Cursed Collectibles Anthology to Be Released October 1st

Cursed-Collectibles-anthology-shannon-fox-isle-of-books

I’m so excited to share I have a story coming out in the Cursed Collectibles anthology and it’ll be available for purchase on October 1st – just in time for Halloween!

The story I have in this anthology, entitled “The Garden Party” is actually one I wrote way back when I was going to UCSD – and then rewrote and submitted for this! I love the theme, the cover art, and can’t wait to read/hear the rest of the stories. Thanks for all the hard work Jace Killan!

Authors with stories in the Cursed Collectibles anthology are Dave Butler, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Joy Johnson, Martin L. Shoemaker, Gama Martinez, Mike Jack S, Lyn Worthen, Shannon Fox, Karen Pellett, Jessica Springer Guernsey, Jennifer Blair, Steve Ruskin, Tanya Hales, Frank Morin, Lauren Lang, Jo Ann Schneider Stringer, Kelly Lynn Colby, Heidi Andrus Wilde, Adric Mayall, Chris Abela, Martin E Greening, John David Payne

Edited by Angela Eschler

Cover art by Novae Caelum

And audiobook narrated by Shaun Smith and Hillary Andrus Straga

All profits from the sale of this anthology go to the Don Hodge Scholarship Fund (which is a scholarship that helps people attend Superstars Writing Seminars)

The anthology and audiobook will be available for purchase on Amazon.

 

Writing Updates: Starting the Query Process for Shadow of the Magician

This month I’m starting the agent querying process for Shadow of the Magician. I got feedback from most of my beta readers back and made all my changes to the manuscript from there. I also finished doing the grammar line edits so I feel like this is a solid, clean draft. I’m now at the point where anything else I might do it just feels like picking at it to procrastinate on moving on. I still have a few readers I haven’t heard back from yet, but unless I get some significantly new and different comments, I’m done with this for now.

So next stop: try to find an agent for it! I’m going to the Fallbrook Writer’s Conference on Sunday where I’ll have the opportunity to pitch it to one of the agents there. I also have a few other agents that are my on first round query short list so I’m working on creating all the submission documents I’m going to need.

If you’re not familiar with the agenting process, all agents represent different kinds of projects so it’s important to spend time researching agents so you approach the right people. They also have their own submission criteria of things they want you to send to them which differs from agency to agency. From there, if they like what you see, they can ask you for more pages or the whole book to read. So before you start querying, you need to have a number of things ready to go besides the full manuscript itself. Query letters, summaries, synopses…and all of differing lengths and formats too! Sometimes actually finishing the book feels like the easy part!

I’m also planning to get another short story written for another writing contest this month. Maybe even two. And I have some new edits I want to make to the flash fiction that earned me an Honorable Mention recently. Feeling more encouraged and believing I’ll find a home for it eventually.

Beyond that, I have few more short story ideas I want to write and then I’m planning to start my next book soon. I’ve had the outline done since May and am still feeling really eager to dive in with that one which is a good sign. I’m excited to see how the writing process goes on a new novel now that I can try out all the things I learned from writing Shadow. If I haven’t mentioned this before, Shadow is really special to me because it’s the book that more than anything else I’ve ever written, really taught be how to construct a story, write a book from start to finish, and also how to revise. I learned so much from the process (*cough* hell *cough*) with that one so I’m eager to see what all that learning looks like on a new book!

Recap: Superstars Writing Seminars 2019

2018 Shannon thought her review of Superstars Writing Seminars was crazy delayed.

2019 Shannon said, “Hold my beer.”

Superstars Writing Seminars 2019 took place the first week of February.

It’s *cough* nearly September and this review is just now being published.

But I don’t think it makes sharing my experience any less valuable, especially since this year I was experiencing it as an alumni, not a newbie.

I still think this is the best writing conference I’ve ever been to. It’s by far the most encouraging, supportive, and positive experience around. I was talking to my friend K recently and we were both remarking how a lot of writing conferences can leave you feeling discouraged and a little beaten down by the process and the amount of luck that is required to get a book all the way to publication if you’re going the traditional route.

