When There are No Answers

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I started writing about fifteen years ago. Have I learned everything yet? Nope.

I stopped trying to learn everything. It’s impossible.

For me, writing began in a bubble. Just me and my computer and my crazy brain ideas. I never studied writing. I didn’t know any other writers.

Just me in my happy little bubble.

However, if being published is a goal, staying in that blissful bubble is…not going to work. With a brave poke, I broke free.

I listened, soaking in everything, then tried to force myself in this writer mold. However, not everyone out there agrees on what this mold looks like. So…

I’ve had people tell me to do this thing or that thing. I’ve seen tweets where people declare one way to do things.

THIS is how you write a query…a synopsis…a first chapter…

THIS is how to write…

THIS is what agents look for…

DO NOT DO…

ALWAYS DO…

Yup. That.

SO…here is THE ANSWER.

There is no answer.

There are rules. Sure.

These rules. Guidelines. A place to start. Then the path you take is up to you.

Critique partners can help. Beta readers can help. Comments can inspire your brain to take the best steps for you along that path. Comments can help you see your strengths and weaknesses.

Listen. Always listen.

Then do you. This is your art. Your voice. Your vision. Only you can decide what works and what needs to be destroyed with fire.

For not every comment will guide you in the right direction.

So, in the world of publishing where much depends on luck, opinions, and wishes, there is one thing that will keep you going.

Love what you do. Love the way you do it. Love the adventure, one that seems cloaked in darkness and pain, sure…but a journey!

If the process, the words, or the path feels wrong, then it probably is. Let joy guide you.

To a glorious adventure.

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Staring at Something New: A Tale of Being Afraid

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A new idea. All bright and shiny…and incomplete and talking a mile a minute or completely silent and full of possibilities, or maybe all sorts of problems.

Some writers plot, they outline. Some start in with words. Some do a little of both. Some stare at the idea with fear that they won’t get it right and just can’t begin.

I like to live with an idea, wander around the new world until most of its incompleteness is complete. But I never know everything. I’ll start writing when I know enough…

BUT WHEN IS THAT?

I don’t know. I never know. Does anyone ever know?

I’m sitting at the edge of this strange idea. A few scenes have been revealed. I even have the first chapter jotted down, but not written. Because starting new things is hard. It’s scary. The story lives in my head, where it can be grand and fun and weird, until I start writing, then all hell can break loose. Do I really know how everything fits together? Nope. I’m circling the words like a great dragon. Waiting for…something. Some spark of inspiration…some big idea to tie it all together.

Or maybe, I’m simply procrastinating. That is entirely possible.

What I do know is that I need to let go of all the thinking and HAVE FUN. This idea screams for fun, a release of all things mundane and an embrace of everything fantastical and creepy. THERE MUST BE CREEPY.

Hopefully this is just the thing to work on next, to take my mind off the things I have no control over and set my mind free.

Hopefully.

To all out there writing and thinking and creating…

Keep going.

You are magic.

 

Writing, Writing, Writing…Or Not

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Hi.

I have a blog. I know this. Tis mine and I will do with it what I please, which, apparently, lately has been nothing.

Strangely, for a few months now, nothing is what I have been doing with creating of the new words. No new words.

I worked pretty hard to get my last ms ready for querying. Oh the joys of querying, I have missed you. When I started on the road to gathering rejections and self-doubt, I gazed at the blank page, at the stacks of notebooks full of ideas, at the shelved manuscripts waiting for help…and my brain shut off.

I see the tweets of the writers who go from one project to the next with reckless abandon. I see the people working on multiple projects. I APPLAUD THEM.

I…am not one of them. Nope.

My creative brain takes breaks. I let it. Because when I try to force it to think up all the made-up stuff, it shuts down. No more making up stuff for me.

I’ve learned to relax. Read. Do nothing. Watch the world pass. For eventually…the creative brain reawakens.

It’s happened again. After trying to force myself onto the next project and failing…I gave up. Let my brain off the hook.

And I have a new idea. Well, not new exactly. A short story I never wrote let me know that maybe it’s supposed to be a book. Perhaps that’s why I never wrote that story.

So, if you, like me, can’t seem to go from one thing to another…if you, like me, sometimes yell at yourself for not doing all the things all the time…if you, like me, have to let the ideas form on their own, I offer a giant cheer.

Writers work in their own way, making the world an interesting and crazy place. Find what works for you and do it. Don’t fight how your brain works…it never ends well.

I shall now go prepare for the sending of more queries. Send chocolate.

 

 

 

Tale of a Story: Voices

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Back in 2006 or 2007, or somewhere in there, I had an idea for a girl who could hear the thoughts of others. Her name was Lucinda…Cinda for short. So i wrote it. And it received an honorable mention from the Writer’s Digest short story competition. I was very excited.

I was so excited, I decided to submit it. Remember Leading Edge magazine from my last post? They published my story “Marked” (the story that didn’t place in the same competition), so I sent “Cinda” to them. It was rejected. Now, the wonderful thing about Leading Edge is that they send feedback from readers. I had comments on why the story didn’t work, which helped me rethink the idea, and I rewrote it.

