Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review Lowdown and Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy

In addition to this post, I have a post at the Insecure Writer's Support Group website on How to Use Instagram as an Author today! Go there, and check it out if you're interested!


I love reading! However, I have a tough time writing reviews. I want to give fully honest reviews, but I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. I know how that feels.  I also know how much reviews mean to authors because I am one, so I write them.

Did you know that you have to have 50 reviews at Amazon to get featured in their newsletters? I don't think they all have to be superstar reviews, but there is some kind of algorithm to it.

Did you know Amazon doesn't always let writers review other books? This is crazy to me. Trolls get to review. Writers aren't supposed to review. This is why it's good to have two Amazon accounts. That's how my reviews get posted and stay posted. And no, I'm not a troll, or even a super-reviewer. I don't get paid to review. I review the books I like, that's it.

Speaking of which:


Wielder's Prize by Elle Cardy is out today!!! I was given a free copy to review, but please note this does not bias my opinion here.

AWESOMENESS: 

Action - I love action in fantasy novels and this novel had action!

Mystery - I love not knowing everything right away and this novel delivered on all of its promised hints later on in the story! (Agh. The desire to throw in spoilers is really strong, but I'm holding it back.) The bread crumbs of intrigue led to a satisfying conclusion!

World-Building - The slow unveiling of world-building and the power structure of the magic users was awesome! I loved how we learned alongside the main character and discovered what her powers meant and how to use them, as well as why she doesn't seem to have a focus. 

Tension - This book had it. It was tough to put down, and I read it in two sittings.


WHAT I LOVED, BUT WASN'T SURE I DID AT FIRST:

Character-Building for the MC - I admit I struggled to like the main character in the first chapter or two. I wanted her to get out of her tough situation a lot faster, but then as the novel progressed, I found myself drawn more and more into her situation, how she was who she was, and how she began to understand who she could be. I realized the farther I got into the book, just how well the author had written this character. Jasmine is one of the most fully realized fantasy characters I've read in a long, long time.


SLIGHT CAUTION:
This fantasy novel is excellent, but there is an abusive relationship shown in the beginning. It is handled well, but it was troubling when I first saw it. There is justice, but not the way the reader might expect. 


OVERALL: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!!! This book was one of my favorite recent reads. I really enjoyed it and found it to be fun, as well as thought-provoking. I really liked how the author showed the main character growing into her strengths and finding her footing, even if I didn't like where she was at the beginning.



Do you write reviews? If you ever read one of my books, please feel free to give me a review - even if it's not that many stars. Really. I would like one of my books to get up to 50 reviews someday. Be honest. Give it to me straight. I'll be okay.

And, have you picked up Wielder's Prize yet? I recommend it!

Please check out my post at the IWSG site today!


Monday, October 7, 2019

Two Rejection Letters = A Win? Seeing Rejection as a Step Forward

Last Friday, I woke up late (still feeling ill), wandered around my house like a zombie, ate breakfast like someone not sure the food would stay down, and then found two rejection letters for two different manuscripts in my inbox.

I read them over, and then over again.

I wasn't surprised by the rejections.

I was surprised I had received any response from these two agents.
Both of these particular literary agents had stated explicitly on their websites:
 "If you haven't heard back in 90 days, please consider your manuscript rejected." 

From both agents, I had received no response for over 120 days.
So, I considered my manuscripts rejected.

However, they both e-mailed me. 

This felt like a win!

Rejections as a win?

Yep. If they took the time to actually read my work and send me a personalized rejection letter, it's a win. 

In fact, I see personalized rejection letters as a step forward.

They weren't form letters.
They show the agents actually read my work.
They responded when they had stated on their websites they might not.
They gave me specific feedback.
One sent me three links to databases of other literary agents so I could find the right agent for me.

Win, win, win. Step by step by step.

I am still writing.

I am still submitting my work.

Every day offers new possibilities.



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October #TheIWSG and Reading


Founded by Alex J. Cavnaugh

Optional Question: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

First, I must say I'm biased. I love to read. If I could get paid for reading books all day, I would take that job! 
Second, I think what we watch in movies, shows, and even on the world news pours into our brains and becomes a part of our imaginary landscape, so I'm not sure if any of us is truly a clean slate of originality. I know my first fantasy trilogy was influenced by Star Wars (not intentionally, but it was definitely there and once I realized it, I started to pick and choose how much it influenced those books). I have had a strong desire to write strong female characters ever since Princess Leia stepped onto the screen with a blaster in her hand.