Which isn’t to say Superstars doesn’t tell it like it is. They absolutely do. They just reinforce the messaging with a heavy dose of encouragement and support.

I keep thinking of this quote from Game of Thrones: “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.”

And I think the same could be true of writers. Though writing is a solitary endeavor, writers need community if they’re going to survive the process. There’s no other way. The odds are too heavily stacked against you to carry that weight on your own. You need people around you to wipe your tears, give you a hug, and cheer the loudest for you when you succeed.

That’s what Superstars is all about. Come for the knowledge, stay for the lifelong friends you’ll make and the tribe that welcomes you back year after year.

Though the details of this year’s event have gotten fuzzier with time, I do want to mention a few highlights from this year’s conference:

-Craft day continues to be the best investment in terms of learning craft that you can make. This year I got to listen to Jim Butcher talk about developing characters and it was mind-blowingly good. Also Jim Butcher is a great storyteller – and not just on paper. If you ever have the chance to see him talk, you should take it. 10/10 would recommend.

-The VIP dinner continues to be one of the highlights of the whole conference. Yes, it’s an extra expense. Yes, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to sit with your first or even second choice author or editor. But the people who come to Superstars are of such high quality, your evening won’t be a waste no matter whose table you end up at. Just make sure you study the faculty list before you go so you don’t *almost* end up asking Jeffrey Deaver who he is. Not that I know from experience or anything.

-If you can afford it, absolutely stay at the hotel. Again, this isn’t cheap. But Superstars is the middle of winter and after the conference ends for the day, the lobby bar is the place to be. Friendships are cemented, writers groups are formed, and books are birthed with the help of a cocktail or two. It’s worth it to be able to part of that experience and not have to worry about driving somewhere in the snow at night.

I’m planning to head back to Superstars again this year for the third year in a row! If you’re interested in learning more about the event and snagging a discount code, reach out to me!

Writing Updates: Congratulations and Write On

Two rejections.

That’s how my July went.

I could stop here.

But this blog post is, after all, called “Congratulations and Write On.”

Clearly, there’s more.

The first rejection I received was for a short story I submitted to a themed anthology. On the whole, I thought the story was pretty good and one of the better things I’ve written recently. I did get a little feedback about it and I know it had been in the “maybe” pile after all the submissions were initially reviewed.

Still, at the time, this didn’t make me feel any better. I was actually pretty down about this one. I tend to think I’ve desensitized myself to rejection. Small, low-stakes rejections that feel impersonal – like writing rejections. Yes this one made me mopey for three days.

A few weeks after that, I remembered that I’d submitted a flash fiction I’d written last fall to a contest and needed to check and see if there were any updates.

There were.

I didn’t win.

Nor was I a finalist.

This rejection didn’t both me as much. A flash fiction is kind of a weird entity. I’d written the piece originally for a prompt I did with my writing group and after it was surprisingly well-received, I started shopping it around, not really sure if I’d find a home for it.

Still, two rejections in one month is not the best for a person’s confidence in their art.

One night I was sitting at my computer working on something when I saw I had a new email from the contest I’d been rejected from.

The subject line?

“Congratulations and Write On!”

I clicked it open, figuring it was just marketing ploy to get me to open an email about submitting again. That’s the problem with working in marketing. You see all the puppet strings.

But rather than a sales email (okay they did encourage me to submit again, too) I received the following message:

“Congratulations to you on being selected as an Honorable Mention for ‘Uncanny’ in the ___ Writing Awards. We’re so pleased at the chance to read and commend this fine work!

The quality was high, and you should be proud of your accomplishment. Although your piece won’t be published, I hope you’ll be gratified to know that as an Honorable Mention, you placed in approximately the top 8% of our entries (or, as I prefer to look at it, your piece beat out 92% of the competition).”

You can bet I was happy to get that email!

After I got up and told the boyfriend about my bit of exciting news, I started thinking: this one little email had turned my night around. And my month, too, as far as my writing was concerned. But what if I never received it?

