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Peek-a-Boo! My Involvement in The Twisted Towers Book Launch

This is a short break from my blog hiatus.

Recently, one of my fellow authors invited me to help out with an online book launch via Facebook. After I shoved my nervousness aside, I enjoyed every moment of it.

E. Rose Sabin, the author of the newly released, The Twisted Towers, dedicated a lot of pre-planning, planning, time, and energy into the event.

She invited local authors that tag-teamed each other off in order to keep the viewers cozily entertained with games, prizes, and real-time question and answer sessions.

Before the event, authors were asked to answer questions that I found really important for readers and writers.

Here are the questions I was asked to respond to:

1.    Synopsis of your writing career and style including your most current and/or favorite project:

Since I was a kid, I loved making up stories, worlds, and the characters that populated them. From talking cheetahs preaching social justice reform to poachers over the roar of a camp fire, former slaves with supernatural powers that raise the dead to destroy an unjust and racist system, to the birth of twin sons that will turn a theocracy on its head, unique ideas come easy to me, but finding the time to write them is a constant battle. Being a mother, a full-time teacher, (yes, even during the summers) and a wife I have to organize my day to make time for my life as a writer. And when I don’t write, I’m not happy. I write so that I don’t kill . . . my emotions. 😏  When I was a much younger writer, I struggled with submitting my stories for many reasons. A primary one is I didn’t think my work was good enough. I also didn’t think I had a shot when majority of the work being published in the science fiction and fantasy community was by white authors.

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers says it best: “Books transmit values”. Myers goes on to express, “That books explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?” Let’s take this train of thought a little further. What is the message when some authors are not represented in the publishing industry? What is the message when stories with nonwhite main characters (and side characters) are written by exclusively white authors. When I noticed that more and more people of color were being published (I will not use the word trend — this is here to stay) I not only took notice, but swallowed my fear, and joined in. Currently, while I’m in between writing two novels — one YA urban fantasy that takes place in the same universe as the Gabriel Lennox series and one adult high fantasy — I draft, revise, edit, and submit short stories, prose, and poems to markets in order to build my writing credentials. I also read and critique other authors’ works. I mentor young writers. My dream is to be traditionally published. So, I’m polishing my work and looking for agents and publishers to send my manuscripts to.

**During my blog hiatus, I won 2nd place in a poetry contest and sold one flash fiction piece. I also won a partial-grant. More on that later. I also had emergency surgery. 😦 

 2.    Can you define Co-op publishing and share with us three lessons learned from your experience with that publishing method?

Co-op publishing is also known as cooperative publishing.

Co-Operative

When Co-op publishing goes well.

Traditional publishing is often viewed as an “I’ve made it” badge of honor for aspiring writers while self-publishing needlessly and unfairly bears a red stain of shame. Co-op publishing is supposed to be a happy median and can work as a middle way between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Basically, when you’re a traditionally published author, your publisher pays you a royalty and you will get a small percentage of royalty statements for each book sold thereafter. Self-publishing is a different animal that I haven’t been able to tame quite yet. I’m in the processing of preparing my vampire novel “Forbidden” for CreateSpace as a paperback. It’s been available as an ebook for at least a year.  And like a creature from the world of Pokémon, self-publishing is still evolving and is often “super effective” for some. For some. Not for all. ::raises hand sheepishly::

The author is the publisher, book manager, marketer — the whole effing enchilada! And that can cost lots of money! In general, the Co-op experience is when authors pay to have their book published and they work with a second-party publisher that guides the dear writer through the entire publishing process. My experience with Booktrope was a little different. I didn’t have to pay to be published. However, there were marketing packages I couldn’t afford and didn’t know they weren’t included in the gig. So, I marketed my book by blogging, tweeting, Facebook posts, etc. Surprisingly, I made more sales to practical strangers when I attended face-to-face book signing events than I did in Virtual Land via social media. Though I won’t go into further juicy details, I will say this: If you choose this route, God forbid your Co-op publisher goes out of business! The experience is like a Charles Dickens’ novel nightmare where you’re now an orphaned author, abandoned and shivering in the biting cold and crying, “Pardon me, sir, may I have a crust a bread?” So, I’m going to keep on Dune Methane (doin’ my thang — I love Hieroglyphics — dee dee dah dah dee dee dane) and excel where I can. 🙂

 3.    What makes the vampire in your story different from other popular vampire characters?

The vampires in my stories possess some traits with the traditional vampires of legend. However, though they are humans tempted with immortality, supernatural powers, they’re  actually pawns in a dark, sinister web of deception, power, and blood lust set in a glittering world that starts in 19th century England. If vampires are real, then they’d be apex predators in the proverbial food chain. But when confronted with the harsh reality that there is something more powerful that feeds off of them their worldview shatters. They must pick up the jagged pieces in order to rebuild and save their world. If they can.