Normally, in this next bit, I would update you on my writing life. Um. I finished a short story that I'm proud of and I submitted it to an anthology just a few hours before the submission window closed. I felt pretty triumphant about it, even though I don't know if the story will be accepted or published.
There's more than's gone on in my writing life, but that's my highlight and I'm going to stick with that.

Otherwise, I've been sick for the last 36 hours with a horrible, terrible, wouldn't-wish-it-on-anyone, kind of stomach bug or food poisoning problem. I'm slightly better today, so I decided to post ... late.

Anyway, I hope all of you are well and happy, and healthy!

Write On!!!

This month’s Write…Edit…Publish challenge:

As you sow so shall you reap. What will your character sow - dragon's teeth, elven bones, gouged eyes from tormented souls? Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone ... or blood.

January’s IWSG post day will be on January 8, the second Wednesday. The first Wednesday is New Year’s Day – do not post that day! Note it in your calendars now – January 8.
The next #IWSGPit - our Twitter pitch event – is January 15, the third Wednesday. This will be our fifth one and last year there were thousands of agents and publishers watching, ten thousand Tweets sent out, and #IWSGPit became a trending topic. Polish your pitches and check the site for full details.



Monday, September 23, 2019

September Notes and Short Reading Review

September has come and started to go rather quickly for me.

I've had wonderful days.

I've had challenging days.

Highlights:

We had a visit from Norwegian cousins while our oldest daughter visited the next generation of cousins in Norway (on the same exact days).

My youngest made the WSU Novice Women's Crew Team.

I took over a property management position for my parents. (Not my ideal job, but one I can do.)

I wrote.

I dreamed a big idea dream - one that I've had before. This time, I went out and told others about it and gained insights into how to actually make it happen. I am considering opening a Storytelling Studio (or Storytelling Studio classes) for children ages 10-13, teens, and adults. I have thought and thought about this idea. I would like to encourage a community of storytellers - written, oral, visual, audio, maybe film (that's looking like a 5 year castle-in-the-sky type goal) and I would like to encourage storytellers to speak life into the community. It's in the pen and paper state now, but I have had encouragement to make it a reality. So ... I'm making checklists and spreadsheets, creating lists and ideas.

Best of all, I submitted seven poems and three stories to various publishers.

READING REVIEW
I admit I forgot to do a reading review for August. So, now I am just doing reviews for significant books in August and September.

Hmm. How to describe this book cycle? I read some books I liked, I read some books that made me uncomfortable. Sometimes a book made me think. A few I didn't like as much and I won't mention them here. A few have actually ... well, purposefully been forgotten. I did read a few graphic novels, but didn't like them. I started reading some non-fiction, but I'm not ready to review those yet.

Most of these books are not suitable for younger readers! (I know they never comment, but I have had some of my former students and students read this blog. If that's you, and you are under 18, I'm only recommending the first book to you. Ignore the others.)

So, here are the notables:

The Miraculous by Jess Redman, a MG urban fantasy/magical realism. I didn't love, love this book, like over the top love it, but it stuck with me well after I finished it and I found myself recommending it to a young reader later. So, it is a 4.5 out of 5 for me.
(The only clean book in this grouping for young readers!)
Description from Amazon:
 In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman's stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.
Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis collects miracles. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can't exist. So 
Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.
Then he meets Faye―a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. 

Eleanor Oliphaunt is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, women's fiction/chick lit/kind of romance? I heard of this book, checked it out from the library, then purchased it. It's not a comfortable read. The main character isn't always likeable - in fact, she's downright awful at the beginning. However, this story really stuck with me, sucked me in, and made me think about the power of human connections. Recommended. 5/5 (with a small caveat for uncomfortable, intense stuff - not for young readers)

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep, a NA Fantasy (found in the YA section) with a steamy romance scene. I loved the first of this trilogy. This second book I mostly loved. I could have lived without the two page steamy sex scene with details I didn't need to know. "Dueling tongues" is not a phrase I like in books. The rest of the book - the action, the intrigue, the character development, the actual love-romance, I really liked. So ... 4/5, not for young readers. I would actually call this series NA, not YA, because the main character is 27.

One Day in December by Josie Silver, Romance and Women's Fiction with a few short steamy scenes. I really loved the way the character arcs worked throughout this story. I loved all three awesome friends in this book and I was impressed by Silver's writing. I read this in my quest to discover how to write romance, and I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a master of the craft while I was reading. The steam scenes make this book not for young readers, but it was a really good read for adult romance readers. 5/5 (not for young readers)
Short description from Amazon:
Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.