.

.

.

I’d still be beating myself about being rejected twice in the same month. I would still be thinking that I’d failed. That my writing showed no promise whatsoever.

I’d still be missing the big picture.

One contest took the time to send me and however many others (or maybe this IS all part of a fantastic marketing ploy, in which case hat’s off to you) this email about being in the top 8% of the entries. Top 8% is not failing friends. That’s coming pretty damn close. That’s the luck of the draw. That’s subjectiveness.

Which made me think back on the other rejection. I knew that in the final anthology selection, only one story out of all the maybes had made the final cut. Mine wasn’t the one. But it didn’t mean my story was terrible. It just wasn’t as strong as some of the other submissions in the eyes of the reviewer.

That’s not failing. That’s coming pretty damn close. That’s the luck of the draw. That’s subjectiveness.

What an incredible, incredible gift perspective can be.

So yes, I got two rejections in July.

I didn’t fail.

I just didn’t win.

But I came pretty damn close.

Congratulations and write on!

10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Me

While this blog has been often neglected in the course of starting my business, I was thinking recently that I’ll be celebrating eight years (!!) of book blogging this December. While my blog has changed a lot over the years, I’ve never fully put it aside and I’ve built a pretty good little following over the years. Besides Facebook, Isle of Books is my longest-running internet home!

As this blog has evolved slightly towards sharing more of my personal life, I thought I’d do a fun little blog post and share ten things most people don’t about me!

 

1) I Decided I Wanted to Write Books About the Same Time I Learned How to Read

My mom read to me a ton as a kid and supplied me with books so even before I knew how to read or knew that creating books was something a normal person could do, I was already deeply in love with stories. But it was mid-way through Kindergarten before I realized I wanted writing and stories to always be part of my life. It was around Christmas and we’d spent the first few months of school learning how to write and read. We were given some assignment, the details of which escape me today, which I dutifully completed. Then, the teacher pulled me aside. I instantly thought I’d done something wrong. But it turns out she just had a note for me to give to my parents about my assignment and how much she liked it/the writing. Something to that effect. But in any case, it was the first time a teacher ever made me feel special and also the first time someone ever complimented me on my writing. It wasn’t too long after that that I learned books were actually written by normal people and well, a destiny was born.

2) I’ve Been Riding Horses for Twenty Years

Not a secret in my regular life, but maybe a secret here on the blog. I’ve been riding horses for a long time – twenty years in fact as I realized recently. And in the last twenty years, I’ve been fortunate enough to keep riding continuously. The longest break I’ve had from horses was only about a month long. Even carpal release surgery, even spraining my hip (or maybe hairline fracturing my pelvis, who knows) wasn’t enough to keep me down for long. After the carpal tunnel release surgery, I actually rode one-handed for a few months. So obsessed with horses might be an understatement. And people are constantly surprised to learn that even with as busy has life has been with launching a business, I still consistently ride at least three days a week. I think it anchors me and keeps me sane and I hope I can keep riding forever as I don’t know who I’d be without horses in my life!

3) There Are Only Two Genres of Books I Generally Won’t Read

I’ll read pretty much anything, especially if I’m in a pinch. I’d rather read a book than sit somewhere, bored. But there are two genres I generally won’t read unless a trusted friend really, really pushes me to read the book and submits to extensive questioning about it beforehand. Those genres are horror and romance. I don’t mind elements of these things, but I typically don’t read books that sit squarely in those genres.

4) When I Write a Book, I Create a Playlist for It

This is actually my favorite part of starting a new project – creating a playlist for it! I usually start with just a few songs that fit the mood or tone of the book I’m working on and add onto it over time. I listen to the playlist on repeat while writing. I think it helps me get back to the space where I want to be for the particular book and helps me focus better. I’ll usually do a mix of songs with and without vocals.

Side note: would anyone be interested in seeing my playlists if I put them up on Spotify? If so, drop me a comment below.

