A Querying I will Go!

IMG_5208It’s been a wild spring with unpredictable weather and plenty of changes to adapt into my life. As a family with young kids, the only thing I can depend on from day to day is unpredictability.  My youngest has developed a fascination with Minecraft and loves to play on the worlds he is creating with someone else. I’ll admit, I think it’s really fun to play with him as well, but every hour spent playing video games is an hour not spent doing anything that will help me reach my goals.

That said, perhaps the biggest news is that I’m starting to query out my epic fantasy novel. I didn’t image there would be this much stress associated with waiting for publishers and agents to give me their approval, or rejection, or no response at all. I’ve been at it since December but have only started sending out multiple queries at a time this last month.

The plan for the next few months is to always have five queries out at a time and to participate in whatever Twitter pitch contests drift my way. While this isn’t super aggressive, it doesn’t take over my life either.

[For those scratching their heads – a query is simply a formal letter sent to publishers and literary agents that tells about the book and about the author. A pitch is a short sentence that sums up the book. Both are mind-numbingly hard to create.]

On the short story front, I have two pieces that have been accepted and are awaiting scheduling with the publisher. I will most definitely be posting as soon as I have more info. One is a retelling of classic Vietnamese folklore, the  Starfruit Tree and is slated for an anthology. The other, The Skull Collector, is best described as a cross between Moana and the Hunger Games and will be in a magazine.

Other news, I was asked to judge a short story contest for the University of Utah Valley’s Warp and Weave speculative fiction literary magazine. While I’ve judged stories before, it’s never been for anything more than my writing group. All the stories were amazing so it was a true challenge to pick those that rose above the rest.

There’s always a ton of fun/agonizing work to do. While waiting for query responses from agents and editors I have a bundle of great ideas I’d like to work up into publishable short stories and a draft of the sequel novel to create. I also have a handful of presentations to prepare for upcoming conferences, for more info click here.

Here’s to a great Spring!

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Writing Update – May 2015

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted an update so here we are.  I’m excited to say that I finally finished the current draft of my epic fantasy, Stonebearer’s Betrayal. This draft has been long in coming, over a year, and it feels so good to finally be seeing a finished product.

The next step is to put the final polish on the chapters and send them off to a few trusted beta readers. I have to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve let anyone see anything more than a scene or two and I’m a little scared about the feedback I might get. At the same time, it’s super exciting to know that I’ve gotten this far.

I did sneak in a little short fiction writing for a contest that one of my local writing groups hosted. I’m proud to say that my flash fiction piece, This is my Destiny, won first place in its category.  I wanted to try my hand at a historical fiction piece with a speculative fiction twist for another anthology but it didn’t come together. There are a few other deadlines in the future that I’d like to prepare pieces for, but for the most part I think I will focus on my novel.

LUWOC first chapt 2015 certThe next big thing is the LDStorymakers Conference in two weeks. I have a chapter entered in to the first chapter contest, which again scares the crap out of me. I’d love to win, validation is always a good thing. I will also attend the intense Publication Primer where a professional editor will ream my first 10 pages to shreds along with the other four people in my group. It’s the best way to grow as a writer, but man it can be rough. It takes thick skin and lots of perspective to be able to not take things personally.

Hopefully by the next update in a few months I’ll have my initial beta feedback on my novel and will be well into the final editing process and then  – gasp! – it’s time to start sending it out! EEEK!

Until then, happy reading!

Writing Update February 2015

51-BE6kx1PLThe last six months have been a strange mix of writing for fun and writing that feels like work.  I sold my first piece of short fiction BREATH, which led to several weeks spent in working with a professional editor.  By the way, if you ever want to know the truth about what your writing weaknesses are, a good editor will have no problem in telling you.

With any publication there comes marketing, which for me included conducting several interviews and also being interviewed.  It also involved creating author accounts on Amazon and Goodreads.  As fun at it is, all these things take up valuable time.

MechanizedMasterpiecesThe success of my first story kicked off a crazy desire to try again, so I spent several weeks writing and polishing a steampunk story to submit. Having never written steampunk before, this was a huge learning experience for me.  I had fun writing it, but in the end it was rejected.  Disheartening?  Yes. Life shaking? No. I know where I went wrong, and now I have a story that with a bit more work, I can brush it and try again.

Fast forward to the last few weeks, I’ve decided to enter the first chapter of my book-in-progress in the LDStorymakers Writing Conference first chapter contest. I swear I’ve rewritten this opening chapter at least five times.  This time, I finally feel like I have the right characterisations and the right tone.  Hopefully the judges will agree.

