Impenetrable Fog

The past couple of months have been a haze. It feels like everything has run together. I spent weeks in the hospital as a patient and now I’ve spent weeks at the hospital watching over my daughter. It’s been exhausting and emotionally trying. 


What’s surprised me the most is my reaction to rejection. 

I used to check my email obsessively after querying or around contest winner announcements. 

I’ve been so worried about my daughter that I didn’t even think about writing. During the last part of my pregnancy, I was too sick to think of much at all. 

Today I received an email about a contest I’d entered. I honestly had to sit and think about the piece since I couldn’t remember what it was. 


A little over a week ago I received another email from an agent letting me know they were passing on what I had sent them. I sent the query so long ago I’ve written multiple revisions since then and I also had to think about who it was.  It was around a year ago.  I’d figured her rejection was silent. 

There have been times where receiving a rejection letter could really make me have a hard day. I suspected that during times like these it might make me sad. Instead I suppose I’m too exhausted to feel anything about them – I’m in an impenetrable fog. I look forward to normalcy and writing again (or at least a new normal). I hope that’s sooner than later. When that happens, I’ll probably take the rejections harder again.

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Recommendation Overload: So Many Books and Not Enough Time 

Amazon has 1.8 million books. According to techcrunch.com there is one new book on Amazon every 5 minutes. 


On one level of thinking, many of those books are self-published and didn’t go through the rigorous editing and revision that a book coming from the Big 5. At the same time I have read indie books that were excellent. 


It’s impossible to read *all* the books. An article I read a while back opined that suggesting books and TV shows to others is rude, intrusive, and not helpful. At the same time, when people find out I write then they inevitably tell me who their favorite author is and recommend a book. Sometimes the suggestions seem worthwhile and I note them. Other times they sound awful and I mentally block the book. 


At times I’ve felt like I don’t know my genre as well as I should because I haven’t read all these books. Other times I’ve realized that the suggestions I receive have little to do with the books I enjoy most. No wonder I haven’t read them: I don’t like supernatural romance. I’m not into YA urban dystopianism. In fact, as sacrilegious as it may sound, I don’t enjoy YA fantasy that much. Three of my favorite authors write YA fantasy, but recent YA hasn’t hooked me. I want to read about adults- not children. I want to read about the distant future or a far off world; I want an element of escapism and not a book club type contemporary fantasy with low fantasy. 


How does one find the next book to read? At The Seymour Agency’s Writer’s Winter Escape, it intrigued me that the agents said these sub-genres like the cozy mystery were pretty much invented by bookstores. At the same time it’s easy to see why that’s a practical move. There are three sources that have pushed me to read books beyond just random suggestions. 


The first is finding an agent I like and reading the books that agent represents in my genre that have been recently published. This shows me what sold in the recent past. 

The second source that’s influenced me is looking at the catalogs online of the Big 5 and seeing what they’re putting out and what of that catches my eye. 


Lastly with Amazon there are several ways to explore new books – relevance, average customer reviews, and new releases. In Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she talks about how much of a funnel Amazon is with books. 

People want a book for entertainment, inspiration or information. If you’re not a brand-name author already, your non-fiction book is more likely to be discovered if it answers someone’s question or helps them solve a problem.
So how do people find these books? They search by category on the bookstores and they also use the search bar to try and find something relevant. They type in keywords or keyword phrases into Amazon or Google and see what comes up. Amazon is basically a search engine for people who are actively ready to buy…

With books, like TV show recommendations, if a name keeps popping up then it grabs my attention. Otherwise I take recommendations with a grain of salt. My tastes are probably not the same as yours. My goals for reading may not be the same as yours either. Find what works for you, and don’t let yourself be bogged down in recommendation overload. 

Not the first time 

We turned on the TV and a pundit on “Real Time with Bill Mather” who claimed that in 230 years of American History the first woman to run for president was Hillary Clinton. 

The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1870. 

