaving me only to finish final revisions, write a synopsis and then submit.

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