5) I’ve Read Over One Hundred Books in a Year

I think I’ve actually done this twice in my life and let me tell you…one hundred books in a year is A LOT. For me anyway. Some people, maybe one hundred books is easy. But not for me. I really feel like I’m reading SO much when the numbers get that high. I think my sweet spot is about a book a week so fifty or so books a year. Sixty-five is probably a comfortable max. This year though has been abysmal (nobody go look at my Goodreads right now). But one thing I’ve learned through tracking my reading is that I tend to slow down when I’m going through a major life change. So hopefully in a year or so when I’ve fully adjusted to my new life, I’ll get back to reading more. Until then, thank you to all who continue to hang around and be a subscriber to this blog!

6) I Was Nine Years Old the First Time I Was Published

I actually found this publication recently. I had an acrostic poem about whales in a book called, Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. The 1999 edition kids. But while it was cool that I got published in an actual physical book (that we still have!) I remember not being stoked on this poem. I think I did it as a school assignment during the year my school had a Gifted and Talented program and I think they either submitted it for me or showed me/my family how to do it. I just remember not really liking the poem then and now…well…let’s just say it  has NOT aged like a fine wine.

7) I Studied French for Nine Years

When I started taking French in middle school, I didn’t even remotely imagine it would lead me to taking college classes in the language! I actually picked French just because most people were signing up for Spanish and well, sometimes when people zig, I like to zag. (That’s also how I ended up in my school orchestra, not the band, playing the viola, NOT the violin) Anyway it turned out I liked French and I figured it would look good on those college applications so I kept with it through high school, even taking the AP Test my senior year. The AP Test though, and more correctly studying for the AP Test, kind of burned me out on the language. By the time the test was done, I was also done with the language. Or so I thought. Fast-forward about a year later to the spring of my first year at UCSD when I realized if I wanted to be a writing major (which I did) I needed to achieve secondary language proficiency to graduate. Basically what that amounts to is that a literature department at a school that’s known for science and engineering needs to get butts in seats. So they came up with a plan that if you majored in any of the literature department’s majors, you had to fulfill the secondary language requirement which involved taking a certain amount of upper division language classes. I had taken a year of Spanish in high school for fun and thought briefly of doing Spanish in college, but realized it would mean a lot of extra classes and time since I was much further along with French. So back to French I went. And it was great mainly because I met one of my dearest friends in French class the next fall and she is still one of my best friends today – love you K!

8) I Have Unusual Teeth

I have extra cusps on my top back molars. I think it’s called the cusp of carabelli, though no one has ever used the term with me. I recently went to see my dentist for my cleaning and the first thing he told me when he sat down is that he finally treated another patient who has teeth like me. Lol. Always fun to be one of your doctor’s anomalies…at least he remembers me! And this is very morbid, but I always think if my family ever had to identify my body at least I wouldn’t be lost because I’ve got some great dental records to go off of!

9) I Have Encyclopedic Knowledge of Dog Breeds

Growing up I really, really, REALLY wanted a dog. I watched endless hours of Breed All About It and The Eukanuba Tournament of Champions on Animal Planet,  and spent time scouring the internet to learn even more about the dog breeds I thought would be the perfect fit for our family. I never got my dog (not as a kid anyway), but in the process I gained an encyclopedic knowledge of man’s best friend.

I finally have a dog now. Can you guess what breed of dog I ended up going with after hours and hours of research?

A MUTT!

10) I’ve Never Taken a Formal Grammar Class

This one is maybe the most surprising on the entire list…am I right? Let me know in the comments below!

Everything I know about writing and sentence structure I largely learned from reading and doing. I never took one of those classes where they sat you down and said, “this is a preposition” and “here’s how you create a compound modifier”.

Another bonus fact a lot of people don’t know about me is that for a long time, I must have been an awful test taker because I constantly tested into the wrong classes. If any test was given in order to split a class into smaller groups based on skill level, I invariably found myself assigned to the lowest group only to be moved a few weeks (or months) later when my teachers realized a mistake had been made. On the upside, my self-esteem got a nice boost whenever that happened. On the downside, it created gaps in my education because usually the group I got moved into had already covered the stuff I actually didn’t know.

