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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
I’m excited to share that my short fiction story, “Homecoming”, is out in the April issue of The Plaid Horse magazine. I won Honorable Mention in their 2018 Equestrian Voices Creative Writing Contest. So cool to see the story in print! If you get the magazine, make sure to take a look at the story and let me know what you think! You can also check it out in the online issue here.
On other writing news, I’m also finishing up a short story submission for a pirate-themed anthology that’s due later this month. Along with Homecoming, this is one of the first completely new pieces I’ve wrote in a long, long time – I’d almost forgotten how fun it is to be creating! My story is set in the same world as my novel, Shadow of the Magician, and is also a work of historical fiction with supernatural elements. I’m honestly having so much fun coming up with more ideas for this world and I wish I had more time to write.
Speaking of needing more time to write, I am slowly chipping away at my last round of edits for Shadow. I have been working a lot on Minute Marketing the last few months and have not been able to find adequate time or energy to devote to finishing it so we have been crawling along. But we are slowly getting there!
As always, I am again trying to figure out what I’m doing with my blog. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been reading lately. Like at all. I’m in the middle of two books and they’re both just hanging around, waiting patiently for me to pick them up again. I’m still trying to read Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas and Talk Triggers by Jay Baer. I don’t think it’s the fault of either book, I just haven’t felt like reading lately. Hopefully I’ll get over that soon. My book club just picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman for our May read – so I guess have to get started on that too. Have you read it?
Anyway back to the blog – I’m planning to get back to weekly posts. I also created an email list if you’d like to join. I have high hopes of putting together a semi-regular email with maybe the new release books I’m most excited about, some excerpts of whatever I’m writing, and maybe some exclusive writing content. Not positive on what it will be yet, but I’d love to have you as a subscriber! I love my blog and writing and hope to put more time into creating content here again soon! ❤ Thank you for being here in my corner of the internet!
Still alive. Just busy. Will get back to regular updates eventually and will share some of what’s been occupying my time soon. (Hint: it’s the business)
Still writing. I think I’m on track (hope I’m on track) to have all my edits done for Shadow of the Magician done by the end of the year. And I wrote and submitted another short story to a contest, so cross your fingers and toes for me!
Still reading. I actually have three (!!) book reviews on deck.
Still riding. Escobar and Pia are great, they are both starting to get fuzzy for (SoCal) winter and are incredibly cute.
But just dropping by this weekend to share the cover of the Cursed Collectibles anthology which I have a story in. Can’t wait to share the actual release date and more details about purchasing! This will be a physical book, which is SO exciting!! Let me know what you think about the cover in the comments below!
I had hoped for better this month, but September seems to be more of the same.
But I found out this afternoon a short story I had submitted will be published in a forthcoming anthology called Cursed Collectibles!
I don’t think I’ve written any short fiction the last few years as I’ve been focused on working on my books, but when I saw the topic of the anthology, I knew I had the perfect story to submit. It’s a story I had written for a class in college that’s been collecting dust on my hard drive. Of course, I ended up re-writing the whole thing anyway prior to submitting (at the suggestion of my writer’s group). But it was worth it because that story, now called “The Garden Party”, has a home! Yay!
Okay, so this conference happened at the end of January…yes, JANUARY! Better late than never on this review, right?
One of the reasons I did still want to do this review though is because this is the best writing conference I’ve ever been to. Seriously.
My neighbor has gone many times before and she was always telling me how would I like it and I should really come. I was resistant mostly because it’s an investment to travel to Colorado Springs where it’s held every year. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t get anything out of it? It’s a long conference – it would be a lot of time off from my job and there was hotel, airfare, and meals.
But after the SDSU conference went on hiatus for 2018, I decided I would apply for the scholarship open to first year attendees. And after the application process, I was now so invested I had basically decided I was going to go even if I didn’t get the scholarship. I didn’t so I registered for everything in November.
I was excited about our hotel because the conference takes place at the Antlers. The Antlers is a historic hotel and while the hotel as it stands is not the original (it’s the third hotel of the same name on the same site), what’s notable about The Antlers is that Nikola Tesla might have stayed there instead of at the Alta Vista in 1899 if The Antlers hadn’t burnt to the ground the year before. You can read more about my Colorado Springs historic hotel research here. And while the Alta Vista has been gone for more than fifty years, I figured The Antlers would have some info about its history somewhere in the hotel. And I was right! They had pictures! I actually spent an hour one day walking around the hotel and photographing all of their pictures to file with my research. I didn’t expect to have much time to explore Colorado Springs (and I didn’t) so it was nice to be able to get those photos. I actually went to Colorado Springs a few years ago and took myself on a photographic research tour. You can see that story and photos here.
