Shorter. Sweeter?

I’ve submitted the draft of my story “Abso”* for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the process.

(I just thought in my head “Number One” and now the rest of “Ten Duel Commandments” is spiraling through my head, because my household is OBSESSED with Hamilton.**)

Okay. Ahem.

a507601f10e1f5f390c37557dcd0e99e_animal-number-1-http-www-number-1-clipart-png_424-600Writing a short story with a VERY strict word limit of 2,500 words is oddly purifying. My story is set on Mars (no, I’m not ripping off The Martian). The physical location of the story is therefore stark and harsh and somewhat sterile, yet full of beauty and a type of purity. I cut Every Possible Word from my original draft, then fleshed out certain places, then had to cut more words to compensate for the additions. What I was left with felt very much like Mars itself. The ruthless word counting improved the story so very much in the end.

 

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I enjoy writing short fiction. Why don’t I do it more? New resolve: to write more short stories and to look into SFF publishing markets for such things. To do list: Work on new edits for Waxing Moon, Finish draft of Rising Wolf, write short fiction when I need a break from this trilogy, work on the other novel idea that’s rattled around in my head for a year.

 

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Not only do I enjoy writing short stories, I’m enamored with “Abso,” the short story I wrote for this contest. Now…who knows what the judges will think about it, and I make no prediction.

However:

 

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I’m certain this story has legs. I will rework it–probably add another 500 words so that I can deepen the development of one character. And I’m going to submit it for publication, regardless of how it does in the contest.

number-58

 

I even see the possibility for a set of linked short stories about this world and these characters. Musing on that. I’ve not written linking short stories before, but I will read some of that genre and think about the option.

 

All right, folks. Well, those are my musings on the contest and my short story. We’ll hear from the judges in March and I’ll let you know the results. If you want to read it, shoot me an email.

Now: back to my main WIP. Or editing. So much to do!

 

*Autocorrect wants to turn Abso into Also and it is driving me mad with its insistence.

* We are seeing Hamilton in Chicago over Labor Day Weekend! I know that is in like a zillion years, but we are thrilled. Also: side note to the side note, for a few days after my three children became obsessed with Hamilton, I had them agree to say, “Here comes the General! Rise up!” whenever I came into the room. That. Was. Amazing. Sadly, they have discontinued the practice.

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#AmWriting

 

Hello everyone! The weather in Evansville, IN has been dreary, dreary, dreary, and more dreary. And today? It’s dreary.

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So, what can brighten these dreary days? Well, writing, of course!

I’m working on book three of Calling the Moon, some days quickly, some days slowly. The words pour down like a monsoon, or drip-drip-drip like run-off from lifeless winter branches. Either way, though, the water accumulates.

In the next couple of days, I’ll take a break from my WIP* to participate in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. This is a contest with an entry fee, so some might urge you to stay away–and indeed, you shouldn’t consider it if you don’t have the money to spare. The chances of winning a prize are slim, because there are a LOT of entrants.

However…it is FUN. Like. Fun. Image result for balloons sky

The contest is pretty random. You receive a specific writing prompt and have a limited time to write a story within a tight word limit. For the first round, you have 8 days to write no more than 2,500 words. The prompt consists of a genre, a subject, and a character.

Last year, when I received my first prompt, I stared at the screen and thought, “Oh, hell no.” But then…the ideas started to percolate. And then…I started to get excited about it. And before I knew it, I’d written a story that was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone and genres of choice.

What fun! The contest also has a pretty great forum, full of potential crit buddies and commiseration.

I’ll post my prompt when I receive it, which will likely be very early Saturday morning. What genre will I get? Horror? Crime Caper? Comedy? We shall see!

 

*Work in Progress. You probably all know that, but I would hate for someone to be annoyed and have to Google an unknown acronym.

So Many Publishing Choices??!

Yo, folks. A couple of people have asked me questions recently about all the different types of publishing–what are they? How can you tell if a press is a vanity press? Why should one choose one publishing path over another?