Friday, September 20, 2019

How One Book Became a Trilogy by Guest Alex J. Cavanaugh, best-selling author of the CassaSeries! #BookTour




Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Alex J. Cavanaugh the author of the Amazon best-selling CassaSeries, as well as the founder of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I'm a big fan of Alex's books and if you like space opera, you'll love them as well!


How One Book Became a Trilogy b y Alex J. Cavanaugh

When I wrote CassaStar, I never envisioned sequels. It was one story, the one that had been with me for thirty years. Although I had other story ideas written involving the main character of Byron, I intended for CassaStar to be a stand-alone book.

However, when it was published and fans liked it, my publisher asked if there was a sequel. I contemplated ideas and decided I didn’t want to just continue from where the other book ended. (How many life-altering/galaxy-altering events just keep hitting people every year?) That’s when I hit upon the idea of jumping forward twenty years.

Both books experienced best-seller status on Amazon in science fiction for months, so of course I had to wrap it up as a trilogy. And once again, I jumped forward twenty years. Fortunately, Cassans live many years longer than humans, so Byron was still young enough for adventures. (Byron – The Geriatic Years wouldn’t be as exciting!)




CassaDawn
CassaStar Series Prequel
By Alex J Cavanaugh
Genre: SciFi Adventure, Space Opera 

The prequel to the Amazon best-selling Cassa series!


A pilot in training...

Fighting the odds, Byron is determined to complete Cosbolt training and join the Cassan space fleet. Poised at the top of his class, only one situation holds him back–his inability to work with anyone in the cockpit. Byron’s excellent piloting skills won’t be enough without a good navigator…



**Get it FREE!! **


CassaStar
CassaStar Series Book 1 

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?


“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal


Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo * BAM






CassaFire
CassaStar Series Book 2

From the Amazon best-selling author - CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…








CassaStorm
CassaStar Series Book 3

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.” - Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries







Get the CassaSeries Boxed Set Here! 




Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the award-winning site, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.




Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!












Monday, September 16, 2019

#LOVE + #Heroes and #Villains: Unbreakable and Writing Lessons

LOVE
While I may find writing romance to be terrifying, I do appreciate real, true love.
My in-laws, Mary and John (Sr) just celebrated their 61st Wedding Anniversary!
My parents will celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in October!
That's some real, true love.

Love is real.
It's amazing.
And, it's worth writing about.
My current rough draft WIP is contemporary romance. 
Current title: Once Upon a May.



I also like to write about Heroes and Villains. 
So, most of the post below is a re-hash of some old thoughts on Heroes and Villains, part of a Heroes and Villains series I'll be continuing once a month, as I revise my novel Anomalies.



As a lover of the worlds within worlds of all things Story, I have a special love of Heroes and Villains, be they “super” or just natural in their home environments of Earth, Middle Earth, Narnia, Gotham, or the MCU.
For this post, my focus is the 2000 movie Unbreakable written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Description from IMDb: A man learns something extraordinary about himself after a devastating accident.
Description from Amazon: Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson star in a mind-shattering, suspense-filled thriller that stays with you long after the end of this riveting supernatural film. After David Dunn (Willis) emerges from a horrific train crash as the sole survivor — and without a single scratch on him — he meets a mysterious stranger (Jackson). An unsettling stranger who believes comic book heroes walk the earth. A haunting stranger, whose obsession with David will change David’s life forever.
Why this movie? 
Honestly, I watched this movie for the first time in 2018 while researching heroes. And, I came at viewing it in a backwards kind of way. I heard Shyamalan was coming out with a new film. Then, I found out it was part of a series of movies focused on super-powered individuals. The series starts with Unbreakable.
I don’t know how I missed it when it came out, but I did. I’m glad I was able to watch it, especially after watching several films in the DC and MCU. I needed something just a little different. You know that yen for something “the same but extremely different?” Unbreakable delivers.