But I’ve learned a lot about grammar over the years through osmosis, observation, and being corrected by others. And now that I work on a computer all day, it’s easy for me to look up anything I’m not sure about. Still can’t tell you what a conjunction is without looking it up. But hey, there’s something to be said for being industrious!

 

Now it’s your turn…what’s something most people don’t know about you? Leave me a comment below!

Writing Updates: Shadow of the Magician and More

That’s a pretty cool sight, right?

As a writer, having all those words you’ve written in book format is really just an indescribable feeling. I can’t even accurately tell you what that feels like except damn good.

In May I finished the most recent draft of Shadow of the Magician. I’m really excited about where it’s finally gotten to and feel this is about the absolute best I can do with it, so it’s time to stop picking at it and start moving it forward.

It’s been heavily workshopped over the last year and change by my writing group and now I’m moving to the beta reader stage. As most of the readers in my beta group are 40+, I decided they probably didn’t want to read almost a 100,000 word book in PDF format. Plus one of my writing friends turned me on to the fact that yes, you CAN print on demand small runs of books for not very much money. I ordered from Lulu’s and ended up getting the books for about $10 a piece. I think the quality of the books turned out great, considering I’m entirely an amateur in terms of formatting books and making a cover. That wasn’t really my goal though, to create a copy that would be for sale. I just wanted something that would make it so much easier for my beta readers to read and (hopefully) enjoy.

There are now ten of these review copies in the world. Maybe they’ll be worth something someday. At the very least, it’s worth something to me. To other writers, I highly recommend doing this to your work…I think going forward I’ll create at least a few copies of every book I finish. If your goal is to publish traditional and you don’t sell it, man the satisfaction of having that thing for yourself is so, so good. Like I could get addicted to it.

My goal with this book is to hopefully publish it traditionally. So the next step after the beta read is to review their feedback, fix it, and then begin the process of submitting to agents.

I’m crossing my fingers that I can finish the next round of edits in a timely fashion, get my materials together, and start submitting to agents this fall before they shut down over the holidays. We’ll see if my work schedule actually allows for that. But I am trying to restructure and reorganize to inject better balance in my life because what I’ve been doing, it ain’t workin’ for me and it needs to change in a big way.

Along with finishing this draft of Shadow, I also wrote and submitted a short story to an anthology. Really crossing my fingers it makes it in. That short story takes place slightly after the events of Shadow (though it features different characters) and will serve as a bridge into a future book in the same world (or maybe two). I haven’t started trying to plot any future stories yet. I have two ideas and I feel I could do them both or just do one if I don’t feel I have enough meat for the both of them. But I need to do a lot more reading and research to start developing those ideas to see if they amount to anything.

If you’ve seen me any time in the last two months, you’re probably floored that I actually managed to do this much on the writing front. But wait! There’s more…

I wrote a flash fiction story in the fall, something completely different, and had a grand idea to maybe start serially publishing more stories in that world on this blog. For all that this has been my personal book and writing corner for the last eight years (!!!), there’s a distinct lack of my own writing on here for general consumption which I think is kind of a problem. So I started outlining a longer short story or maybe a novella I could serially publish on here….but then it quickly started to feel like that story was going to be another book. Or maybe more than one book. In any case, I ended up finishing an outline for whatever that work ultimately decides to be when I dig into it. So I got that done too!

I also have a draft of another book I had written a few years ago, before I decided I wanted to dig in and finish Shadow. I still really, really like that story and that world and I want to go back to it. It’ll probably need a total rewrite because it’s been three years (or maybe four?) and the opinion of pretty much everyone who saw my writing in 2018 and 2019, is that along with everything else going on in my life, I made really big strides forward in my writing abilities. Yay for that, but it means any of these other projects I have from the past that I might want to pick up again need to be revamped. Le sigh.