Image result for confusionI don’t have all the answers, but I might be able to clear up some of the confusion.

For most publishing decisions, there’s not ONE right way and all the other ways are wrong. Authors may have reasons to choose any one of the options.

Large Traditional Publishing Houses: 

When most people think about publishing, this may be what comes to mind. We’re talking about your Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster,Tor etc. If you want to go this route, you need to secure a literary agent first. Most of the largest publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from the author–the literary agent serves as your intermediary. These publishers still offer a traditional advance to the author. The author then earns royalties on sales after the advance has been “earned out.” Literary agents take a share of the money for representing and helping the author. Large publishers provide full editing and cover art for the author. They have varying levels of support for author promotion, depending on the author, the market, and the publisher.

Small Publishing Houses: 

Smaller publishing houses will often take direct queries from authors without a literary
agent. Many, though not all, smaller publishers specialize in e-books and focus on the e-book market. Some also release paper russian-matryoshka-stacking-babushka-wooden-dolls-meaningbooks, either through a specific press or a print-on-demand service. Some do not! If you’re considering a small publishing house, you will want to make sure to ask questions about e-books vs. paper books. Most smaller publishers do not offer a sizable advance, if they offer an advance at all. They typically work on a royalty model, where the author earns an agreed-upon percentage of money earned by sales. They do provide full editing and cover art for the author, and may provide help with promotion. They usually release to online stores like Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, but it may be harder to find these books on the shelves of your local physical bookstores.

Vanity Presses: 

If you’re not sure what to look for, a vanity press can easily be mistaken for a small publishing house. Vanity presses pass along publication fees to the author, either as a cost split with the press or as a cost borne by the author alone. For instance, if you receive a contract from a press who asks you to bear half the costs of editing, preparing, and publishing the work, then this would be considered a vanity press. Such presses do offer things like editing and cover art, but you are paying for those services.

Self-Publishing: 

Self-publishing sounds like what it is: an author works without a publishing house to make their book available to the public. These are usually e-books, but there are often print-on-demand options. An author may choose to self publish in order to keep a greater percentage of the profits from sales. Sometimes well-known authors self-publish because they already have an audience base and do not need the help of a publishing house. Some self-published authors do hire editors and cover artists to produce very fine works; others may not seek outside help and might not produce as professional a product. If you’re thinking about self-publishing, you will want to think about all of those issues: editors, cover artists, promotion platform, reaching your audience.

Hope this helps a bit! Here are some good links on these issues:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/12/how-to-choose-the-best-method-for-publishing-your-book/

https://www.writingforward.com/news-announcements/getting-published/types-of-publishing-companies

https://www.ribbonfish.co.uk/blog/a-short-guide-to-the-different-types-of-publishing/

 

 

 

Chip off the (Writer’s) Block*

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Writer’s block. You may heard of it. You may have lived it. The words alone might fill you with dread. You may wake up from nightmares about The Awful Writer’s Block of Overwhelming Pain with tears streaming down your face and panic lodged in your throat. Um… Maybe that one’s just me.

I don’t have all the answers, but I DO have some experience with TAWBOP and I thought I might share.

Image result for stressAlmost seven years ago, I went through a series of Major Life Events which created emotional upheaval, stress, disruption, stress, destruction of my faith in the goodness of humankind, stress, financial peril, and did I mention stress? Yeah, some stress, too. We don’t need to go into the details, but suffice it to say that the MLE involved pretty much all the big life stressors wrapped into one big ball of uncertainty.

And I stopped writing. For years. And I do mean YEARS. Nearly six years, which is a Really Long Time Not to Write. Major case of TAWBOP.

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It felt like death. Like the death of all my creativity. I couldn’t access any of it. I couldn’t remember any joy I’d ever taken in putting words on paper. I couldn’t imagine having enough spare emotion and energy to bring something to life.