Reasons I love Unbreakable (while trying not to spoil it):

We start with a scene in which the main character attempts to do something wrong, instead of something right. I thought this humanized our hero in a humble way. There’s a minor redemption story arc (I like those).
I loved the way the camera angles reminded us that we were with the main character but not necessarily in his head, as we watch the opening sequence from between two train seats (the view of a child), to other moments with his family, and some moments where we are just with him, focused on his silent pain of not knowing how to accept his gift, which he has ignored for most of his life.
I loved the way the main character struggles with his daily sadness and what brings him out of it. Characters who struggle internally and externally at the same time are awesome!
The main character struggles with the idea of having a gift.
The main character can’t communicate well, even with those he loves. Bruce Willis rocked this part – believe me, if you haven’t seen it, see it! It proves that not every scene needs dialogue, or at least not dialogue with words. Of course, I wondered how the script was written. How many expressions were mentioned inside parentheses and how many were based on Willis and the director working together to create great film?
Self-sacrifice is shown on a deep level.

What I learned as a writer/storyteller:

The hero needs a flaw. (Captain Obvious, I know, but sometimes I forget.)
The angle of the story does not have to be told all the time from the hero’s POV.
 Internal and external struggles must work with and against each other.
An immediate acceptance of gifts is not all that realistic for every character.
Dialogue does not need to be about spoken words. (I need to print that idea and put it on my desk.)
Self-sacrifice is not always about the hero jumping in front of a bullet. Yes, that’s heroic, but . . . there are other ways to sacrifice, especially if it’s done for love. It’s not even always healthy, especially if there’s miscommunication. (See the movie.)
There are other reasons I love this movie, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Fasten your seat-belts for some unexpected twists.
Other posts on Heroes and Villains: Know Your Origins: It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ...

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why Contemporary Romance Terrifies Me

Many, many thanks for all the awesome comments and visits on my post last week: #TheIWSG Story Locations and a Terrifying Project. I have tried to get around to everyone's blogs and comment on your posts, but did not quite keep up with the conversation in the comment stream.
So, if you missed it: the terrifying project is, as some guessed, contemporary romance.

πŸ’“πŸ’—πŸ’—

Why Contemporary Romance Terrifies Me

Picture from: Nasrulla Adnan (Nattu) from MalΓ©, Maldives

First let's tackle the romance terror/trepidation area.

I am happily married, but romance is about the falling in love part and I hated all the dating awkwardness of my youth. Who finds any of those moments truly romantic? Really. The awkward, terrifying, "does this guy like me or has he just been hanging out with me because he wants my best friend's phone number" moments. (Yes, I met guys like that. Too many.) Or the "I thought we were just having a fun conversation about books, but now he's flirting heavily and I am so not interested, but don't want to treat him like dirt" awkward moments. Does anyone really like those moments?

So:

1. I used to say I would never, ever write romance.

2. Although I have written a few romance short stories, writing something novella to novel length requires time and concentration on a genre that I feel is not my strength.

3. I think getting the right amount of "warmth" versus "heat" is a struggle. I don't want to write "heat" but I do want to make sure the characters are interested in each other. 

4. The story I'm writing includes my faith, but I have also described the main character's interest in the guy's hotness so it's not an all emotional-intellectual-spiritual connection, there's some physical interest there, too. According to some genre and publisher websites, this is a no-no. Clean, Christian romance means not even mentioning the guy's general sexiness. 

This has never completely made sense to me. I fell in love with my husband's brain, heart, soul, and body. I didn't ignore the physical attraction between us just because we were falling in love in a serious way that included meeting each other's families; going to the movies; running, walking, and hiking together; going to church together; and praying. We also spent time making out. I know, I know TMI and "old lady" dialogue issues are starting to feature here. 

So let's move on to the issues surrounding contemporary writing.

1. I think contemporary is tougher than fantasy or science fiction because one must know the "real" world well - which means understanding current standards in dialogue, setting details, and trends.

2. I am a nerdy person, and trust me, I do not know all the current language features used by teens and young adults. My daughters point this out with some regularity and my husband and I had a lesson in correct emoji use recently from a young man at our church, as in "do not use these emojis ever."

An emoji faux pas example: My youngest daughter told me the one eyebrow-raised-smirk-face emoji is a actually a flirtation-with-sexual-innuendo emoji - and that is so NOT what I meant by it when I sent it do my daughters and friends (it's just so embarrassing - agh). 

For an example in dialogue issues: when my oldest daughter uses the word "toasty," she isn't talking about warmth, she's talking about anger and irritation. 

3. I don't think even the urban dictionary can keep up with all the trends - driven by memes, Gifs, and pop cultural references. However, I did find Emojipedia to be helpful.


Yet, still somehow, my current rough draft is: contemporary romance.

The characters, dilemma, and setting popped into my head and I'm writing it anyway with a "send it" mentality.