And submitted it again.

It was rejected again with more comments. Though none of what anyone said clicked in my brain, so I set the story aside.

I went off into the world of writing and did many other things. My writing got better. My writing got darker. At some point, my gaze fell back to “Cinda”, and my creative brain had an idea. A bit of a darker idea, but I LIKED IT.

The whole story changed. I retitled it as “Voices”.

I submitted it to Leading Edge magazine. It had been a while, but I liked working with them, so WHY NOT. Of course, they had moved to e-mail instead of packing the pages off in an envelope, which is super nice.

And I waited. A year later, I sent an e-mail to ask for any updates. They replied that my story had been passed on to the editors. WHICH IS GOOD! Another year later, I inquired again. And got the same answer.

Okay. STILL GOOD. But I was done asking and thinking about it. Time to let it go. Nearly three and a half…maybe four…years later, I got an e-mail accepting “Voices” for publication, as long as it was still available.

Of course, it was available! EEEEEK!

I went through three rounds of edits, working with a wonderful editor, who gave great feedback and was excited every time I made changes, telling me that she was more thrilled with the story as we went. Well, after three-four years of growing as a writer, I made changes, because I wanted “Voices” to reflect my writing now, not three years ago.

And finally, “Voices” was released in issue 73! You can find it here.

I didn’t make the cover this time, but no biggie. My story is in there!

With some cool illustrations! And I got paid!

Publishing is a lot of waiting. A LOT OF WAITING.

Will I submit to Leading Edge again? Maybe. I do like them. I like their magazine. I like how they work. I’ll be prepared to wait, to forget about that submission and move on. I’ll remember that the longer I wait, the better the news will probably be. They get a lot of submissions. And only a few stories make each issue.

To all slogging through the world of publishing, you are not alone. With tiny victories, we will make our way along the path. A path lined with tears and sweat and, most certainly, smiles. We just can’t stop trying.

Tale of a Story: Marked

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*pulls blog out of the land of the forgotten*

HI!

I’ve missed my little piece of the blogging universe. So, I’ve returned to share past writing victory. My very first published work and how it came to be.

Back in the world before writing groups and critique partners and Twitter-writer-verse, I wrote a story called “Across the Purple Sands”…probably around 2007. I entered it in the Writers Digest Short Story competition. And it failed to place.

My mom and sisters read it (like I said this was pre-critique partners), and their comments got my creative brain going. I started it in the wrong place. THAT HAPPENS. A lot.

My mom also suggested that I change the title.

So I rewrote it. I added a new beginning. I set up the story and characters better. I changed the title to “Marked”. And I submitted it to a magazine. I took a chance.

I can’t remember how I learned of Leading Edge Magazine, but I sent it…in an envelope. Because that was a long time ago.

And they accepted it!

I vaguely recall screaming. And crying happy tears of disbelief.

I remember one round of edits, where they suggested a few changes and left it up to me what to do. In December of 2008, it was released in issue 56. They paid me actual money and gave me two contributor copies.
The cover? That is an illustration from my story. Dude. I made the cover. There is still one issue left, waiting to find a home here. This was pre-e-books, so only hardcopies exist.

 

To see my name in print was super great. The whole being a writer thing seemed…doable.

I get the magazine out every once in a while to remind myself that I can do it. Even when it’s just me sitting in front of my computer, I have the ability to put words together.

I’m good enough.

Never give up.

My Creepy Christmas Tree Experiment

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My post with The Midnight Society this week is all about my attempt at creating a creepy Christmas (Creepmas?) tree. However, the photos won’t load on the site, so I am posting them here! And linking the two. Well, I have to try something!

At the end of last year, I found a seven foot slim artificial Christmas tree on clearance and decided to try to make myself a horror-ish tree. What’s one more Christmas tree to set up? Right?

Last Halloween, I found a few items that I thought might help in my mission…

 

Finally, the day arrived and I dragged the tree up from the basement and set it up.

I have no plan here…just going to wing it…and added the lights.

Only, Halloween ‘purple’ lights are…well, pink.

NOOOOOO!!!!!!

Back to the beginning…

Luckily, I found some cool white lights shoved somewhere.

Much better.

 

If you cut out the eyes and put a hole in the bottom of these fun little skulls….

They fit over the light bulbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like that!

Now, onto ribbon. I have ribbon on all my trees. So why not?

Eh.

 

 

Cutting it into strips helps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the black, silver, and white ornaments…

 

Meh…

 

 

 

 

I found white netting…maybe that will add a ghostly feel?

Yeah…no…more bridal. I stripped it off.

At this point, I give up. I have no solid ideas and am throwing stuff at the tree hoping something sticks. BUT NOTHING IS WORKING.

Until I discovered three skulls. Three skulls that missed getting packed into the Halloween boxes. AND I HAVE AN IDEA.

 

 

 

 

A little paint and a few dowel rods…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place them in the tree…LIKE A HAUNTED TREE!