Next on the docket – a contest entry for one of my writing chapters. I have the choice of short story, flash fiction, first chapter, or poetry.  The due date is next week, so I better get hopping!

Want to read what I’ve been working on? Check out these links:

 

Back to Business

The month of November seemed to fly by faster than normal, there was way too much going on and not nearly enough time for any of it.  We celebrated Thanksgiving and three birthdays.  Then there was the decorating and the cooking and the other dozens of things needed to prepare for the holidays.

As for NaNoWriMo, my rebel project hit a wall at the 15,000 word mark when I realized that I had a major plotting issue.  I call it my rebel project because instead of writing a new piece of fiction I chose to put the polish on the book I’ve been fighting to finish.

The problem goes something like this – everything was fine with the story, but it needed something to give it a little oomph.  To do this, I combined the roles of a more minor character with a main character.  This made so much sense in the planning phase and I was really excited at the different possibilities it offered.  Now I can have a love triangle along with all the action and adventure.

However, as I began my revisions and started changing that character to fit both roles I had a terrible realization.  I need him to be a part of a mini quest with another character but I had neglected to figure out how he gets involved with that character in the first place. They are not an obvious pair, and for the life of me I have yet to find a great way to get them to work together.

So, I shelved my revisions until I could find a way to fix this problem it out and started a crochet project instead.  This is avoidance behavior at its finest.  Now that I’ve taken a break and let the problem stew for a while I think I’ve found a way to fix it.  I’ll need to write it out and see if it will work.

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My new pair of slippers, I love the flowers!

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A cozy tam for the colder weather

On a happy note, I did manage to finish and package up a short science fiction story for submission to a few magazines. I’m crossing my fingers that all goes well, this is my first time submitting to a professional market that isn’t a contest.  If all goes well, I plan on doing more short stories for magazines. ‘

For the month of December I plan to pick up the manuscript once again, fix the plotting problem and continue revisions.  I would still love to finish this round by the end of the year, but it looks like it might take a bit longer.

Writing Update – July

upward graph

As expected, July turned out to be hot and busy. Between plenty of family activities and long days home with kids, it was hard to consistently find time to work on my book.  Even with these challenges the word count rose from around 57,500 words to 72,000 words – a net increase of 14,500 words or about 60 pages, and that deserves a happy dance all around. A good part of these words were salvaged from an earlier draft and edited to fit the new needs of the current draft. The rest are new scenes written to round out the story.

These pages contain both the action climax and the emotional climax of the book, and have been a bear to work on. I owe my family an apology for the days I was mentally withdrawn as I worked through some of the emotions myself.  Part of me feels bad about what happens to my characters, I have put them through the wringer and there’s not much I’ve given them as a reward.  During future editing I’m going to have to make sure that the payout for completing their quest is enough or my readers might end up throwing the book against a wall. 

I’m excited to have reached this point in writing Stonebearer’s Betrayal. At this pace, I should finish this draft during the month of August and be that much closer to publication. After this, I’ll begin the more detailed and painstaking work of filing down the rough edges and filling in gaps and holes, of which I already know there are many.  

Between this draft and the next, I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few weeks and working on some short fiction to submit to magazines and contests.  I’ve collected a few fun ideas that I hope will turn into some great fiction.  

Until next month,  happy writing!

Writing Update – June

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June marked the start of summer vacation for the kids and a lot less undisturbed time for me.  It felt I spent most of the month spent finding balance between housework,  playing with the kids, and finding time for me to continue working on my story. Still, I ended the month with the manuscript heavier by a surprising additional 22,000 words, bringing the total to about 57,500 words. Even with challenges, I managed to crank through roughly 88 pages.  I’m thrilled.

At last I feel like I’m making some real progress.  For the longest time  I wasn’t sure about where the story needed to go or how to get it there. Now, with this month’s work, the story and it’s characters are gaining momentum and I can see where it needs to go.

Writing a first novel is much harder than it looks, you are not only discovering your characters and the story, but you are also discovering yourself as a writer.  It’s taken years to find what techniques work best for me.  Looking back the solution seems obvious now.  If I could have figured out my style of working earlier I could have saved myself a huge amount of time.

Along with the progress made on the manuscript, June marks the first time I’ve received a formal rejection letter for a short story submitted to a contest.  Although I would have loved it if my story were accepted, receiving a rejection is a milestone every writer must face.  Having one says I’m submitting and putting my work out there.  It won’t be the last rejection letter I receive and in time there will be acceptances as well.

I’m looking forward to July with its heat and long days.  If I can make the same amount of progress that I did in June then I’m on track for finishing this draft by the end of summer.  After that, the bulk of the work is done and I can start focusing on detail work and really making it shine.

I can’t wait.