 4.    One piece of advice for aspiring writers and/or a cool fact for your reading audience:

I’ll indulge in a two for one special. First, to all of you inspiring writers: I implore you to “never give up. Never surrender!” Science fiction movie watchers, you might recall that battle cry from the satirical movie Galaxy Quest. And yet, I won’t stop there. Why? Because there will be times when you do indeed give up and when you want to surrender. But don’t let this be a “forever” end game option. Even though there will be times when you will fail (oh, yes, and you will) you only truly fail if you stop writing. And then you’re no longer a writer, but a thinker. And thoughts alone don’t write books.

Now, all of that aside . . . what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself a copy of E. Rose Sabin’s The Twisted Towers! I’ve already read it and am so glad that I have my own copy.

Here’s my take on the novel:

Sabin delivers a breath of fresh air to the fantasy genre with a twisted plot that mirrors the winding setting her compelling characters trek through. A heart-pounding ride from beginning to end.

The best way to thank an author is to:

Feed the Authors

Lolz. Heck, I’d be happy if I could make $20/month. Or $5.00 Or $1.00? 

Still here? 🙂

Now, try here. Or here. And here. 🙂

Thank you for visiting and reading.

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Island of the Misfit Stories and What To Do About Them!

islandofmisfittoys

Toys from the Island of Misfit Toys 

When I was a kid, I loved watching Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. The toys were considered misfits because they possessed some defect and nobody seemed to want them. For example, there is a cowboy that rides an ostrich, a bird that swims, a winged bear, and a boat that can’t stay afloat — to name just a few!

And sometimes, our stories don’t seem to fit anywhere. We may often wallow about in self-pity giving into “writer’s block”, which probably isn’t even a thing. Well, according to, Terry Pratchett.

Terry Pratchett_quote

Regardless, time and time again, our stories come back rejected. And with each return, our will to keep submitting diminishes.

But, don’t despair!

Below are ways I’ve come up with to soldier on and write on when your short stories — just don’t seem to fit anywhere — and come back unwanted when all you’re aching for is some reader love. 😉

Play Rejection Bingo

This is an effective way to keep track of common trends or reasons as to why each story has been rejected by editors. Sometimes, you may not get any feedback at all. Sometimes, a form letter is all that haunts your email. Now, I don’t use this method because it’s fun, (when is rejection ever fun? LOL) but I’m a visual lady and this is another way to keep track of the bigger picture. After gathering feedback and you notice that there’s a trend in the reasons why your story is being rejected address the issue and fix it. Here’s one of my rejection bingo sheets:

Rejection Bingo

Revise your story

Share your story with writers and readers in order to gain priceless feedback about the story. Then, try submitting to another market. Even after you’ve revised and edited further, if that fails, consider paying an editor to look at your work — preferably one that is an expert in the genre you’re writing for. Carefully consider the feedback you receive and make changes accordingly, which will increase the likelihood of an acceptance letter and a contract! 🙂 Ooh la la!

Try a different market

Oh yes, yes, yes! Please do this! You see, what didn’t work for one editor (after all, they are indeed people with different preferences and needs for their particular audience) may suit another just fine. Try it. Don’t self-reject!

Consider Independent Publication

This option isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but there is indeed a market for short story anthologies. What most likely won’t work for me, may work for you. However, being new to this I won’t be taking this route. Yet. 🙂

Consider Traditional Publication

This choice will be easy if you’re Stephen King or another well-known author. If you’re not, then you will need to find an agent or publisher who wants to publish short stories from a new or not as well-known writer. This route isn’t impossible, but it will be difficult.

Post for Free — (Huh?)

You’re probably shaking your head wondering why I mentioned posting your hard-earned stories for free, especially after I supported the argument against it when I reblogged Aimee King’s The True Cost of Free. Well, I’ve reflected on of safer ways of doing this (still be careful and protect your work), which will also increase reader interaction, and potentially further cement the foundation for your author brand and platform. If you have a decent mailing list of trustworthy and faithful readers, share your work with them for free. After all, they love hearing from you and have trusted you with their email address. It doesn’t have to be the entire story. An excerpt is fine, too. You can also offer a free sneak peek of your work in order to funnel in new subscribers.

