Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's New Year's Eve...a time to look back on life.

And a time to read my personal experience story in the online magazine:

"NOW WHAT?"




This is a story all about looking back on life, and the struggles I went through with cancer five years ago. Yep, FIVE years ago! January is my month for being stamped with the official "You're cured!" seal, so what better way to celebrate than to have a story that shows God's hand in my life during that time. Hope you enjoy reading it, and that it reaches the goal of the magazine to bring "help and hope for life's struggles."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Now What?


So, Christmas is over. The house is finally clean again...sigh... (We have the whole fam over on Christmas day. Chaos=dirty house.) The gifts are all put away. Well, except for my daughter's. Her stuff is pretty much spread all over! And we've all been enjoying the new Wii Santa brought. (Not quite right--everyone else is. Video games don't like me :P.)

So, now what?

I'm hoping for time to write this week. Praying that God brings the right people to see our house SOON. We're supposed to be moving in February, so our house needs to SELL. It's a lousy market right now for sellers, yes, but God can do anything--even bringing us a buyer!

We've come a long way in 2009. Moving, still homeschooling, and my writing has made real progress. Visit my site--just click on the "eye" in the upper, right-hand corner of the blog--and go to "Who's Putting Me in Print" to see all the places I've been published, or will be published over the next year. You can still link to some of the online stories. A couple of the mags don't archive for more than a few weeks, so those links will take you to the mag but not my story.

My latest publication will be in just a few days. It's a personal experience story, and it will appear in "Now What?"--which is an online Christian magazine. I'm really glad they're posting it now. It's quite appropriate as an "end of the year" story because it talks about looking back and seeing the reason for what God has allowed to happen in your life. We often question our circumstances, wondering WHY God would lead us down such a rough road. The key is to follow Him, and once you're through, TURN AROUND and look at all that happened. You'll see God's handiwork all over the place if you just open your eyes. You'll understand what I mean when you read the story. I'll post the link when it comes out on the 31st!

For now, enjoy the last few days of 2009!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More good news!!


Insects all over the world are happy dancing for me...

I got TWO emails today telling me I will have a total of three stories coming out soon. These are personal experience stories. One will be in the online magazine "Now What?" on December 31st. I'll post the link when it comes out. The other two will be in an anthology by HCI Books, The Ultimate Christian Living. The book comes out in March 2010.

I'm super excited about this! I've been feeling kinda dumpy because of lack of interest in my novel, and lack of time to work on my writing lately. It is reaffirming to get acceptances on my previous works. I feel much more motivated to get going again after Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Book reviews

Since I haven't been doing much writing, I haven't had a lot to post about. House-hunting has been an all-consuming physical and mental activity for me lately. But, I always make time to read. It's the only way I can wind myself down at the end of the day. And of course, while we were on the 15-hr train rides to and from NC last week, I had gobs of time to read.

So here's what I've read recently and what I thought:

(I'm putting these in the order in which I read them.)

CURSE OF THE SPIDER KING by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper



Seven teens discover they are royalty in another world called Allyra. As infants, they were cast from Allyra to Earth because of an ancient curse. But now the time has come to find them and bring them home before the Spider King can destroy their Elven race.

If you are a Wayne Thomas Batson fan, you won't be disappointed by this book. I've never read anything by Christopher Hopper, but judging by Spider King, I'd say he and WTB make a good team. I was a little disappointed that this book seemed more of a set-up for the books to come rather than a complete story of its own. But with seven main characters all coming from different places, a lot of space is needed to get their characters developed and learn about their individual pasts. I will say that the characterization was quite good, and the action moved well--it kept my attention to the end. I do intend to read the next book when it comes out, if that tells you anything. I can't say this is my favorite fantasy book ever, but it was a fun ride.


THE MIRROR'S TALE by P. W. Catanese



I heard about this book from one of my loyal blog followers (I follow her blog, too :). Her review was enough to get me to order it from Amazon. I can't say I was as pleased with it as she was, but I did enjoy it. The author does have some serious talent when it comes to description, and what disappointed me about the book is that his writing seemed to slack off from that now and then. Maybe the publisher pushed him to cut things down to lower the word count? I don't know, but that is the feeling I got. I would find myself lost in a vivid, smooth-flowing passage, only to move into another scene that skimmed through the description and action. It felt like the slash of an editor's pen to me. Too bad--probably had Catanese been allowed full-reign this story would have been magnificent.

The idea is definitely most intriguing and original--a boy, who is a descendant of Snow White, discovers the evil step-mother's mirror in a secret chamber of his uncle's castle. I have never liked the story of Snow White, but this focused on back story, and how it all affected the town where it happened! That is cool. The book was a good read, and I would recommend it.


I KNOW WHY THE ANGELS DANCE by Bryan Davis



Bryan Davis uses creative images and poetic language in the story of a family that faces the ultimate loss. This is not a light-hearted book by any means, but it is a book about hope, love, and God's saving grace. While the story is fictional, it certainly illuminates the truths of dealing with losing a loved one. It is a story of the comfort we gain from believing in a Lord who does not desert us during the hard times--a Lord who prepares a better place for us and offers a hope of a future beyond this world.

Technically, this is not a YA book, as Bryan's other series are, but it is appropriate for nearly all ages in my opinion. It may have been written for adults, but teens, tweens, and maybe even some mature preteens would benefit from this book. Please visit his blog--Bryan has special offers on this book, and a special mission for it as well. He's not selling I Know Why the Angels Dance for a profit, and he wants to get it into the hands of people who can really use it. Read through some of his recent blog posts for more information on that.


And last but not least...and on a whole different note than all the other books up here...we have FIELD OF BLOOD by Eric Wilson



Vampires and demons combined in a host of evil. This book is not for the faint of heart. If you like Ted Dekker's darkness, Frank Peretti's depth of character, and John Olson's penchant for symbolism, this is the book for you. I was enthralled by this tale, and horrified as well. Seriously, this deals with mature themes, so be warned! But it is a Christian novel to the core. Deep and terrifying, it shows the muck we humans live in, the sin that entangles us. No holds barred.

I won't try to sum up this one's plot--I'll just make a jumble of it. Let's leave it at this: Gina is raised by a fanatically religious mother whose beliefs are more than a bit skewed from the truth. A mark appears on Gina's forehead on her twelfth birthday, drawing the attention of both the good and evil supernatural beings around her. (The evil ones being the vampire/demons of course.) She does find help in a mysterious man, but it doesn't save her from the hardest loss she could ever suffer.


I'm really hoping to be posting more about my writing soon. I love to read! But I miss writing :(. I suppose if it were one major thing at a time, I'd be able to keep it going--but preparing to move, along with Christmas and all the busyness of the holidays, is just too much. My mind is a mess. I am getting some ideas down, and working on editing a bit (mainly short stories I began some time ago), but nothing on the latest book. I've submitted Finding Angel a couple more times recently, too. So, I guess I've kept up some, just not as much as I'd like.

I doubt I'll post again before Christmas--so MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I miss writing...

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been a little scarce on Facebook as well. A LOT going on. Nothing to do with my book or short stories--I won't bore you with the details of me working on our move. BUT, it's kind of the point of the post.

This process of moving has taken up so much of my time and energy...I've had nothing left over to put into writing. I miss it! I find myself picking up a book at the end of the day, and soon I feel a flutter at the back of my brain. Bubbles of thought beginning to rise to the surface. Bubbles I normally let pop, releasing the ideas so I can rush to the computer and record them. But lately, I've been flat-out too tired. And too preoccupied. If I let those little bubbles burst, the ideas get jumbled up with house searches and such, lost amid the clutter, tangled like Christmas lights (it's ok, you can grimace at that one :).