I would sit and try to write. I might bang out a sentence before I’d just look at the cursor taunting me with its blinks.

blink YOU SUCK blink YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY blink I’M WAITING blink WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU blink WORDS blink YOU HAVE NO WORDS blink WHY DO YOU BOTHER blink WHAT’S THE POINT blink WHO CARES ANYWAY blink YOU’RE WORTHLESS blink YOUR WRITING IS MEANINGLESS blink blink blink blink BTW DID I MENTION YOU SUCK K THX BYE blink

I had nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all to give.

In all fairness, let me rephrase that: everything I could possibly give was already being given to myself and to my kids, to get us through these MLE with our lives, hearts, and selves whole.

So…when I phrase it like that, you might think, “Good job, Sarah! You were right! It was more important to take care of those Real People than it was to write about Fictional People! You did a great job meeting the Real Needs of the Moment!”

I see that now. Image result for writer's block

At the time, though, I added a pile of extra pressure and anger onto TAWBOP. I was furious that I wasn’t writing. I talked to myself in all those ways one should not talk to oneself: I was lazy, I was a failure, I’d never write again, I wasn’t a real writer. The more angry I was with myself, the more TAWBOP grew, like a monster fed by my own hatred.

Hate Monster by Watyrfallhttp://watyrfall.deviantart.com/art/Hate-Monster-187488154

I didn’t have six whole years of Hellacious Stress. The real crux of the MLE tormented me for about a year–and even that year had bright moments shining like sun spots. However, that year drained something from me for so long that TAWBOP stuck around, poking me with its cleaver-sharp claws and gnashing its gnarled teeth.

Now. To be clear: TAWBOP is different than the moments when you fight for every word. TAWBOP doesn’t mean you think what you write sucks and will need a lot of editing. TAWBOP doesn’t mean you’re tired or unmotivated. All writers experience these moments and we all know that the best way out is through–just keep swimming, just bang out the words even when they are halting and slow.

TAWBOP sucked the very life-energy from my creative soul. It was a blankness so complete that it had no end. And my anger over not writing fed TAWBOP’s soul, fanned its flames higher.

So. How did I banish TAWBOP?

First, I finally learned to be gentle with myself. I told myself it was okay not to write. I even told myself it was okay to never write again, not ever in my whole life, and that it would be okay if no word I wrote ever saw the light of publication.

Second, after listening to myself say all that stuff for, well, for years, I thought: okay, if writing doesn’t matter and it would be okay to never, ever publish anything, maybe I should see if there is any bit of joy in it. Maybe if I write something that’s totally different. Something where I’m out of my comfort zone. Something with no real point.

At that point, I entered a writing contest–a totally different type of contest than Image result for funanything I’d done. I needed that external push (I PAID to be in this contest and there were REAL deadlines) and I needed to do something completely new. For this contest, each writer received a genre, a subject, and a character. We then had a very limited time to write and a very short word count to use. My first prompt was: historical fiction, protest, and a narcissist. WHAT? What was this? Wow…this was… kind of fun. I’d never write anything like that if left to my own devices. And I wrote it… This… Hmmm…

Yup. The joy in writing. That’s when it re-emerged.

And you know what? TAWBOP can’t stand when you’re joyful about writing.

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I know my journey is just that: my journey. Might not be helpful to you, if you’re feeling the claws and teeth of TAWBOP.

But…maybe try to be more gentle with yourself. Maybe trust yourself, that you’re guarding your energy for a reason. Maybe be as nice to yourself as you would be to this ADORABLE HAPPY KITTEN.

And maybe, just maybe try writing something completely different than what you’ve ever written? If you write romance, try a thriller. If you write sci-fi, try a choose your own adventure. I dunno. Do something crazy. See if you might find your way into the joy and banish TAWBOP for good.

 

 

*Also known as the Blog Entry of Random Capitalization, BERC for short.

 

 

Journey to Publishing

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On these long winter nights, I thought you might be desperately seeking a blog to read AND wondering, “How did Sarah get Dark Moon Wolf published?” This post is meant to satisfy your boredom and your questions! Drum roll! Golf claps!