Women’s equality has been a long journey and we haven’t reached the destination yet. 

Long Time No Post 

I learned a lot from the Seymour Agency’s 2017 Writer’s Winter Escape. This has made me want to reinvent my blogging experience completely and I haven’t entirely worked that out lately. I’m still doing a lot of reading. 

So very soon you can expect a post on a book I read and loved (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) and board games we’ve bought over the past few months (Back to the Future, Mysterium, and a few others). 

On the topic of board games, my husband and I went to MACE West a few weeks ago and I was exposed to some wonderful board games that I can’t wait to share with you:

– Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure 

– Nevermore

– Defenders of the Realm

– Cave Trolls

– Fury of Dracula
This year has been full of changes but I”ll soon catch my rhythm. 
Best Wishes! 

#amreading the best of this week

1 – 32 Secrets of Confident People

The gem:

Our mind is a very powerful tool, and the impact of our thoughts and words cannot be underestimated. Our thoughts create our emotions. Our emotions create our actions. Our actions create our life. Confident people have greater control over their minds and have tuned their mental station to one of ‘I can.’


This is my word for the year. By the end of the year will I be confident? Will I have transformed from my demure self? Maybe not but I hope to make progress.

2 – Altered Perceptions

The gem:

 It’s also important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter OUR perception in the creative process either, because our readers are inevitably going to make what they will of the characters and the plot points. 

I recently read another article about how each person reads a different book because they go into the book expecting different things. We have different human experiences and have read different books so we each bring something different to the table.

3 – Be Fearless and Conquer All That Life Throws at You

The gem:

Instead of praying for sanctuary from fear and doubt, pray for courage and strength to confront fear and doubt.


I think we could all learn from Xena from time to time.

4 – On being free

The gem:

There’s nothing worse in a democratic country than feeling powerless, feeling as if your freedom is being taken away a little bit at a time.

I’ve had a difficult time with the Trump administration and get a feeling of dread each day when I watch the news, but there are other countries also facing difficulties that I don’t hear on the national news.  I don’t know what news sources you watch, so I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but Romania is undergoing protests because of corruption being basically legalized.

Yes, our country has problems and some of them have international repercussions.  We cannot ignore the other problems that are going on in the world.


While we had a Women’s March (which I agree with), Russia was taking a step backwards in women’s rights and decriminalized domestic abuse.  Should we ignore that women in the US have unequal pay? Or that birth control is difficult for some women to access? Or that we live in a rape culture? No. We shouldn’t be silent about women across the world, though.

Also in international news, Civillians killed in worsening Ukraine Conflict amid concern Donald Trump’s stance could be emboldening rebels. We owe it to the world to not remain silent when we see injustice.

5 – The Scary Truth about Writing Strong Themes

The gem: 

True things have a way of changing people’s lives. Who knows? Maybe that person will even be you.


Writing about real life experiences is scary. People read them and then give you feedback and it’s like they’re commenting on your history. I talked about this in Writing about What Hurts, I talked about this. When we are real we can finally communicate the truths we want. It’s worth overcoming your fears to be real. 

#amreading: the best of this week

1.  #AUTHORS: GET REAL ON #SOCIALMEDIA AND READERS WILL RESPOND #ASMSG #IARTG

My takeaway:

Use this formula when posting on social media – 20% book marketing, 10% small talk (weather, exercising, cooking, etc.), 30% retweets, 20% personal (I use this to post baking/cooking pics), 20% other interests (sports, hobbies, news, politics, etc.)


I know I have not been following that formula.  I post mainly with word games and retweets. To remedy this I’m going to start posting more small talk and interests.

2. How to Add to Your Plot After You’ve Finished the First Draft

My takeaway:

Next I examine the other characters in my cast. Who could use more fleshing out? Or who has a rich backstory that I’m not utilizing as much as I could? I give myself time to brainstorm ways I could enhance my cast as well.