I'm looking forward to when this exhausting period is over. I can't wait to find a new place and get settled in, so I can let the creative juices flow freely again!

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Interview at LGG

The Lost Genre Guild is a group for writers whose main genre is speculative fiction that holds a Christian world view. I joined recently, after getting some short stories published. I'm really excited about being a part of the group.

Their blog has been featuring members lately, and guess what? Today, they posted MY interview :).

So check it out at THE LOST GENRE GUILD.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas memory


I've thought many times about writing out a particular Christmas experience of mine and submitting it to an anthology or someplace that takes Christmas stories. But for some reason I just can't bring myself to do so. I've never had any problem writing out personal experience stories--as a matter of fact, I've made almost all of my writing money doing so. And I'm fine with sharing pretty private stuff. Mainly because I've been down some dark paths, and I know how scary it can be. I want people to know they are not alone--to know I've been there and am glad to help them through, too.

In October of 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer. I've mentioned it before on my blog, but I try not to write about it often because it's not a very happy subject. But every now and then I need to say something about it because I hit a milestone (for example, the end of January will be five years cancer-free!), or something in my life brings up memories of that time.

Christmas is one of those things. You're probably thinking that sounds kind of awful--Christmas making me relive my cancer struggle. But really, it's not awful at all. It's quite beautiful.

You see, Christmas has been an up and down time for me. I loved it as a kid (of course). Then, for a while during my teen years I was a bit of a scrooge--probably because my parents divorced while I was in high school and I hated how the holidays had to be split between them. But somewhere in my twenties I caught the Christmas bug again. Since then it has been my favorite holiday. I was very much afraid that would change when I went through my cancer treatment because it happened to fall smack across the month of December.

My cancer treatment was no fun to say the least. The docs were very aggressive because I was young and in an early stage. The chemo didn't make my hair fall out, but it made me sick as a dog. The radiation zapped all my energy. At five-foot-nine I actually felt puny. Weight-loss and exhaustion left me weak and barely able to walk across the house. When the Christmas lights went up around my neighborhood, I knew there was no way I'd be able to make our traditional family walks at night. I couldn't even ride in the car because of the motion sickness.

But my dear husband did not let me get down about it. He remembered his parents still had a wheelchair that had belonged to his grandfather and asked them to bring it over. Night after night, he loaded me into that thing, covered me in thick blankets, and pushed me out the front door. My daughter, who was two at the time, curled up in my lap, snuggled under the blankets with me. My son was bigger and we couldn't all fit, but he held my hand or helped his daddy push. And just like that, wrapped in the love of my husband and two kids, I rode around my neighborhood.

The lights were more amazing than they had every been before--than any lights had ever been before! Despite all I was going through, that was the best Christmas of my life. Nothing has matched that feeling since.

Maybe that is why I haven't been able to write it out as a "story." The feeling is so embedded in that memory, I'm afraid picking it apart and trying to make it into something submittable would break it. So, I'm going to keep it whole, and I offer you a glimpse with this post, but that's all you'll ever have. I hope that is enough.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More on my website


Well, I'm in limbo right now. Cancelled my domain name, to avoid being charged the price hike--I saw no way of just letting it expire without automatically being billed for the next year. The problem is there is now a lag--the name hasn't officially been released, and because I cancelled it before transferring it, I can't access it from either side. Yes, you techno-heads, I did get one notice providing me the access code, but I ignored it because at that time I was just going to scrap things and start over, and now it's out of my reach for good. Live and learn.

The good new is, I should be able to wait a bit and when my domain name becomes available, I can snatch it back up. I would think so, anyway. I'm sure going to try!

For now, you can just access my website by clicking on the "eye" up in the right-hand corner of my blog. The url is gobbledy-gook, but oh well. I just hope I have it changed back soon.

The biggest frustration is that I'm going through all of this for a book that hasn't even found a home yet, much less been published. But I'm acting on faith that it will someday (maybe soon) be worth all this effort. I just submitted Finding Angel to yet another publisher, and I'm still waiting on a few responses by agents and another publisher. My life is in complete upheaval right now--why not add a publishing contract to the mix ;).

Oh, you may be wondering what's up with the picture of Animal (from the Muppets, in case ya don't know). Nothing. Just love him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Urgh...

So, today I got an email that my website domain name is going to expire...but of course I can renew it for 3 1/2 times what I paid the first year! Combine that with the fact that I'm going to lose my webspace when I move because it's tied to my internet service, and it leads to my command decision to scrap having a website. In all honesty, pretty much everything you can find there, you can find here on my blog. I just have to figure out why the link to my first chapter is no longer working. I also need to make a new page somewhere that will contain ALL the links to my short stories and a listing of my print personal essays.

Hopefully, I'll get it all figured out soon.

Ah, technology :P.

Two hours later...

OK, so husband told me I'm over-reacting (again :P) and not to scrap the website. So, we'll see. It doesn't expire for a couple of weeks, so maybe I'll set something new up. The point is, he said if an agent was looking for my site, and saw it was gone, then he/she might think I gave up. Ow--talk about hitting it! I can't have that! So, for now, it's still there, and I'm going to try and see what I can do to get it transferred over to another host.

Again...ah, technology...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Encouragements


I don't have much time right now, nor much energy. Working on our house to get it "show" ready has taken over my life. It looks like things may slow down a bit soon, though.

But amidst this chaos, I've received two bits of encouragement that have really meant a lot to me. One came as a phone call from a friend in my critique group. She wanted to make a suggestion for another agent for me to try, and to let me know she believes in me and is praying for me one day every week. As someone who has gone through some seriously hard times, I fully understand the power of prayer. So when someone tells me they are praying for me and my book, I take that very seriously.

Also, another friend from that same group is in the middle of reading Finding Angel and she wrote this comment on my Facebook wall: "This HAS to get published! I've been transported to a magical island and I don't want to come back. It is sooooo good!"

Those are the words I want to hear from my readers--that they feel submerged in the world created in my books and don't want to leave. It's the feeling I get when I read my favorites, and the desire to create that feeling in someone else was my whole motivation to write fiction in the first place!

So, thank you, Jan and Janet, for the words of encouragement. And to all of you who have told me you're praying for me, and/or sent me great comments on my first chapter or short stories. I'm working SO hard to make this dream come true--to get my novel in print--but it's been a long and trying road so far. Without the words of encouragement I get from my fellow writers and my readers, I doubt I would be persevering like this.

Hangin' in there...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Checking in



I normally don't go so long without posting. And I try to at least have a topic when I do, but this time it's a little different. I've been consumed lately with packing boxes because...I'm moving! This is a first for me. I mean, of course I've moved before, but it was always local and this time I'm moving out of state. Plus, we're selling our house, and since it's the first one we've owned I'm getting to experience the whole process of putting a house on the market for the first time, too.

Well, I suppose I can relate this to writing in a way. Moving has brought up concerns I never thought I'd have to deal with. Changing my contact information and getting that to all the places I've submitted has been a big chore. I cannot stress enough the importance of being organized when it comes to submissions! Imagine what would happen if someone actually wanted to use one of my stories...but I hadn't kept track and never sent them my new info!

I'm also going to have to change my website. The web space I've been using is tied to my current internet account, which will be changing when we move. Now, I have to find another web host (or maybe my new internet service will come with web space). The point is, if you'd told me two years ago that I'd be worrying about my website, I'd have laughed at you!

Another thing I'm discovering is that at a time like this I just have to let go of my writing for a bit. It's frustrating, but with so much to do, writing has had to be pushed to the back burner. Boy, it's hard!

Also, right now, I'm mourning the fact that all my precious books are in boxes in my son's closet :(. Yep, in the house-sellin' business books equal "clutter." Heart-breaking!