With that said, I’ll be going on a temporary blog hiatus, starting tomorrow! 🙂 Happy Friday to you and Happy Writing! 🙂

Temporary Blog Hiatus – Coming Soon. Why? So I can Work Harder and Smarter!

Hello fellow bloggers and Happy Monday to you!

In order to finish up The Novel I’ve been dropping hints about, I need to prioritize and reschedule a few things.

  1. I won’t be posting new content on here much — if at all.
  2. I will most likely reblog your posts. I’m a reblogging superstar! 🙂

sharing is caring

And last, but not least, I plan on adding new content by late May.

Just this morning, I finished submitting an application for an artist grant. I hope to share more information about that at a later date.

One of my goals is to continue researching agents, publishers, and small press magazine markets in order to publish more and more of my work.

Being a mommy, wifey, and full-time teacher doesn’t leave me with enough quality time to write as much as I’d like.

Last week, I was able to write 1,073 words total. 😦 That’s all. For the whole bleeping week.

And that’s just not enough words.

Regarding submissions, I was able to submit three stories this month to a couple of markets. A lot of them don’t accept simultaneous submissions and that’s fine. It’s just that the turnaround time is tight.

Starting today, I want to write at least 1500 words a day (of The Novel) and find a home for at least two of my short stories. I’ve been reading 5000 Words Per Hour in little chunks and I may have to settle for 5000 words per day instead.

By April, I want to double that amount and finally finish the first draft of The Novel. 🙂

So, ta ta for now! 🙂

Never-Good-Bye-Its-See-You-Later

It’s See you Later”. Lol. 🙂

 

Epigraphs? How to Increase the Depth and Tension of Your Fantasy World

An epigraph is a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme. Epigraphs usually come from other artists, such as poets, authors, painters, or musicians.

For example, here’s the famous epigraph, written by D’Invilliers from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. If you’ve read The Great Gatsby, then you’re familiar with how the quote kisses upon (but doesn’t tell) what is to come (foreshadowing) and the tragic theme of gaining the superficial love of a woman — no matter what the price.

the great gatsby epigraph

I noticed that some of my favorite fantasy novels contain quotes in the beginning or at the ending of each chapter, which are both entertaining to read and build onto the story. I also noticed that one of my favorite role-playing games — Dragon Age: Origins — includes epigraphs, which though not immediately relevant to the story, entertain me with something to read while I wait for the game to load.

dragon age origins

What both of these mediums have in common is that these quotes come from fictitious works within the story’s or game’s universe. These quotes, or what TV Tropes brilliantly calls Encyclopedia Exposita, are excerpts from other fictional books “being used as an epigraph or part of the frame of the story”.

As I mentioned before, epigraphs usually come from other artists. However, since I’m writing fantasy, I want my own quotes from my own fictitious text. It took me a couple of days to create six texts for the first book in this trilogy and draft five decent quotes with imaginary authors, which makes a nice round number of 30 total quotes. I enjoyed writing the quotes and focusing each one on specific themes of music, immortality, religion, fairy tales, and so much more. Stuff I actually love, love, love to discuss! Seriously, if I’m going to be stuck with these pseudo-encyclopedias, I need to like it. Even a little, yes?

Oh, yes. In order to write epigraphs for your novel or short story, think about the underlying themes. Reflect on the conflict. Once you’re able to write one solid sentence that encapsulates what the main character wants, you’ll be able to start drafting your own mini-poems, quotes, religions tenants, or whatever it is your literary heart desires.

I had specific goals for the epigraphs that I noticed in books I’ve read and what my personal desired outcome was.

In a nutshell, an epigraph can and should relate back to the story by:

  • foreshadowing what’s to come
  • highlighting a point the author made
  • introduce a new theme or turning point (which will hopefully increase tension and suspense)
  • set reader’s expectations

All of these points should keep readers engaged, deepen the complex “reality” of your fantasy world, and perhaps even answer some questions you didn’t realize you needed answering as author and literary god.

Another great outcome of this kind of writing is that I realized how more three-dimensional I could make this world with its own encyclopedia of musicians, historians, and artists. These artistic individuals wouldn’t only need names, but backgrounds of their own. And even though these mini-biographies will most likely not appear in the story, this necessary information is essential for me while I write.

So, if you’ve fallen into a rut with your fantasy story, consider using epigraphs — your own or someone else’s — to spice up your novel.