I decided I can work out all the problems in revisions with a helpful editor and beta readers.

When it's scaring me too much, I work on revisions for my superhero teen novel and that makes me feel mostly comfortable because I love fantasy and science fiction. Superhero stories blend fantasy and sci-fi elements that work well in my imagination head-space.

I say mostly comfortable because it's contemporary, too, and that's one of the areas that's caused me the most problems and why it's in its sixth revision.
Trust me, no emojis have been harmed in the writing of Anomalies.
Because I didn't include any.





Wednesday, September 4, 2019

September 2019 #TheIWSG Story Writing Locations and a Terrifying Project

Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh, this encouraging hop usually makes my month brighter!
Check out our website here: Insecure Writer's Support Group



Awesome Co-Hosts:
Doreen McGettigan  http://doreenmcgettigan.com/  


Optional Question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

I love writing anywhere - my car, on my couch, in the special writing chair (I write too much there and hurt my back), in bed, at the dining room table, at my desk, in coffee shops, in dance studio lobbies (when my daughters danced), waiting rooms, and even at kayak races. I've written at home and abroad, on airplanes, trains, and buses. 

However, I just visited this beautiful place - The Dungeness Spit Lighthouse. It's possible to volunteer there for a week as a docent. I would love to do that someday.


View from the top of the Dungeness Spit Lighthouse on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington

Seagulls

The Dungeness Lighthouse

If you can't read the sign it says: Serenity and Reality 5 miles. 
(The walk to the lighthouse is 5.5 miles from the parking lot.)



A Terrifying Project
I decided to write something I'm terrified of writing. It's not horror. 

Can you guess what genre it is?
If you can, post your guess in the comments.
I'm not going to reveal much for now because of my post I wrote near the end of August about Book Graveyards (A post title I borrowed from Krystal Jane's post in August). 

Happy IWSG Day!!!

Today is the last day for:

And, this is the plan for Instagram this month (I was struggling over a desire for perfection for this, and finally decided I just had to go with what I have):

Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Graveyards

(BTW, this is an image of the Gillespie Cemetery in Eugene, Oregon where many of my ancestors were laid to rest. It overlooks the city of Eugene and the earliest grave is from the 1850s.)


This post started as an overly long comment at Krystal Jane Ruin's blog:
See the original here: http://krystalsquared.net/2019/07/31/the-graveyard-of-crap-i-need-to-rewrite/#comment-4820
I just went through my load of old junk stories (and look through some ancient journals) and started making plans for which ones might make the cut for the fall/winter cycle. I chose four to peruse in August, meaning I hope to get 3,000 more words on each of them, kick them around for a while (not literally), do some character vignettes, make partial outlines I'll probably ignore, and then decide on just one WIP for the whole month of September. (I'm not ready for that painful decision yet.) I have a "it should be done, I thought it was done" project that I think needs five more chapters - agh! Yet, this was the conclusion of two alpha readers so I can't just ignore them entirely. I have a fantasy set in an old world (world of my first trilogy), a SF book that will not be named just now, and a non-fiction book that I think will be something I poke at for the next 12 months - adding a few words to the petri dish of doom on a regular basis. (And there's three other projects wailing for my attention sporadically - but they have to wait at least until winter - "sends ideas to corner.")
And, then there's that short story ... hmm. Well, it might get a weekend for a fling. :)

So, what happened after I wrote that comment?
I created some handwritten SMART goals to help me spend time with the various projects and make a decision. Then, I wrote a completely new short story between races at Nationals, while I was operating a video camera in 95 degree heat with high humidity, you know, cause that's what you do when you are craving words and your own daughter isn't racing for a few hours. I did actually manage to video the races, but I was typing madly on my phone between each race.

Then, I had this idea. It was a terrifying idea. Not a horror story, but a genre I'm terrified of writing. I decided to write it. Two days into it and I had over 5,000 words, two main characters I cared about, and a small subset of secondary characters who were helpful, but not hindrances. I had a setting (Portland), and my characters had story-worthy problems. But, I was still terrified. And, I kept writing.

Despite this new story world, I did make my SMART goals about the other projects, spending 3,000 words on each of them, checking in with the messes that they are, and making a decision about my focus points for September.