One of my top priorities for a new house--lots of space for bookshelves. Or even better yet, built-in bookshelves. My dream has always been to have a house with a library, and now that I'm writing, I want a writing desk in that room. Ever seen the movie "Funny Farm"--the one where Chevy Chase moves to the country to write the great American novel? I want an old house like that, with an upstairs writing room and a window overlooking something other than the palm tree in my front yard! I could do without the bodies buried in the garden, though :).

Anyway, I'll try to keep my head about me in all this and still post now and then, with something intelligent to say :). So, be patient with me please.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You say "Self publish" like it's a bad thing....

OK, I admit, I stole that title. It was the name of a panel I sat in while attending the 2009 Necronomicon last month. I was, of course, intensely curious to hear what the panel of four self-published authors had to say.

We all know there is a stigma about self-pubbing, and some authors/agents/editors are horribly against it (for obvious reasons). I've even seen a few authors that are horribly for it (read that last: defensive and control-freaky).

One of the authors who spoke at the Necro was Chris A. Jackson. He discussed intelligently both the wonderful freedoms provided by and the heavy responsibilities bound to self-pubbing. He also participated in a panel on small presses, so he has experience with both self- and traditional publishing, which made me take him even more seriously.

So, after the first night of the Necro, I went home and checked out Chris's website, www.jaxbooks.com. I read the first few pages of a couple of his books.

Now I was even more impressed.

I returned to the Necro and headed straight for Chris's table in the vendor hall. I bought his book Weapon of Flesh, as much for the wicked cover art as the impressive first chapter.


(Chris was super-nice and happened to be giving away t-shirts along with the purchase of a book, so now I get to wear that awesome artwork!)

Weapon of Flesh has a really interesting mesh of elements. It combines a martial arts feel with a touch of organized crime, all mixed with traditional fantasy. Sounds a little strange--you're thinking ninja-Godfather with Elves in tunics aren't you? Well, you'd be right. And believe me, it actually works!

The story begins with a boy, stolen from his mother and magically altered into a killing machine. (I found it amazing that the author made me connect with a character who was almost completely emotionless.) His training complete at the age of 16, the boy leaves with the man who has "made" him--a man he only knows as "Master"--to be handed over to the tyrant who has commissioned him.

But the boy is not delivered as promised, when his Master is killed and he suddenly finds himself alone, no idea where his destiny lies, but consumed with the need to find purpose.

This book shows that self-published authors are not always such because of lack of talent. As a matter of fact, I have stopped reading a lot of traditionally published books lately because they were boring and poorly written. The proof is in the pudding...not in the name of the publishing house.

You can buy Weapon of Flesh and Chris's other writing either through Amazon (look up Chris A. Jackson under sci-fi/fantasy) or at his website, www.jaxbooks.com.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"The Gift" in Digital Dragon


My latest story is out!

"The Gift" can be found online in Digital Dragon magazine.

Like "The Artist" which is currently running in Mindflights,
"The Gift" is based on my novel, Finding Angel.

I am so excited to have these two stories running concurrently. If my book can't be published (yet!) then at least my concept and characters are finding homes.

Check them both out and don't be shy letting me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Horse of a Different Camel...or...Star Trek at the Nerd Table


Yes, this blog has two titles. I had two ideas for posts and realized as I was planning them out that they actually go quite well together. Let's hope I can keep this from getting too long :).

First, we must go back to a time long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

I began a series of posts many months ago that used a high school cafeteria as an analogy for the fiction section of a book store. To refresh your memory (or, if you're new here), it all has to do with my experience in high school as both a punk-rocker and nerd. The brains occupied the far-corner table of the cafeteria, which happened to be right next to the punk table. With me as a bridge, two groups of kids who would have otherwise completely ignored each other actually interacted.

The Christian section is the nerd table of the book store. Always in the far-back corner, looked upon as a separate culture than the rest of the high school class. Some of my posts illustrated that Christian books can be both inspirational AND fantasy (punkers), horror (metalheads), action (ROTC), romance (prom queen)...you get the idea.

That brings us to Christian sci-fi. I am reading a book called When the Sky Fell, by Mike Lynch and Brandon Barr. Here we have the techno geeks at the nerd table.

Now, one would think those groups naturally overlap, and to a certain extent they do. Although, I'm sure there are Christians who don't quite go for the whole books-and-movies-about-aliens thing. It's not such an issue these days, but I remember having a conversation with an older friend years ago who said she'd gotten a lot of flak for being a "Christian" who actually watched, and loved, Star Trek.

In my opinion, though, sci-fi and a Christian world view are not at odds. And sci-fi is a strong part of the growing spec-fic area of Christian fiction.

Which brings me to the "Horse of a Different Camel" title. A friend of mine who had read and critiqued my manuscript for Finding Angel gave me a piece of advice: "Remember, a camel is a horse designed by committee." I've made that same comment to others and gotten a few "HUH?"s and a couple of strange looks, so let me explain:

When an author starts a new book, he has a concept of exactly what kind of book he's planning to write. Eventually, he's going to have to get feedback on that book. Well, you know the old saying about opinions...everyone's got one. And while you may have written the greatest spy novel ever, a romance reader is going to wish there was a little more focus on the protag's relationships. A fantasy fan may miss that element of magic. A historical fiction fan may not fully appreciate you setting your book in modern times. But you CANNOT change your books to please everyone--just like you can't give a horse the features to please everyone, or you end up with something completely UNlike a horse. (If you're still having a hard time with this analogy, think "too many cooks spoil the soup.")

I think some authors are trying to do that, though. They add elements of this and that in an attempt to reach a broader audience. But this can thin your book out, and it loses what made it YOUR book in the first place!

So, back to When the Sky Fell. The authors of this book did not compromise. They stuck to what they set out to write--a book complete with all the elements of a classic hard sci-fi and none of the fluff. Tight writing, loads of technology, alien invasions...

I haven't finished the book, but I didn't want to wait to review it. So far it has been consistent and action-packed, and I don't foresee that changing. I normally don't read hard sci-fi, but I love watching it, so I wanted to give this book a shot. I admit I personally have to read it early in the day--my mind just can't wrap around the techie descriptions if I'm tired. But if you're a tech-minded reader, get your hands on When the Sky Fell, and strap yourself in for a serious ride!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just in time for Halloween...


Kidding :). I do actually know Halloween is over, of course. But thanks to Rick Yancey, we can have monsters all year round.

I just finished reading The Monstrumologist. I hadn't heard of this book, or the author, until a few weeks ago when he came to visit a library in my home town. I was really bummed that I couldn't go hear him speak (my kids and I were all sick) because any chance to listen to a successful writer in your genre--whether you know him or not--is a good thing.

Now, after finishing, I'm really, really bummed I didn't get to hear him!

The story takes place in the confines of a journal, left behind by a man who has just passed away, with no relatives to claim his possessions. A man who claimed to be 130 years old.

Will Henry was orphaned at the age of eleven, and taken in by his father's former employer, a monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrop. A year later, in 1888, a grave robber comes calling on the doctor in the middle of the night, bearing a gruesome find. Will Henry has witnessed many horrible things during his year with the monstrumologist, but nothing has prepared him for what he sees when the "package" is unwrapped.

Soon, Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop are on the hunt for a vicious and blood-thirsty species of monster--with two goals in mind--discover how the beasts arrived, and kill every last one of them before the town becomes a human buffet.

This book is every bit as gory as a Stephen King novel, although I've never read a King with this particular style (or lack of foul language and crudeness). You'll go back in time with the tone of this book. It's flowery descriptions give the feel of the period, but the author holds the reins just enough so that the reader is not frustrated by antiquated language. Perfectly balanced. And the characterization is superb.