By the time January rolled around, I was pretty stressed. Superstars ended up being sandwiched between two horse shows and my birthday. I’d also picked up a couple clients and was trying to do that and my regular job beside it. I considered not going to the conference even though everything was pretty much already paid for because life felt very overwhelming. But I took a deep breath, told myself I would figure it out, and packed my bags for Colorado.
We flew into Colorado Springs which I have never done before. It was weird to be in my home state, but not seeing my family or any of my friends. I did have one friend I planned to go see in Colorado Springs, but as luck would have it, that didn’t end up working out so it really was a trip home without seeing any of the people who make it home.
One of the things that makes Superstars different is that there’s an emphasis on tribe and community. And that starts from the moment you show up because other members of the tribe that live local or are already in town volunteer to pick people up from the two airports. My neighbor and I ended up getting picked up with a guy from Texas who had also never been to Superstars before. We’re now all in a writing group together so if you needed a reference point for how well the tribe thing works, that pretty much tells you all you need to know!
My neighbor has been coming to Superstars for years so she knew tons of people which meant I immediately got introduced to tons of people. Everyone was very nice and welcoming even if I was a little overwhelmed. But after a few days, I started to remember people and made a few friends of my own.
Overall, what set this conference apart for me beyond the instruction was the people. So many friendly people. And so many people invested in making relationships, not acquaintances. I still talk to and interact with people I met at the conference beyond the ones that are now part of my writer’s group. And that is pretty darn cool.
Okay, so on to the instruction! I can honestly say I learned so much at the conference. It’s really a conference about the business of writing, how to make it a business, how to build a brand, and how to build a career for a lifetime. The first day is optional and it’s a “craft day” which is your traditional writing conference fare of topics related to the actual writing of stories. It was definitely good, don’t get me wrong, but the business of writing sessions were really life-changing for my process and my work.
I’ve always been very serious about wanting to write books. I’m also just pretty practical (at least in this sense, the rest of my life is debatable) and I’ve worked hard to find and create a career outside of writing. Because I love writing, books, and everything associated with being a writer, but I have no interest in starving for my art. That’s my personal line in the sand and you can say what you want about that, call me not a “real writer” or not dedicated enough because I don’t write everyday or because I’m not willing to be a starving artist, but I don’t care. I know who I am, what I was put on this Earth to do, and I also know how deep my dedication runs.
Anyway. Mini rant over. So, what was really life-changing for me was I really came around to the idea of thinking of each of my books as a product. It’s not a book, it’s a product for sale, and if the market does not want it, there’s not much you can do about that. You can attempt to fix it, but at some point you might need to concede defeat and try something else. That has been really life-changing in my approach to my process and goals. I’ve been working on Shadow of the Magician off and on since the spring of 2012. I wrote a couple drafts of another book called Haven’s Gate in the meantime that I never was able to get representation for. And I wrote an untitled draft of the first book in a sci-fi trilogy. But I have largely been consumed by this project at different points over the last six years and I’ve lost track of what number draft I’m on. I think six or seven because the story has had three huge development shifts that prompted complete rewrites. But my point now is that this is the last time around. If this doesn’t do it, I’m moving on to something else because life is short and I have more stories I want to write.
I took tons of notes during the lectures and really learned so much that I didn’t know about the way publishing works, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing. I met writers at all different stages in their careers, published and not. I got to hear from Branden Sanderson, Jonathan Maberry, James Owen, Dave Farland, and Kevin J. Anderson which was all really fantastic. I also had lunch with Jonathan and dinner with James a few times. Those are the kinds of experiences that Superstars gives you!
I also got to practice pitching my book and finally felt like I truly get the difference between the hook, the pitch, and the synopsis and how to create them. This is essential information for any aspiring authors and it’s an art all in itself. If you’ve ever asked me or someone else whose writing a book what the book is about and you got back a rambling, disjointed answer, it’s because writing the book is one thing. Being able to distill the 85,000 words that are in the book and the 40,000 that are on the cutting room floor and the 30,000 that make up your notes and the countless books you read while doing research and all the internet rabbit holes you went down into just a paragraph or a pithy sentence is a mighty tall order.
I am looking forward to heading back to Superstars next winter for the 10th anniversary conference! You can find out more about the 2019 Superstars Writing Seminars conference here and if you have more questions about my experience, just let me know! Also if you are thinking about going, I can get you a discount code for $100 off your registration! This discount is good until November 1, 2018.