 

 

 

 

Now to add to that…

 

In the dark, it looks pretty cool!

A good start…I have ideas on what to add next year. A little odd. I lot cool. Something different. Christmas needs creepy too.

 

 

 

Beware! Dark Seas Author/Illustrator Showcase is Live

Today, my short story Inheritance is up on Jolene Haley’s wonderful blog as part of her Beware! Dark Seas author/illustrator showcase, happening ALL MONTH LONG.

This is my fifth year participating. Stories for the themes of haunted house, harvest festival, haunted hotel, and summer camp have all come before, uniting authors and artists with creepy fun. I have fun reading the stories and seeing the artwork, we all celebrate together, no accepting or rejecting…just art.

A HUGE thanks to Jolene for doing this every year. For thinking up a theme, for gathering people to participate, for posting all these stories. She is the best. Seriously.

Anyway…today is my day.

So go read mine. Then stay a while and read a few others. Have fun. But BEWARE!

Inheritance

The Tale of a Story

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Today, a book is released into the wild. An anthology.

And my story Faithless is in it!

I wrote this story a couple years ago for an anthology looking for asylum stories. I read it in my writers’ group, and had mixed reactions. Some people liked it and one or two wanted something else. Something more…asylum residents getting out and killing. But I didn’t want it to be the usual asylum story. So I cleaned it up and submitted it.

It was rejected.

But, I liked this story. I liked that it was different. So I let it sit until I found another place to send it.

One. Two. Three rejections…and I would not give up. Faithless would find a home…somewhere.

And it has.

Not where I thought it would, not in the publication I wrote it for. That’s how it goes.

Publishing. An interesting world of you-never-know-so-never-ever-give-up. What are the editors looking for when they put together a line up of stories for an anthology or magazine? Only they know.

My story was rejected. More than once. I did wonder if the writing smelled like dog poop, or the story left the reader with a whole bunch of confusion.

But I believed in it.

Sure, rejections happen because a story isn’t well-written or doesn’t make sense. But they can mean that the words don’t fit, the story isn’t quite what they were looking for. And with all sorts of people submitting, the choices can be great and choosing can be difficult.

Here’s Schreyer Ink’s blog with submission facts about this book…for the curious.

So many submissions. Mine just a drop in the bucket. But it was chosen.

If you like the weird and creepy…go buy a copy of Twilight Madhouse Vol. 4 on amazon!

Enjoy Faithless, my story exploring faith versus religion in a future where praying can get you a room in the Asylum for the Religiously Afflicted and a visit from Tech MT.

And when you’re submitting, remember…rejections are not always a reflection of your writing talent.

And never ever give up.

Happy Birthday, Jolene!!!

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If you don’t know the marvelous Jolene Haley, you should. She is a rainbow of goodness, a force of light, but wrapped in a bit of shadow. She loves to shine bright, spreading happiness and making the world a better place. Jolene writes a little kissing and a little killing, I personally love the killing.

Lots of death in the book she co-wrote with Brian! You should read it. It was a fun ride!

 

A few years ago, Jolene invited me to join The Midnight Society, a blog she created to celebrate everything scary, and I said YES! Boy, am I glad I did. Because this gal has been a bright spot in my life, always there with a smile and support to anyone who needs it.

And today is her birthday! In honor of the clownthology she will publish…

 

 

 

Let’s have cake!

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll bring presents. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And food.

 

 

 

And maybe go spend a relaxing day in a peaceful cabin in the woods..

 

Dear Jolene,

Have a wonderful day. You deserve all the good things for being such an inspiration. Thank you for being you. Thank you for always being there with a smile and words of encouragement. Thank you for showing the world you can spread happiness while loving all the creepiness.

LOVE YOU!

 

 

 

 

Release Day…WITH YOU ALWAYS by Rena Olsen

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Happy book birthday, Rena!!!

One of my bestest writing friends, one of the Shenanigals, a fantastic writer, Rena sets more of her words free today!

I am so proud of Rena, so grateful that I have been on this writing journey with her. She deserves all the good things and all the Gummy Bears. If you liked her first book, you will like this one.

Let’s celebrate MORE BOOKS!

In the wake of a painful breakup and struggling to prove herself at work, Julia feels adrift. When Bryce blows into her life, he seems like the perfect anchor. Handsome, charming, secure, and confident, Bryce brings out the best in Julia, sweeping her off her feet with attention and affection while grounding her with his certainty and faith. Together they embark on a path guided by the principles of his family and their church, each step a paving stone leading to happily ever after.

But this is no fairy tale.

Step by step, one small concession leading to another, Julia is slowly isolated from her job, her friends, and her family, until she comes to find that her dream come true is a cage. Then one day everything changes…and Julia is faced with no choice but to find a way out.

 

Want a copy? Of course you do! Go here!

 

Haven’t read her first book THE GIRL BEFORE? Read it. I cried. I cringed. In the end, I smiled. Go find it here!

Connect with Rena on Twitter, she loves new friends.