Just don't read it alone, late at night. And you may want to make sure you have an empty stomach as well ;).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"The Artist" by the artist :)


I find it ironic and, well, just kinda cool that posting my artwork has gotten so many comments. Ironic because this blog is supposed to be about me as a writer, but cool because who doesn't want to hear nice things about their creations?

Oh, and ironic and cool ALSO because my latest story just came out in Mindflights and the main character happens to be...you guessed it...an artist!

Before I give you the link, I HAVE to mention that this short story is based on a character in my novel, Finding Angel. It is NOT a chapter in the book, or even a rewrite of something that happens in the novel. It is an event that occurred many years before the timeline of Finding Angel, but is nonetheless significant. I am SO thrilled to have SOMETHING related to my novel in print :D.

OK, here's where to find the story:
"The Artist" by Kat Heckenbach in Mindflights.

Please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Playing with Pastels

I'm pretty sure I mentioned before that my favorite medium for drawing is charcoal. I've been playing around with pastels, though, lately. I'm determined to improve my technique. I'm hoping to create something I can submit to one of the magazines where I've been getting my short stories published. I would love, love, love to have something accepted by The Absent Willow Review--they have some of the coolest artwork on their site. I know I could do a charcoal drawing of that caliber, but black and white is just not as appealing for an online mag.

Anyway, here's my latest work:



I call it "Blue Elf." For, um, obvious reasons :).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Things were done by us differently then," she said trendily...and other ancient horrors.

I've read a couple of books recently that were written about 15-20 years ago and I'm cracking up over the difference in writing style as compared to today.

First of all, the books use a plethora of passive voice. These days it is DRILLED into us to never, ever use it (although I happen to believe there is a time and place for passive. Every now and then, that is). Some writers all but have nightmares over passive voice, and look upon the use of "was" as a publishing death sentence. Attack of the killer WAS! Yes, dear authors, run screaming!



Another is the use of -ly adverbs. These were not just accepted, they seem to have been encouraged. I doubt there has been a single sentence without them in the book I'm reading now. I don't think -ly adverbs are the horror most people make them out to be UNLESS they are over-used. Kinda like, one spider skittering across the floor is not a big deal. Spiders serve their purpose in this world, but it would be a different story if spiders were teeming through the house.



Well, actually, I suppose the kind of spider makes a difference, too. A "slowly" or "unsteadily" here and there is like finding a common house spider in the corner of the back porch. But, as in the book I've been reading, if you find "feelingly" or--and I'm not kidding here--"wonderingly" it's a bit like coming face to face with a tarantula perched on your cereal bowl.



The third and final difference I want to point out is the dialogue tag. Today, editors tell writers to use as few as possible (essentially enough to keep the speakers straight), and to never use a tag that restates the tone of the dialogue itself. If what the character says doesn't convey his anger, writing "he shouted angrily" is not going to grab the reader either. In other words, make the dialogue punch and stick to "he said" or "she asked" as tags.

From the last book I read--or, tried to read--I couldn't make it all the way through--I compiled a list of dialogue tags that ALL appeared within a two-page span:

protested
said, adding her approval (the dialogue showed that. duh)
whined
baited
pleaded
whined (again!)
said firmly
whispered under her breath angrily
pleaded softly
countered, with a pointed look
shot back defiantly
whispered angrily (was this one over her breath?)
called

If an entire book had this list of tags in it these days, the author would be duly reprimanded. This many is JUST TWO PAGES would be grounds to have the author drawn and quartered.


(Come on, I wouldn't actually post a picture of that! Even if it is Halloween!)

So, I'm wondering what the writing trends will be twenty years from now. Will we use dialogue tags at all? Will trends reverse, and writing become more fluid and verbose? Will I be teaching writers to do all the things I was told not to do?

Eep, nearly forgot this! I was digging through my notebook of short story ideas and came across a page of limericks I wrote (must have been trying to dredge up some creativity). It's sort of on the subject of writing trends...at least as applies to fantasy. And for some reason I don't see this as one that will ever go away:

When first inspired, the number's three,
but soon discovered more will be.
Five, seven, or nine
is what you will find
in fant'sy writer's trilogy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review--"The Tallest of Smalls" by Max Lucado


A friend recommended this book to me--for my kids, of course--after reading Max Lucado's Fearless. As a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger, I decided to request the book for review. Glad I did.

It's a little too young for my nine-year old son, but my six-year-old daughter loved it. She asked me to read it several times in a row the day it came in the mail. She really adored the pictures, too.

I found, as a parent reading out loud to my daughter, that the format of the wording was well thought-out. The fonts and print size helped me emphasize the right words and keep the beat of the story.

The message is a simple but important one--we're special because we're God's children and not because the "populars" approve of us. I recommend this highly to any parent of a young child--from the wee, early years (because the pictures are interesting and the book is the "right" length) through about first grade (pictures still interesting and message relevant).

Check out the first pages here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Necronomicon 2009

Well, I promised a post on this, and I guess I should deliver. The Necronomicon is a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/gaming/anime convention in St. Petersburg, FL. Guest speakers included authors, artists, professional gamers, and even a rocket scientist. I sat in on mostly writing panels, with topics like self-pubbing, working with small presses, and horror writing. There were games--like guessing the name of a movie based on a line of dialogue or a score of music. I did HORRIBLY at those, btw.

But the real fun was people-watching. Gobs of people wore costumes through the whole weekend, even though the costume contest was only Saturday night. Here are some of the better costumes featured in the contest (at least, they're the ones I liked the most):



There were several Harley Quinns, but this one was the best IMHO. Those boots were killer--easily 7 to 8 inches. I couldn't walk in those to save my life (course I'm also 5'9" and would have been smacking my head every time I went through a door). They're nothing compared to what this guy wore....



You should have seen him going up and down the stage steps. And treading across the marble tile.



These girls were a major hit! Anyone for a zombie cookie?



OK, so this one isn't part of the contest. But, come on. It's YODA. Can't pass up that photo opp. The guy to the left (with the pony tail) is a writer I met at the con. His name is Chris Jackson and I bought one of his books (and got a free t-shirt with it!). Check out his site at www.jaxbooks.com and look at the cover of Weapon of Flesh. The cover art is phenomenal.



And I had JUST asked my friend, "So, where's Alex from A Clockwork Orange? Can't have a sci-fi fest without A Clockwork Orange!" Then, lo and behold, look who comes ambling by....

And finally, the ultimate in horror, the evil of evil, the monster of monsters....



Yes, it's cardboard Cthulhu :). Actually, probably plywood. This cracked me up. I was watching as they were bolting on his, um, appendages, and laughed as I thought, Lovecraft most surely did not imagine Cthulhu with "some assembly required...."

OK, I know you're thinking, "Where are the pictures of Kat?" Well, I was the one behind the camera of course. But I did take a moment to pose with Cthulhu:



I really did try to scream, but it came out as a laugh despite my efforts. The only horrifying thing is how unflattering this picture is :P. And yes, that is a "Rio" shirt. Totally retro, eh? (Sure it has nothing at all to do with sf/f/h--I just love Duran Duran. The first night I wore my "DragonKeepers" shirt.)

So, there you have it. My first "Con." I had a blast and I'm already pondering costume ideas for next year...any suggestions?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Contest for Vampire Lovers


There are a few days left to enter the contest for a free copy of the Vampyr Verse poetry anthology that will include a limerick by yours truly :). Visit here to enter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My History with Horror (or, Making Mountains Out of Slashers)


When people ask me if I ride roller coasters I tend to say "no." Although, technically, that is not true. You see, I actually LOVE roller coasters. What I hate are drops.