Rereading Dark Fate there are places I can expound. I want to add content of substance and improve the story.  I know the scenes with the villain felt short and plan on revising them. 

3. Refilling the Well 

My takeaway:

Often a hobby or interest can yield unexpected benefits to our writing.


Sometimes my well runs dry and I have to find a way to refill it. My critique partner, Eric Peterson, has given me good advice to keep my creative mind happy.  Ballet and reading invigorate me.  What makes your creative mind happy?

4. Today’s quick writing reminder: Power of Endurance. #quote

My takeaway:

Not everything in life happens over night, which is most likely one of the biggest blessings that we as humans have been given. We are allowed to grow, and improve. We are blessed with time to shape and mold ourselves into what we are meant to achieve AS WE ARE READY FOR IT.


This article was about going the distance as a writer. Small pieces of progress add up. Being a writer means that one has to actively write. Bestseller Dean Wesley Smith said in Heinlein’s Rules, “My definition of an author is a person who has written.” I don’t want to be someone who has written. I want to be a writer. 

5. How to Question Your Story’s Logic

My takeaway: 

The best way to make sure your story’s logic makes sense is to spend time learning how people work.


I’ve mentioned previously the enneagram article Yep, You’re Talking to Yourself Again but there are other resources as well. Learning about Myers-Briggs or even zodiac signs can help as well. I don’t personally believe in horoscopes but the personality classifications based off astrology are intriguing. I’m definitely an Aries. I’m also working on a book called Syzygy right now that revolves around astrology. I start each chapter with a horoscope so that has been an interesting challenge requiring research and it has broadened my horizons. 

#amreading: the best articles of the week 

As I try to improve my craft as a writer, I read articles about writing. 

Here are the 5 best that I’ve read this week: 

1. Novel writing basics: 10 steps to an unputdownable book

This article broke down ideas on ways to tantalize readers. My favorite takeaway was:

 If the reader doesn’t have a clear sense of where your characters are, they can come across as talking heads floating in hazy darkness. 


Since I have written mostly screenplays, I struggle with too much dialogue at times.  I attribute it to screenplays because sometimes my scenes look like a screenplay: description up front and then dialogue action dialogue. I know I need to work on including more dialogue attributions and interspersing more descriptions. 

2. 3 Must-Have Scenes That Reveal Character

This article discusses three scenes that are “must-haves” for your MCs. 

My takeaway:

As a writer, ask: How will the readers find themselves in this character? How will they connect with this character and start to believe this character is real? It doesn’t matter if your character is a superhero or a soccer mom – we need that connection.

 

Flaws make a character more real.  In Threads of Fate both of my MCs struggle with their self-esteem in different ways. Petra doesn’t feel confident and when she lacks confidence her enchanted grimoire has blank pages. Angsmar has let the voices of a few people become an internal tape that he plays where he thinks everyone views him as a monster.  One beta reader commented that he was whiny but another said: sometimes the scariest monster that we will ever face is always as far away as the nearest reflective surface. 

3.  How to write from a Guy’s POV

My takeaway:

And guys are complex–we have feelings, emotions, pasts that we bury and don’t talk about. Try opening a guy up, explore him…. And on a final note–please, please, please write a CHARACTER first. Write a human being with goals, desires, secrets, resentment, and happiness. Write a PERSON that the reader can empathize with. 


Maybe I made Angsmar a little emo. I like to think of it as introspective. Especially since he doesn’t voice his thoughts very often. I think he’s no more emo than Kylo Ren.  I firmly believe that people are people and many of the comments in this article are only valid because of social constructs. In fantasy one has the liberty to do away with or embrace those constructs. 

4.On Newt Scamander, Toxic Masculinity, & The Power Of Hufflepuff Heroes

My takeaway: 

…essential in Fantastic Beasts’s changing this narrative of men being weak for showing their emotions are the reactions of the people around Newt in the film. 