My group has really encouraged me to start something new though and not get stuck trying to improve something old. I think they’re right because it was really, really hard and discouraging at times for me to work through everything I needed to do with Shadow. Sometimes I felt like giving up on writing entirely. But as I said, I still really like the draft story I have even though I wonder that with our current climate of political correctness and sensitivity readers, whether I should even be trying to tell that story.

What I do know is that I’m not going to start another book right away. I want to write a few short stories set before the beginning of Shadow and I should work on the query letter and crafting some synopses of different lengths for Shadow while I wait on the feedback from beta readers. I also have a few more small fact-checking related items to look into which will require some emails to different people.

 

Reflections on a Year in Business

“Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith.”

A year ago, I was clinging to this quote like a life raft. Trying to believe it was all going to work out, one way or another.

When I wrote this, I was sitting on a bench in Central Park. The night before, I’d worn the fanciest dress I’ve ever owned to a black tie dinner at The Grand Havana room in New York City for a client fundraiser.

A year ago I would never have imagined this would be my life. Never would have imagined the opportunities that were in front of me. The people I’d get to meet and help.

This year passed both fast and slow. Fast in that I can’t believe it’s only been a year since I was staring down the mouth of a major life change. Slow because the sheer amount of things that have been stuffed into the last twelve months makes it feel as if I’ve been running this business for at least a decade.

I haven’t done a good job at keeping up on this blog with updates on how my entrepreneurial journey unfolded. But frankly, most of this last year was just blindingly busy. I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life – which is saying a lot because I’ve always worked hard.

There have been days full of tremendous doubt, incredibly solitary moments of doing battle with my own anxiety, and long nights of wondering if I’ll look back at these years and think them worth it.

But on the other end, there have been many moments of pure joy, utter excitement, and intense creativity. From publications to a simple, sincere “Thank You,” life is a revelation. I believe it is our duty to squeeze every drop of feeling from the moments around us, for good or for ill.

And I will say when you work this hard, every moment of relaxation is that much sweeter. Even an afternoon shooting the shit with the neighbors with a beer in hand is full of as much unadulterated happiness as laying on the beach in Mexico sipping a fruity drink. I would know, I’ve done both in the last year.

Things are far from perfect at the moment. There is much I’d like to change about my business, but for the moment, even being here is a gift not afforded many. I’ll be 30 in about seven months and while I had hoped for different things at this stage in my life, I believe that everything is unfolding as planned. I still have time and thus far, I have been tremendously and abundantly blessed.

So if you’ve read this far, it’s probably a good time to share what I’ve learned in the last year of business. The things that I didn’t uncover on any book or podcast, the things I had to learn through doing. If you are thinking of starting your own business, I hope you’ll take these truths to heart:

1. You Have to Get Your Mind Right

This is a huge, huge thing. I’ve learned that almost nothing else matters if your mind is not right. If you are not in a good place, your business won’t be in a good place. So it is absolutely crucial that you block, deny, and eviscerate anything that is significantly pulling you down. You have to be selfish about controlling your input and be sure that you are nurturing your mind and your spirit always. However that looks for you, that is what you have to do. Even if no one else understands, you have to be courageous in looking after yourself.

2. Your Network is Your Net Worth

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so afraid a year ago if I had known this truth. The people around you are your riches in business. Even if they don’t or can’t work with you directly, treat everyone like gold. I’ve gotten referrals from the most unexpected places and people. I’ve had people I haven’t talked to in years re-enter my life or send me business because of a remembered kindness from years ago. When treated right, your network becomes both your army and shield.

3. Love Those Around You

A few weeks ago a thought started kicking around in my head: “You get more grace than you deserve”.

But I don’t think that’s true.  Instead, I’ve decided, you get the grace you deserve. When you love people well, treat them right, and do everything you can for them, when you need grace, love, and kindness in return, they will give it to you in spades. It’s as simple as that. And the ones that won’t…well they’re not your people anyway.

So today, I’m looking forward to another 365 day journey around the sun with my business and I absolutely can’t wait to see where I’ll be sitting a year from now. Thanks for being here with me and supporting this little dream one way or another. It means the world to know you’re out there ❤️