For example, at Disney's Magic Kingdom there are three "mountain" rides: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. About 99% of Splash Mountain's ride is "kiddie"--floating along in a "log" boat watching animatronic animals sing and tell the story of Brer Rabbit. The other 1% (really, only about 3 seconds of the ride) is a steep plunge into the "briar patch." I rarely ride Splash Mountain because of that drop. But I ride Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain without hesitation because despite the fact that they are true roller coasters they do not have any big drops. The reason I tell people I don't ride roller coasters is that Space and Thunder Mountains are the exception and not the rule. Most roller coasters boast big drops, so I stay clear.

I realized I've been telling people for years that I don't like horror for a similar reason. I came to associate blood and gore with horror movies because of the string of slasher flicks that really hit big back in the Eighties (when I was a teen). I had grown up on old black and white horror movies--Dracula, Frankenstein, Swamp Thing...My Saturday mornings were spent in front of the TV watching "Creature Feature," a local show hosted by "Dr. Paul Bearer."



And then one day, at around the age of fourteen, someone invited me to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. I think my young mind must have made this association: What I've been watching was not actually horror. THIS is horror. I do NOT like horror.

Yet, looking back on the list of films that have been my faves over the years, I see titles like: Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview With a Vampire, The Terminator, Alien(s), The Crow, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs, etc. All of these have a bit of gore in them, but it's not the main feature the way it is in the slasher movies. I actually like scary movies, creepy movies, psychologically intrusive movies. I just don't like deranged and disfigured psycho-killers bent on mass murder and dismemberment. I want movies with a certain level of intelligence--not just bloodfests meant to gross out the viewer or inspire cries of, "Cool! Did you see that! I didn't know your skull made THAT sound when hit with one of those..." Ick.



My point? I've been thinking about the "horror" label that has been placed on some of my writing. At first I didn't quite agree with it. I preferred "dark fantasy" or "thriller" because I was holding on to that old idea of horror meaning nothing but blood and guts and "Don't pick up the phone..." :P. But lately, I've begun to embrace the label. And this weekend I had the priviledge of attending the Necronomicon, a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/anime convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I met other horror writers and sat in on some cool discussions about the genre.

My next post will probably be some of the pics and such from the Necro. I haven't had time to download them yet. I had a LOAD of fun there. And I even got to meet the ultimate in horror, Cthulhu. He's really not so scary in person.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anatomy of a great acceptance letter.

Oh, right...ALL acceptance letters are great! And guess what? I just got another one last night :).

My short story "The Gift" will be published in Digital Dragon, an online, Christian-friendly magazine. Yay! I'm so excited.

And actually, not all acceptance letters are the same. Sometimes they are much like the form rejection letters, but the forminess of them isn't quite the bother when the answer is "yes." The letter I got last night, though, went the step above and included some really nice comments about the story--here's what the editor said:

Thank you for your submission of The Gift. We are happy to inform you that your piece has been accepted for our November issue of Digital Dragon Magazine.

I really enjoyed your story, I could truly feel the characters, and maybe even shed a tear. We are happy to introduce our readers to your work.


What is so super-cool about this is that I have another story due to come out in November in Mindflights--"The Artist"--and both stories are off-shoots from my novels. They're sort of back-story, events that happened years before the time frame of the novels themselves. They're nothing that will spoil the plots of the novels once they're published (someday....), but they actually do involve events that are integral to the plots.

I've posted before about writing short stories based on your novel characters to help get a better grip on their histories and personalities. And that is exactly where these stories came from.

I'll post as soon as they are online. In the meantime, you can always check out the current stories at Mindflights and Digital Dragon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anatomy of a great rejection letter.

I got a rejection letter today. This is what it said:

Thank you for sending us "(my story named here)". I've reviewed the story and decided not to purchase it. It was a little too much on the horror
fantasy side for us, we generally like to see horror stories that are
more grounded in the real world. You may want to try submitting it to
(named their sister mag).

Thanks for submitting, and I hope my comments have been at least a
tiny bit helpful.


THIS is the kind of rejection you want to get from a magazine. The editor actually said he READ the thing and commented on the specific reasons it didn't work for him. Nothing to indicate that my writing was the problem (yay!). And he ended it with an encouraging statement.

Now some magazines will tell you when there is a problem with the writing, and that is a good thing, too. What that generally means is that the problem is something fixable. I had a magazine tell me once that the pacing of my story was off. I reread it and cut some unnecessary passages. Problem fixed, and soon the story sold!

Any time you get a letter like this, take the comments to heart. And save the letter! This kind of letter is a step away from acceptance. It says that your writing was worth some time to the editor, and most editors are outrageously busy, so time is very valuable to them.

I'm of course bummed that the story wasn't accepted. And to be honest, I've already tried the sister mag. They didn't send a personal note, but their submissions state specifically that they don't take much dark fantasy, so I wasn't at all surprised.

Anyway, you have to keep plugging away when you get rejections. You may go through gobs of them, but you only need ONE acceptance. It's kinda like the old saying about finding something in the last place you look :).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Waiting--the Other Side

OK, so there's the other side of waiting, which is the getting of what you've been waiting for--a response from the magazine/agent/publisher you have submitted to. Sometimes that response is good, and sometimes it's a rejection.

There are different types of rejections. If you're lucky, you get a letter with a personal note that specifies a particular element of your story/book the editor/agent feels needs work or makes your piece incompatible with them. I've gotten a few of those, and it's actually a good feeling. It lets you know the editor/agent took the time to read your work, and that they feel it has enough merit to be worth a few minutes of their time. Sometimes (oh, happy dance) there may even be an offer to look at the work again if you revise.

At the other end of the spectrum is what I call the "ignore rejection." An agent/editor simply never responds and you are supposed to take that as "no." Fine, I can understand this to a point. And some agents/editors at least post something like, "If you have not received a response from us within 12 weeks assume we are not interested." Not the most polite way of doing things in my opinion, but such is life. What I CANNOT stand, however, is when they do that but don't give a time limit. Oh, look, the sun has super-novaed--I suppose I can now safely assume they're not interested...

In between these two forms of rejection is what is known as the form letter. (Ah, I see from your expression you're familiar with this--hee, hee.) I've received my share of these, of course. Some are more politely written than others, and could ALMOST be taken as a personal response. Others are blunt. "Sorry, not for us." Really.

Today, I got a rejection from a publisher--a form letter. Like some others, this one had my name plugged in, as though they were trying to make it appear less form-y. Well, I have two things to say to that. One--if you're going to do that, make sure the name you plug in is in the same font as the rest of the letter. And, two--ditto goes for the color of the type.

Anyway...

I guess this is a good place to throw in the limerick I wrote some time ago on the very subject of rejections. I've mentioned before that this is the only form of poetry I've mastered, but until now I don't think I've ever posted any. It's not like you can get them published all over the place--especially ones about something as obscure as rejection letters. So, let's (hopefully) end this post with a laugh:

The bitterest juice of the vine
Is a letter that offers decline.
To tears I succumb,
And relinquish aplomb
By drowning my sorrows in whine.



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waiting....


I'm feeling extra antsy today. I have so many short stories submitted right now, and three of them should--according to the response times listed on the magazines' sites--be getting responses NOW. I'm fairly good at submitting and moving on to the next story, but when it gets to the end of the estimated response time...well, let's just say the "Send/Recv" button gets a workout :P.

At least the other day I got a letter from a magazine that wants FOUR of my personal essays. Yay! The waiting does pay off :).

Quick update (Oct 16th)--
On the topic of short story repsonses...I have a story that was accepted five months ago by Mindflights, but I hadn't been given a date for publication. I wrote the editor today, and she wrote back right away (Thank you!) and told me the story is slated for November! Yay! I'll post as soon as I know the exact date :).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unlikely Limerick


Well, on a whim I submitted a limerick to an anthology of poetry about vampires...and guess what! It got accepted :D.