In the Threads of Fate universe it’s not easy to be a woman. It’s a patriarchal society and women have few rights.  The mores surrounding a woman’s chastity are almost Victorian.  At the same time I’ve made an effort to avoid toxic masculinity. 

5. 7 Ways to Add Great Subplots to Your Novel

My takeaway:

In fact, the best way to start brainstorming subplots is to brainstorm characters who could populate and propel your plot. Once you’ve done this, you can simply write out your subplots more or less sequentially. 


With Dark Fate I know that it’s too short and  that it needs to be expounded on.  Part of my revision will be to add more descriptions and make sure each scene is as sensory as possible.  I think I need to add a few scenes for the villain as well. 

Have you read any good articles this week? 

Heinlein’s 5 Rules on Writing

Last year one of my critique partners, Richmond Camero, gave me several ebooks.
Two of them were written by the bestseller Dean Wesley Smith.  One of them was on Heinlein’s Rules. 


Heinlein’s Rules, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are:

1 – You must write.
2 – You must finish what you write.
3 – You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial order.
4 – You must put it on the market.
5 – You must keep it on the market.

These rules were penned in the 1940s and are controversial in the writing world because they seem almost impossible to follow despite their simplicity. 


Dean Wesley Smith breaks these down in his book Heinlein’s Rules. Smith swears by these rules and attributes them as a game changer for his career.  

Rule Number 1 makes sense.  Who can argue with “You must write“? 


Rule Number 2 is one that according to Smith trips up most aspiring writers: You must finish what you write.  It makes sense.  I have a ridiculous number of projects that I’ve lost steam on and not finished.  Because of that I’ve picked up an old project and I’m working on it now while I wait to gain some perspective on my last project, Dark Fate. Because I plan on rewriting it.


Rule Number 3 is where I think many of us have a problem: You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial order. It’s easy to get caught in an endless loop of rewriting and rewriting. After all — first drafts usually aren’t the best.  This is when you’re telling yourself the story and have to work the kinks out. I have to admit that Threads of Fate went through five drafts before becoming what it is now.

By rewriting Heinlein does not mean avoiding fixing typos, according to Dean Wesley Smith. The intent was to avoid endless loops of revision. He says, “Everybody in this modern world looks for ways and reasons around this rule”.   Guilty. He later comments, “If you’re rewriting, you are not finishing”. Can’t argue with that. I can only try to do better and one area in particular where I am committing to keep rewriting to a minimum is short stories.

Dean Wesley Smith also reminds us that an agent is not an editor, and a paid editor is not what Heinlein meant either — he meant an editor that will pay you from a publication/publisher. 

It’s easy to take criticism from a professional like an agent, or an amateur like a beta-reader, and immediately want to change your story.  The problem is that you can’t please everyone and that your book will never be perfect.  You have to decide when it’s good enough.


If you’re like me and plan on breaking rule number 3 (at least for my novels), here’s a good article on how to do so with grace and hopefully less rewrites than Threads of Fate: How to Know When You’re Done Revising.


Rule Number 4 should be the ultimate goal of a writer: You must put it on the market. I have to admit with the screenplays I’ve written and the other novel and short stories I wrote that this has been a breaking point for me as well. I have only queried one agent for one piece of fiction that I’ve written. I have had such a fear of rejection that I haven’t queried.  Now querying still frightens me, but I’ve learned that the worst that can happen is that they’ll say no and if you don’t ask the answer is already no.


Rule Number 5 is another breaking point for me: You must keep it on the market. With that in mind one of my goals for this year is to start writing short stories, but not so many that they interfere with my other writing. I would like to start putting the short stories on the market. If that’s a goal for you as well, here’s Where to Submit Short Stories: 23 Website and Magazines that Want Your Work. Since joining the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is also a goal of mine, I’m going to focus on this list.


So all in all, Heinlein’s Rules seem simple yet difficult to follow.

Which of these rules is a challenge for you?