Image result for biteI started writing Dark Moon Wolf about ten years ago, so buckle up, kiddos: this is a bit of a journey. When my son Zack was four months old, he bit me so hard I still have a scar on my shoulder.* At the time, a bunch of swear words rushed through my mind (and perhaps out of my mouth), and then I thought, “Well, at least he’s not a Werewolf.**” Quickly followed by: Wait, what if he WERE a Werewolf? How would he have become a Werewolf? Wouldn’t that mean everything we think we know about Weres is wrong? What happens if we reimagine Werewolves? What would it be like to be the mother of a Werewolf? So began the journey of Dark Moon Wolf.

After I finished the novel, worked with beta readers & crit partners, and edited it a bunch of times, I secured a literary agent. That process took about 15 months. I found the agent through traditional queries, and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I was able to sign with someone. After another couple of rounds of editing, the agent submitted DMW to some of the large presses. We had interest and several readers, but didn’t end up with a contract. At that point, I became distracted with a number of other projects and life events, so DMW lay fallow for quite a long time. For about six years, in fact.

Last spring, I unearthed some of my writing and set back to work. I decided to shop DMW to smaller presses, so I ended my relationship with the agent.*** I sent queries to several small presses, received two immediate requests for the full manuscript, and quickly received two offers and contracts. Then came the agonizing decision. I went back and forth a bit between the two presses, talked to several of their authors, and finally made my decision to go with The Wild Rose Press and their Black Rose paranormal line.

After the contract, came another six months of three editing rounds, plus several rounds of proofing!****Image result for happy birthday images cupcakes

And now my book’s birthday is about 6 weeks away! I am equally excited and terrified. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

*Zack wasn’t some vicious monster. He was teething and he had horrible acid reflux, so his urge to clamp down on me spawned out of his discomfort…not anger or hatred. Also: I have NO IDEA why I am such a weirdo that my second thought was gladness that my son’s not a Werewolf. Random as hell.

**After much debate with my editor, we chose to capitalize Werewolf (and Witch and all other paranormal races). This decision was mostly to stave off confusion surrounding my use of the word Were, which, when not capitalized, looks like the verb were. It made no sense to capitalize Were and not werewolf. I know you were DYING to ask that question! We really did go back and forth and back and forth on this one.

***Most agents don’t submit to smaller presses, since there’s just not enough money in the deals!

****There are probably still errors we didn’t catch! When you read it and find some, don’t tell me! Argh! Let me live with the delusion that it’s a perfect manuscript with absolutely no errors! Sigh. Just kidding. If you catch something, you can tell me. Most books end up with a couple of errors. I remember my tattered copy of Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey, said that Lord Fax “sent ot Crom” instead of “sent to Crom.”

Lessons from My Editor

I thought perhaps you might enjoy hearing  some of the simple lessons I learned during the editing process for Dark Moon Wolf and Waxing Moon.

– You can delete the word “that” almost all the time. Yeah. I know this, but apparently my fingers forget it when typing.

– I am overly enamored with the -ing form of verbs. Was standing. Was looking. Was saying. Was thinking. Was eating. Uh, Sarah? Did you mean stood? Looked? Said? Thought? Ate? 🙂 Yeah…we thought so.

– I think I know how to use commas, but sometimes I’m totally wrong. I need to study the week on commas in my friend Andrea’s university course on grammar…

– Gaze. Not eyes. Peoples’ eyes don’t literally follow you. Uh…thank goodness?! Now I’m imagining peoples’ eyes jumping out of their faces and hopping around after me.

– Fewer exclamation points. No, really. Yeah, even fewer than that. Thanks.

After sooooo many rounds of revisions and edits before my manuscript even made it to my editor, I am amazed how many of these simple issues still exited in my text. I am grateful to my editor Lara Parker for helping me clean and streamline my writing! Dark Moon Wolf is tighter after working with her and I know my future manuscripts will reach her in better shape because of all this work.