Check out Vampyr Verse for info on the antho. There's a few days left to submit, if you are so inclined. The book is scheduled to release on Halloween. And you can enter to win a free copy of the book in a couple of different ways if you follow the link.

Obviously because they have rights to the poem now, I can't print it here or anything. But I will tell you--if you've read any of my old posts about a certain book series that shall go unnamed, you'll have an idea of what/who I'm making fun of!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More coming soon...

I got the news today that another of my short stories has been accepted by The Absent Willow Review! I'm very excited--it's a story I really loved writing. It will be out in January 2010, which is amazingly right around the corner :). The title is "A Day Better Spent"--I'll let you ruminate over what kind of story that might be in a magazine that features horror writing...

In the meantime, check out the current issue of The Absent Willow Review...the stories this month are great. I've read several of them at this point, and my favorite so far is Cravat of the Damned. You will die laughing. Or undie, as the case may be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Guest Spot

Today Shawna Williams featured me as a guest blogger. She's doing a series on writers and posting their "writing journeys." If you're curious about mine, take a hop over to Shawna's blog, My Father's Oldsmobile, and check it out.

Shawna just signed a contract with Desert Breeze Publishing for her first novel, No Other. I've had the honor of reading No Other, and it's awesome. (You all know how I feel about romance novels, but this one won me over, totally.)

And take a close look at the very last line of the blog. That made me smile more than anything!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Post #100

Well, well, well...it looks like I've hit the 100 mark! This is the centennial post--woo-hoo! I should do something special. "Top 100 list of..." maybe?

My 100 favorite books--too predictable. 100 places I'd like to visit--too much research. 100 stupidest things I've ever done--I suppose posting those on the internet would be number one....

So, what should I post on my 100th blog?

How about...

100 things I've learned about writing--the obvious, the odd, and the obscure....

1. I actually have it in me!

2. A synopsis is harder to write than a book.

3. A query letter is harder to write than anything else on the planet...

4. Read, read, read...and just keep on reading.

5. Good critique partners are worth more than their weight in gold.

6. Take advice on correction and clarification, but keep your own style. Too many cooks and all that :P.

7. Kill your darlings. You are going to have to cut some of your favorite passages.

8. Buy a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. Seriously.

9. Let people who don't read your genre read your manuscript.

10. Take classes through local writers groups and conferences. Lots of them.

11. You will NEVER be a good writer unless you let someone tear your work to pieces. You have to get over it, and let someone else be completely honest with you. If you can't take honest feedback, you're in the wrong business.

12. Editing/critiquing the work of other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to improve your own.

13. NEVER try to make someone else's work sound like yours. You don't want them to take away your voice, don't take away theirs.

14. Network online--you can make some awesome friends (Hey, Shawna and KM!).

15. Publishing in online magazines is really cool. People who wouldn't normally buy a magazine just to see your story (as much as they love you) will click on a link in a heartbeat. And then they will tell OTHER people to read it!

16. The meaning of "4theluv."

17. Writers conferences are way expensive.

18. And way worth it.

19. Sometimes.

20. There are so many more publishers out there than I have ever noticed before!

21. Ideas come at really strange times, and in really strange places. Carry paper and pen EVERYWHERE.

22. Spending a tremendous amount of time in front of the computer requires a good office chair.

23. Some of the best ideas come way late at night when you're just too tired to get out of bed and write them down. Get up anyway, or you WILL forget them.

24. You may find that the awesome idea you got out of bed for is really complete gibberish.

25. Snarly characters are the funnest to write.

26. Show don't tell. Unless it's a place where telling is necessary. Um, yeah.

27. There are rules, and then there are rules that can be broken. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

28. Sometimes stories start off as a title.

29. Characters often do what they want, and take the story in a direction I never thought of...

30. Stephen King is brilliant.

31. Dragons can be anything I want them to be if I'm the one wielding the pen!

32. So can Elves.

33. Stuff that never bothered me before in books bothers me now. Drat the rules.

34. Using index cards for outlining is actually helpful, and not a torture device created by a disgruntled English teacher.

35. I want a Kindle.

36. Writing is not condusive to keeping a clean house.

37. Getting your first acceptance letter is an amazing feeling!

38. So is getting your first check.

39. And winning "Editor's Choice" rocks.

40. Rejection letters get easier to deal with.

41. They still suck.

42. Composing limericks is a great way to work out stress.

43. I'm still not the greatest typist even after hours, and hours, and hours...

44. You can read your manuscript 2,187 times and you will still find a typo somewhere.

45. Blogging is actually fun.

46. Writer's block is completely maddening.

47. Response times from magazine submissions can range from three hours to three years. No rhyme or reason.

48. It's annoying to tell someone I write YA fantasy and hear, "Ah, the next JK Rowling."

49. The whole business is subjective. Editors print what they like. So don't take rejection personally--if a story gets turned down, submit it someplace else.

50. If an editor takes the time to write something about a story you submit even though he rejects it, take that as a big compliment. And of course, submit it someplace else.

51. When you finally start telling your friends that you're writing, at least one of them will admit to writing, too. (In my case, it's been about five or six!)

52. The process for writing one book may not be the same as for another. My first book came like a tidal wave and the first (lousy) draft was done in three months. The second one is coming bit by bit, but more refined. Even my short stories emerge in different ways.

53. My kids aren't nearly as impressed to hear, "Mommy has a story in a magazine," as I thought they would be. Then again, they're nine and six.

54. Walking the dog is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

55. So is pacing around the garage. Or bike-riding.

56. There are an amazing number of teen writers out there. That is just SO cool.

57. Newbie writers are terrified of submitting their first stories. Well, guess what--the worst thing that can happen is a form rejection. The editor doesn't know you from boo. They're not laughing at your submission (more like "delete" and forget), and if they are laughing, they don't know who you are anyway, so who cares? Just do it. Get that first rejection letter. It will actually motivate you to submit more!

58. I knew this before, but I'll mention it anyway. Use a thesaurus. A lot.

59. Waiting for responses from editors and agents is maddening. While time in every other aspect of your life speeds by, time in this aspect moves like molasses...

60. Writers have to be marketers these days. Big time. (Often to the point where a not so great writer will get published based solely on marketing skills. Not something I'm too happy to learn.)

61. Some of the BEST books are ones that have not been published yet. Man, I know some talented people.

62. Literary magazines have some really, really strange stuff in them.

63. The difference between "plotter" and "pantser."

64. I've not learned as much as I should have (cos I'm at number 64 and I'm groping...).

65. Writers are super-supportive of each other, even if you write something they don't get. I've had so many writer friends--after finding out I write horror--shake their head and say, "I just can't believe you write that..." Yet they still want my advice and cheer my successes.

66. I now have a cosmic connection with my laptop.

67. I back up my work on two flash drives, one of which I take everywhere. The idea of losing my writing because it's not backed up is enough to give me cold sweats.

68. It was easier to tell total strangers that I'd started writing than it was to tell friends and family.

69. No matter how many acceptance letters I get, nor how many times I see my work in print, nor how many praises I get from fellow writers, I still have moments when I think it's all been a big mistake and I'm just a big faker.

70. An amazing number of fortunes inside fortune cookies can be applied to writing.

71. Don't look at publishing statistics if you want to stay motivated.

72. Writing short stories about your novel characters is a great way to improve characterization--and open up publishing opportunities at the same time!

73. I thought I was a night owl before...

74. The people I thought would be the most critical of my writing weren't.

75. I have more computer skills than I thought (and in some cases, less).

76. It's the weirdest, and the most personal, stuff from my past that has made it into my writing. (Mostly in the form of symbolism, so don't get your hopes up!)

77. You can never learn enough.

78. Every fiction mag wants submissions in a different format. :P

79. Pay close attention to guidelines--something as simple as not having a particular word in your subject line can mean your story is deleted unread.