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

Enter the Dragon: The Art of Beating the Sh*t Out of Your Characters

My toddlers and I love using our imaginations when playing with Little People action figures and Beanie Babies. However, I think my five-year-old has more fun messing with the carefully created plots that I craft for our playtime.

For example, I enjoy the mundane story with generic problems while playing with my kiddos. It’s typically G-rated, predictable, and relaxing. Or what my five-year-old describes as . . .

boring

Me: Let’s have the kids get on the bus for school. Next, they’ll learn about the zoo. After that, they’ll board a second bus for the zoo and visit the animals. The zoo guide will teach them amazing facts about the elephant, ostrich, the lion, the gorilla, and even the hippo. Finally, they’ll ride the bus home. Their parents will meet them there and take them to the park to swing in the tree house. The End. 🙂

My Five-Year-Old: But on the way home from the park, a giant dragon comes and attacks them! *Ka-BLAM!* ::He knocks over the school bus, sending miniature plastic children flying everywhere:: Then, Spider-Man comes and saves them, followed by Link (the plush kind) fights the Dragon. *Pow! Pow!* *Boom, Ka-CHUNG!*

Me: Why don’t the dragon and Link become friends? Hmmm? Wouldn’t that be nice?

(Understand that his preschool teacher has lamented to me how he sometimes enjoys play-fighting too much). 😦

My Five-Year-Old: Mom! This is a dragon and this is Link. Link’s a hero and doesn’t make friends with the enemy. Geeze. ::Link smacks the dragon with his sword::

Me: Okay. So, they fight and then Iron Man shows up and tells some jokes, right?

My Five-Year-Old: ::sighs, like a weary old man:: Okay. Fine. Let’s build some mega-block towers and have the dragon and Darth Vader knock them down while Spider-man and Link try to stop them.

Me: Okay. Cool.

At times, when creating conflict my toddler is clearly a better writer than I am. He shows no mercy on the adorable Little People action figures (characters) and enjoys making life very difficult for them without batting an eyelash. In fact, I think he sometimes enjoys it. Especially when Link, Iron Man, or Spider-Man arrive to save the day.

Now, not every story calls for a literal dragon. The dragon (or the wolf) often symbolizes The Problem that your Main Character faces.

The Problem could be one of the four types of conflict:

Different Types of Conflict

I have two main characters in the story I’m currently drafting. The main conflict is Man vs. Society and Man vs. Man. These two characters despise one another and in general the society they live in. But I needed something more to heighten tension and suspense and it worked perfectly in this world of magic, science, and mystery.

I decided to give one of them a debilitating disease that threatens her life and compromises a goal that both characters share.

And if she dies? All is lost.

Whelp. Get the casket ready.

dark link grinning

Sorry, not sorry.

Now, I’ve considered killing this character off, which would totally eff things up for the other main character. And he’ll have to work his butt off  trying to pick up the pieces and carry the torch to resolution. I hesitated going that route because I wasn’t sure if that was a Rule Breaker. Do I dare allow what the main character has been dodging, fighting, and hiding from to come to pass?

Do I dare?

After attending a writer’s workshop on heightening suspense, I asked the host writer, “Is it okay if the main character’s main fear actually happens?”

She smiled. A smile similar to Dark Link’s (above) and said, “Oh, yes. So glad you asked.”

Whoa. I was taken aback. I was blown away.  In most stories I’ve read the protagonist is trying to avoid the Big Bad or their Worst Nightmare from coming true and is successful in just the nick of time.

This devious route seems like some new-level gangster sh!t.

But it’s not. I think I was just a coward and didn’t feel like I could do it. I was afraid to do something so totally twisted. Isn’t the world already filled with enough suffering? Do I really need to add another layer of terrible sadness and heartbreak?

heartbreaks

Like Kyoko Mogami (from one of my most favorite mangas, Skip Beat!) I’ll take heartbreaks and unhappily ever afters (for now) differently. For example, in the Dresden Files series (spoiler alert coming) Harry Dresden’s love and mother of his only child, Susan Rodriguez, dies. I wasn’t expecting that. I was angry. Sad. And in need of counseling. I mean, I knew that Butcher often beats the crap out of Harry, but I didn’t think he’d go there. 

So did, Tsugumi Ohba, in the renowned manga, Death Note. About halfway through the series, she/he/they  (it’s a mystery) kills off (spoiler alert) L, Light Yagami’s rival and my favorite character!