  • I am writing the new terrifying project. (Big September Draft Push - 2,000 words a day, if possible.)
  • I will keep working on my non-fiction project, which will be a twelve month project (there's a reason for this timeline). (A little bit each day and each week for this - no more than 25 minutes a day.)
  • I plan to polish the short stories and submit them by the end of September. (25 minutes per week until finished)
  • I am going to compile another short story anthology (or two) even though most people don't read them. (My mom and dad read them and love them. I guess I create my anthologies for them.) (25 minutes twice a week for this until it's finished.)
  • My superhero project I thought I had finished, but decided needed a sixth revision, is getting the read-aloud and slowly revise treatment. It will be Christmas before it's finished and finished well. (25 minutes a day, three times a week.)
  • I am back to submitting my children's book. I decided it's good enough for another round of queries.
All other projects are being stuffed back into files and file folders and told to wait their turn. It's painful, but I'm not ready for them yet. If I finish the terrifying project by October 1st, then I will choose the next "draft push" project to work on while I do a read-over of the terrifying project.

Do you have any book graveyards?

And, have you read Krystal's latest book yet?
In addition to writing great blog posts that get me thinking about how to tackle my own work, she recently released a book of poetry. I've been reading the book and like it so far, so if you like poetry check it out:

Garden of Ravens by Krystal Jane Ruin

And, if you haven't sent in your entry for the 2019 IWSG Anthology Contest, send it NOW!!! Details found by hitting the underlined link. 







Monday, August 12, 2019

Heroes and Villains: Know Your Origins... It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ...

This is a re-post from my now-closed Word Press blog and part of a Heroes and Villains series, exploring the history, pop culture, viewing, reading, and writing of heroes and villains. Enjoy!


Can you finish the phrase?
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s ...*
One of the oldest comic book heroes has an introduction we all recognize. 
(*Superman)
But did you know, Superman didn’t always fly?
Upon his creation, Superman was only super-strong and his super-strength made him able to run fast (faster than a speeding bullet) and jump high (leap tall building with a single bound) because he came from a planet with heavier gravity than earth’s gravity. (And, actually the first time he was inked, he wasn’t a hero at all, but a villain instead … but then, the comic creators changed their minds.)
Every superhero has an origin story, not just the origin story of his or her powers and weaknesses, but also his or her origins in written history. Superman’s story has been with us since the late 1930s and it has been told and retold like Cinderella’s story has been told and retold. We like to retell stories that resonate with us and by retelling them, we make them our own.
Superman’s powers have shifted and morphed, his character has developed differently in certain settings, and even his backstory has evolved over time. Personally, I like one of the newer renditions of his parents in which his mom has become a self-made expert on astronomy and life in the universe as she has spent years researching the origins of her adopted son. It makes sense to me as a mom and as a mom of today.
We retell our favorite stories not to ruin them, but to expand on them and share our love of them with others. Those favorite stories often inform our shiny new stories which have been built on the foundations of our favorites.

One thing that remains the same in every Superman rendition: he is a baby sent away by his parents to live on a faraway planet. They do this to save his life. There have been studies done to show how this actually reflects an even older story from the Bible, in which Moses is sent by his family to live with Pharoah's family. In the Superman/Moses parallel, both of these heroes rise to save their people (Superman saves Earth, Moses saves his people from slavery). 

TAKE-AWAYS FOR WRITERS:

1. Every hero/villain has an origin story, both in their own fictional world, and in how they came to the page.

2. It's okay if your villain becomes a hero, or vice versa, in multiple drafts of your story writing. You are in charge of the outcome of your story. You don't know where your ideas will take you sometimes and it's okay to explore before you have it all nailed down in a final draft.

3. If you don't have every detail figured out right away, it's okay. I know this sounds a little free-wheeling and that might make plotters nervous, but I have seen a few writers who have expanded back story and world-building details as their series of work has expanded. I've seen this in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, and more. It's possible to know just what you need to tell the story of one novel or one section of a series, knowing you can expand in the next book.

4. Many heroes have roots in faith, myth, and legend. We don't create in a vacuum. We create based on experience, knowledge, stories we've seen and heard, and more. Superman has some similarities to Moses. Who does your hero/protagonist emulate? What favorite story foundations are you working with?



For more information about Superman and other superheroes, I recommend taking the free online Edx course: The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. I don’t get any kickback from this. It’s a course I took and one that was recommended to me by another author. The course is through the Smithsonian and features guests like the late Stan Lee. If you want, you can pay money to get a certificate that proves you took the course, but you can also sign up for free and take it for free.

Do you like superheroes? If you do, do you know their origin story of how they came to the page or screen? Do you have an origin story for how your hero/protagonist came to the page?