80. Weasel words are those little words that weasel their way into your manuscript way, way too often.

81. My weasel words are "just" and "so."

82. Some stories simply do not fit into a genre. I still haven't figured out what to label them, though.

83. Never agree to review a book you haven't read yet--you may end up hating it.

84. It is possible to go from thinking your book is brilliant, to thinking it is complete rubbish is less than a two seconds.

85. Never delete an unfinished short story. Some day the ending WILL hit you--then you will be hitting you...

86. Netbooks rock.

87. I LOVE the feeling of finishing a chapter.

88. Don't over edit. You can edit forever. At some point you just have to stop, before you turn your book into another book entirely.

89. For every article that gives a particular piece of advice on writing, you will find another someplace else that completely contradicts it.

90. For every magazine that says, "No vampire stories," you will find one that actually wants vampire stories. No one editor is the the supreme expert on what people want to read.

91. Some of the paying markets have some of the worst writing, and some of the non-paying markets have some of the best.

92. This should be obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway--do your research. Even a small detail, like saying a mirror is Victorian when it is not, is enough to bring scrutiny to your work.

92. Be grateful for every acceptance, no matter how small.

93. If you write short stories or articles, as soon as you finish one and submit it, start on the next.

94. The above advice is really, really hard to follow if you are anxious about the response on the one you just submitted!

95. Read as many books on writing as you can--Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Steven King's On Writing are two good places to start.

96. It's ok to call yourself a writer even if you haven't sold a thing. If you write, you're a writer.

97. Submitting queries is exhausting.

98. As is searching for places to submit them.

99. Save every rejection letter.

100. Every writer has his or her own unique experiences with writing, and you may find you disagree with a lot, or all, of the other 99 things I've listed. And that's OK.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blast from the past....

This song has tremendous meaning to me. I listened to it many, many times when I was going through chemo--it kept me going on the days I wanted to give up because the treatment was making me so sick. That was almost five years ago.

The ironic thing is that when I first heard it (before my chemo days), I didn't know who sang it, even though I had the CD sitting on my shelf. I had just gotten the CD as a birthday present and hadn't had a chance to listen to it. I heard the song while visiting my cousin's church, having not listened to much Christian music so I wasn't familiar with the popular artists at the time. I asked her who the original artist was, and she told me "Jody McBrayer" and I ran to my shelf and laughed that I'd had it sitting there the whole time.

There's more to the story, though. You see, I had asked for that particular CD because I knew Jody growing up. We went to school together, from elementary all the way through highschool. It didn't surprise me in the least to find out he'd gotten a recording contract--he was always wickedly talented.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Amazed by Teens


My novel is considered young adult, which means I wrote it with teens in mind. That can't be done if you have no understanding of or relationships with teens. I taught highschool math for a while at a tutoring center, and I loved it because I love math AND because I love working with teenagers!

My students ranged from kids who were struggling in a particular subject, to kids trying to get ahead of their grade, to kids prepping for the SAT. It was loads of fun getting to know them and seeing them grow academically. But since I taught mostly math, I didn't discuss reading or writing with too many of my students.

Now that I've been writing, I'm getting to see that side of teens. I've had some amazing conversations with teens in my homeschool group about books. I've been reading blogs by teens who are book addicts and aspiring authors. I am completely amazed by the number of teens who want to become writers!

When I was in high school, most of my friends were avid readers, but I couldn't name a single one who wanted to write. Much less any who were actively writing a book. Now maybe they were like me, keeping the desire a secret, locked away in their heart for "some day." But they certainly weren't telling people, much less posting blogs about it and letting the world read samples of their writing.

I am just so PROUD that the next generation is getting a grip early in their lives on what they wan to do. And the self-confidence they show, and the ambition...it's awesome! There will be a day, in the not so distant future, that MY KIDS may be reading books published by those same teen authors I'm getting to know. That is the coolest thought :).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going, going...but never gone.

The Absent Willow Review publishes their next issue in just a couple of days. Which means "Willing Blood" will be moved to the archives. You'll still be able to locate it at this url: http://absentwillowreview.com/archives/willing-blood.

And of course, there are links here on my blog and on my site (www.findingangel.com) to all my online writing.

I'm hoping to post very soon about upcoming stories. Mindflights has accepted a fantasy short of mine ("The Artist") but I'm not sure when they have it slotted for. Another story will be appearing in Einstein's Pocket Watch next month, although this one is totally mainstream (sorry fantasy fans).

I've got several others under consideration right now...impatiently awaiting those replies....

I'll keep ya posted.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Un-creative Process


Are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you outline your stories and then write them, or do you just sit down and write whatever comes to mind?

I do both. For short stories, I usually get hit by an idea and sit in front of the computer until it has purged from my system. It may come in pieces (like my story "Willing Blood"--that one is over 4000 words long), or it may come out all at once. Either way, I just keep my ending in mind, and write whatever pops into my head until I reach there, without jotting down so much as one note ahead of time. Then I edit, send it off to a few writer friends, and edit some more before submitting it.

My novel writing is completely different. It's a strange mash of plotting and pantzing. There are days I pace around my house, or in the garage if the kids are playing outside, purposely trying to plot out events in the story. I don't go in order, though. I work on a character's motivation, or details of some scene way into the story. It tends to be "big picture" plotting.

In the meantime, I jot things down (on whatever paper happens to be handy) as they come to me: scene ideas, specific lines I want a character to say, certain details I need to weave in, etc. They go into a bin on my desk, where I transfer them to index cards. Yeah, I actually use the process I learned in highschool! I write all the specifics on index cards, then lay those out on a table top and put them in order.

That is where my title "the un-creative process" comes in. Outlining is tedious for me. But, at least I can do it when I'm not feeling particularly creative, and I still feel like I'm accomplishing something. And it's absolutely necessary for me! My plots get pretty complex, and I have to weave things in at just the right time, offering clues here and there, exposing the mystery little by little. Ah, it's fun, but maddening at times :).

So, what about you? Plotter, pantzer, or hybrid?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Late night plotting

Well, I got back from camping yesterday. I've been so wiped out today I could barely see straight. I did a lot of nothing most of the day.

My friend, Shawna Williams, on the other hand, has been working her little tail off on her second book because...drum roll, please...she signed a contract with Desert Breeze Publishing to publish her first book, No Other, as an ebook in May 2010. Needless to say, I'm super-excited. She's pretty happy, too :P.

I've been a little jealous--not that she's getting published, because (a)she deserves it and (b)I know we're in completely different genres, so epubbing is a good option for her but not for me. What I've been jealous of is the way the chapters were just flowing out of her as she finished the first book and now has started on the second one.

When I wrote Finding Angel, I became like a woman possessed. I thought of nothing else, plotted in my sleep, in the line at the grocery store, walking the dog, cooking dinner...you get the idea. I had the whole first draft done in three months. Then I began the editing/revising/rewriting process, which took a good year. While waiting on my readers to critique, I started my second book, Seeking Unseen. I was in no hurry, because I hadn't even finished revising Finding Angel.

Well, now I need to be working on Seeking Unseen like crazy, but I hit a speed bump. Or two. The story kind of stalled out. I worked on short stories and essays while I let it simmer in the background, but I was getting a bit frustrated. Wondering if some subconscious fear was holding me back. Or if I just wasn't meant to get another book out of me. All kinds of worries--and excuses--swirled around inside my brain.

But tonight I seem to have jumped at least one speed bump! I got a bunch of plotting done, and tied some scenes together in such a way that the path to the end of the book is coming into focus. Ah, it feels SOOOOOO good!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Story


"Story."