L_Death Note Notes

Little did we know, that you’d die. 😦 

I hope this post helps any writer who struggles with being hard on their characters.

In one of my future post, I’ll discuss the importance of a sympathetic character. Otherwise, if and when the character dies the loss is genuine and doesn’t garner a “meh” response.

 

 

 

Anyone For a Game of . . . Rejection Bingo?

Well. The time has come, folks.

::rubs hands::

Here’s my score sheet for a short story that I can’t get through The Gates (published). No one wants to give this story a home. It’s loveless. It’s homeless. And I just want to weep. So, I forced myself to see the “bright side”: what prize can I give myself once I’ve completed an entire board? Or even an entire column?

Hmm. I don’t know. Leave me some ideas in the comments.

The only perk about this Short Story Rejection Dance is that I didn’t receive form letters. Maybe if I can swallow my YouTube shyness, I’ll read some of them.

woot

Rejection Bingo

My husband’s foot. It’s almost like a rabbit’s foot for good luck except it’s not severed. 🙂

Also, in a previous post, I had mentioned The Book. This book, Guide to Literary Agents 2018 will help me to accumulate more and more rejections? Unfortunately, yes. And hopefully some acceptances, too!

5kph and Literay Agents

5,000 Words Per Hour just helps with me writing more. 🙂

To Glossary or Not to Glossary: that is the question.

I’ve been writing the first draft of what I call The Novel. Some days paragraphs come in torrents. Most days? A trickle of sentences or phrases here or a sparse description of a character there. I count it a good writing day when I’m able to twist a cliched phrase into something wonderful and new.

While drafting, I noticed that having a glossary of need-to-know terms would help both readers and mostly myself along the way.

When I taught elementary school, there was a writing unit that focused on nonfiction text features, such as the glossary and index. I wanted my students to be successful and professional when creating their books (yes, yes, I know they were only second graders, but come on we’re talking about books here).

I made my own book ahead of time to use as a guide and teaching tool. Behold, the cover:

Japan at a glance

I had returned from Japan a few years before filled with memories and some knowledge about the country and customs. So, I decided to use it as my teaching model. 🙂 

I enjoy drawing and am pretty good at it. My intention for having a pre-made model was so that students had a goal to live up to. I didn’t want crappy work turned in. They needed to do it to the best of their ability and they knew I wouldn’t settle for less.

The appendix, index, and glossary are parts of a book called the “back matter” because they appear in . . . the back of the book. Lol. The word glossary comes from the Greek “glossarion,” with its root being “glossa,” meaning “obsolete or foreign word.” In fantasy stories, even though the world is steeped in strange, imaginary worlds and alien languages doesn’t mean that these creations aren’t anchored into reality (as we know it) or at least something we mere mortals can relate to while navigating the pages of these worlds. I think the glossary serves as a compass, for lack of a better word, by reminding the reader or redirecting them in the right direction. For example, in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, the glossary defines almost 40 words. One of these terms caught my eye — the Knitting Circle. Most fantasy readers could draw the conclusion that this must be an innocuous name for something else entirely.

Please, forgive me (especially you older brother) for not having read this series. Yet. I’ve been extremely busy writing my own books and as it perches on my bookcase flashing its gorgeous hardback cover and flirtatiously winking at me, my eyes prickle with tears as I look away. It’s book eight that I have, after all. (Gasp)! #ShameOnMe

That aside, the glossary helps new readers who have the audacity (or is it insanity?) to jump in the middle of a series and return to the “real world” unscathed all thanks to the aid of the trusty glossary. Heh, heh. Maybe the glossary could be compared to a shield because it shields us from ignorance? I dunno. All I know is that I lo lo lo love glossaries!

I’ve read several fantasy books that don’t have a glossary because these books clearly didn’t need one. The reader was able to understand what was happening without this tool. Most of those books were stand-alones and that makes sense. On the other hand, books that I’ve read with glossaries often were a series or a trilogy and possessed a magic system that was exciting, new, and so amazing that the glossary contributed and complimented the story rather than subtracted from it.

Now, since The Novel I’m working on relies on some scientific aspects and complicated world-building I think a glossary will come in handy. However, I’ve got to be careful while walking that tightrope because I don’t want the story to be so inundated with “foreign” jargon that readers will lose sight of the story’s heart and fling it across the room.

As I continue drafting, I think I’ll have a better idea of what not to include in the glossary. And at this point, I can safely say that the glossary is here to stay. 🙂