That's the title of a book by author Steven James. I'm only half-way through, but it is affecting me so much I'm reviewing it now, so you can get yourself a copy sooner! It is a collection of poems and essays Steven James has written about the Bible, about Jesus as a person, savior, friend. It is beautiful, haunting, joyful, enlightening...

I bought this because I love Steven James' novels, and really had no idea what to expect. I am so glad I took the chance. And because the individual pieces are short, I'm reading the book sort of as a devotional.

Steven James isn't afraid to talk about the things we are afraid of, and the nitty-gritty truths of the Bible. His writing is real.

Get a copy. Really. Story, by Steven James.

On a different note, in my other devotional (Our Daily Bread by RBC) was this poem. It really hit home for me:

The journeys that we take in life,
Though unexpected they may be,
If we commit to follow Christ,
His work through us the world will see.


As I'm struggling with the hope to someday see my novel published, these words just jumped off the page at me. My life has been a strange journey, with experiences that seemed completely unconnected. But as I wrote Finding Angel, I found myself drawing on all of those seemingly unrelated experiences, and they just meshed. I never expected to become a writer, and most certainly never expected to be able to use my experiences in such a way. But, I'm committing to follow Christ in this. And what He does with it...well, I guess we'll just see. But I've never found Him to be wasteful of our work for Him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The "Official" Announcement

The Absent Willow Review sent out their newsletter today, and the announcement that "Willing Blood" won the Editor's Choice Award was right there on the front page! I wanted to post a link to it, but it's a pdf. You can sign up for their newsletter here, though. And you can see the abbreviated announcement on their site here.

OK, so that's the last post about that story. Promise. I'm just so excited :).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today is one of those days when I'm not quite sure what I want to say, but feel compelled to post anyway. It's been a crazy week. Our camper suffered damage due to high winds--now fixed. Our older dog had a stroke--she's doing way, way better now though. My rejection list topped 55--a number that makes me cringe.

I know it shouldn't. I know if God plans for my book to be published it will be. Regardless of publishing trends. Regardless of gate-keepers that only look for particular types of books and base their acceptances and rejections on a one-page letter, having never laid eyes on any of my actual writing.

I am doing the only thing I can--I'm writing. Working on my second book. Writing short stories as they come to me. Sending queries and researching markets. Trying my best to act on faith.

Oh, I didn't mean for this post to be a bummer. I'm still bustin' over the news that I made Editor's Choice in The Absent Willow Review (they make the official announcement tomorrow!). And one of my bestest writer friends is getting a contract with an epublisher for her first novel--I'm SO excited for her! Once I get the official OK from her, I'll post all about it. And follow that by nagging everyone to order the book! :)

OK, so I'll finish up with a video...a seriously old one. This is a song I grew up listening to on my Dad's records--yep, actual vinyl. Magic and Dragons...how can ya not love this song!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Editor's Choice!!!

I was going to wait until the official announcement on Sept 1st--it is only a few days away, after all. But then, I never proclaimed to be patient!

My short story--"Willing Blood"--that is in The Absent Willow Review right now has just been selected as "Editor's Choice."

I am SO excited about this. You know how happy I was to get accepted by this mag. To be chosen from two issues' worth of stories...well, needless to say, I'm totally honored!!

Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, by Maggie Stiefvater


First of all, what a cool last name--Steifvater--I love finding people with last names that are harder to spell than mine :).

This book grabbed me from the beginning, and I could NOT put it down. I read the whole thing in one day, while camping this weekend. Sorry, hubby, you and the kids go have fun--I'm reading!

Lament has all the same elements that Twilight has (or at least, the first chapters of Twilight that I dragged myself through): A quirky girl with self-esteem issues, a dangerous and totally hot guy, a "should I or shouldn't I" kind of relationship, bizarre happenings...Oh, but THIS book is incredibly well-written!

Deirdre is an immensely talented harpist with a real future at becoming a professional musician, despite her...unusual...pre-show ritual. On the day of a huge competition, Luke walks into Deirdre's life. Dreamy Luke. Mysterious Luke...

Now, you all know I'm not into romance novels. But when they involve such engaging characters (take a note here, Stephenie, "engaging"--not whiney or mean) I can't help but get sucked into the story. And there is a real story here--not just the romance! Deirdre's relationship with Luke is just the door that opens her to a whole new world right in her own town...one of faerie and deception.

I can't wait to read more by this author. Her voice is unique--contemporary, but not rude. Really strong characterization skills. And perfect pacing. From what I understand, there is a sequal to this, but it's not out yet. I'll be looking for it, for sure!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Here it is!

My short story "Willing Blood" is officially published in The Absent Willow Review!

A bit nervous, I admit...this was the first short story I ever wrote. It's listed as a horror, and I've stated in previous posts that this is a dark story. So, if ya don't like that sorta thing, ya been warned.

They picked a cool piece of art to go with it, I must say. I've been so curious to see what would be selected. I've mentioned before how impressed I am with the writing in this magazine, but I've neglected (shame on me!) the incredible artwork on there as well!

OK, now get ta readin'!


*Update*

I posted a pdf of my description of the allegory/symbolism in "Willing Blood." This is for those who didn't quite see the allegory or who don't want to read the story but are interested in how someone can call "horror" Christian. (I suppose if you saw all the allegory, you can simply read it and nod in agreement :).

Be warned--there are plot spoilers in the description!

Here's the link: Allegory of Willing Blood

Friday, August 14, 2009

My hippie side...

So, no real post today, just a video. Taking cues from my friend KM Wilsher and featuring a video of a special song. I saw these guys about a million years ago on "Late Night With David Letterman." Holy garage band, Batman, I found the video from that night. I fell in love with this sound.

Drivin' and Cryin'.

Peace.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Absent Willow Review, and my tangential ramblings

It's your last chance to read the current stories in The Absent Willow Review (an online magazine of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror) before they're moved to the archives. The next issue is published on August 16th, when my story "Willing Blood" will appear!

I've found that this zine publishes some stories with a spiritual edge. Last month "In The Valley of Dry Bones" grabbed my attention. This month, it was "Between the Toes."

This has made me think about the strict labelling of Christian and secular work. I've found that a lot of secular writing, even books and stories by horror writers, have underlying and brilliantly woven Christian messages. But Christian writing has these set parameters, requiring messages to be obvious. Despite the claims of Christian publishers that they do not want "preachy" writing, I've found that much Christian writing lacks subtlety. Big time.

One of the things that got me writing in the first place was my fascination with the skill with which J.K. Rowling imbued Christian symbolism into the Harry Potter books. Not once was there a direct reference. Working her beliefs into the structure of the story impressed me more than any writing that spells out its message in bright, bold letters. I love to solve puzzles, and I revelled in the uncovering of Rowling's symbolism. I also love explaining it to people--so many feel her books are anti-Christian because of the magic.

Those same people are probably going to think me blasphemous for my story that is forthcoming in The Absent Willow Review . But "Willing Blood" is allegorical. It's dark (my best friend called it "disturbing, but in a good way"), probably borderline horror, but I know I wrote this story with my heart in the right place.

I can't write sunshine-and-daisies Christian fiction because I'm not a sunshine-and-daisies Christian. I'm a caught-in-the-battle Christian. I came from a Christian home, but strayed away during my teen years. I've seen the dark side. It's a very real place. And I feel closest to God when I think about those times. It was He who pulled me out, and it wasn't an easy process. But He fought for me. Died for me. A bloody, painful, and gruesome death. It's not all rainbows and pretty gold crosses on sparkly necklaces.

There is a place for that kind of writing. So please don't run off and think I'm bashing Christian books for having positive and uplifting messages! I just don't want to be made to feel ashamed for writing outside of that label.

Anyway, three more days until "Willing Blood" comes out in The Absent Willow Review. And I'm so proud to have been accepted by them!