Author Archives: Tina

A Secret. A Confession. And A Reveal.

I have a confession. I’ve been wanting to do a series. Short novels that are just written for fun—taking all the things I love about writing SF/F and adding a few pinches of romance, a dash of humor, and a smidge or two of mystery. I have no intention of sending them around to publishers. I’m going to produce them myself.

It all started over last summer (2014). I wrote a short story for an anthology and it was in the anthology then it was out of the anthology. Just one little quirk about the business nobody talks about. Three professional NAME writers turned in stories waayyy over the word limit for the anthology guidelines and they needed to take one story out. That was my story. The editors were very nice and in a difficult position themselves. They explained how much they loved the story and wouldn’t be surprised if it found another home right away.

It did. Another editor offered to buy it right away after hearing about it becoming available, but I said “No.” Why?? Why would I say no?

Well this story very nearly broke me. I used every trick I had to make it a great story, an awesome story. But it doesn’t have any literary appeal. It’s simply a fun mystery story, but it was also Urban Fantasy. It’s really difficult to break into the Urban Fantasy market (at least at the time it was, I hear editors are starting to consider it again). Short story markets are few and far between that will take Urban Fantasy, as most specify in the guidelines “NO URBAN FANTASY.” It makes me feel dirty for loving a genre that offers just about everything in a modern package.

So, I put my all into the story and found out that it was not going to get used in the anthology where it was supposed to go and a few days after I found out my parents house burned down and my best friend was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. I didn’t want to ever look at that story again.

The secret is that a year later over the summer (2015) I decided that I didn’t want that story to end. I didn’t want this to be the story I’d lock away just because it came along at the wrong time in my life. I kept thinking of the characters and the cool ideas I had for more mysteries set in that world. In the middle of writing a third novel to send around on submission I emailed my agent to tell her my idea. She said to go for it. I’d been looking for something to self publish and do on my own and this was the perfect project for something like that.

Now I have two books completed and that abandoned story has become the beginning of book three. And I have an editor lined up and a cover:

HOLY FREAKIN' -- I'M GOING TO PUBLISH THIS. *strokes the beautiful cover*

HOLY FREAKIN’ — I’M GOING TO PUBLISH THIS. *strokes the beautiful cover*

(Cover art by Christian Bentulan of Covers by Christian)

And huge thanks to Stewart Baker who meshed together a few ideas I had for a front cover blurb to come up with something even more perfect.

This is the book description:

There are three kinds of lies.

Lies the fates spin as half truths.

Lies of destined love.

And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.

Welp—that makes it real. I’ve put a lot of time in between other projects to make these the best books they can be. It’s going to happen, uh, soonish. I don’t have a firm date, but things are happening around here. Just thought you should know what I’ve been up to 😉

Your Writing Partner Primer

I had a few questions and emails from people after my last post, so I thought I’d expand on my advice here. Enjoy your writing partner primer:

Where to Find a Writing Partner

Writing forums — Critique sites

Makes sense to find writers in their natural habitat.

Online/in person workshops

Best place to meet someone and get a feel for how well you could work together. Not strictly necessary (Pam and I have never met in person), but helpful if you’re hesitant. Pam and I met in an online workshop where there were around sixty or so other writers participating. I get credit for picking her out of the line up. I saw she’d finished a novel and was ready to jump into another. Her dedication to writing was evident in her bio. I didn’t hesitate to send her an email pronto to beg her to be my partner. Our partnership has lasted a lot longer than the two month class.

Writing Cons

Same as above only usually on a much larger scale. Most workshops I’ve been to are small, usually less than a dozen people. Cons are hundreds or thousands of writers. Some you’ll have met online first and can then meet in person before making the huge writing partner leap.

At your Local Coffee Shop

It could happen. Someone who lives in the same area could be searching for YOU!

What to Look For

Personally, I think the best match is someone who is at the same commitment level. Like I mentioned before, Pam and I have different daily goals, but we’re both equally committed to doing a little work every day (which is why we update daily).

Find someone you can work with long term. Personality is key! Their skill level isn’t important and subjective anyway. I’ve written about this before to new writers, but sometimes people are concerned that they should only befriend “good writers” and I’ll tell you: that horrible, no-good writer everyone thinks won’t ever sell will be just as likely to become a bestseller as anyone else. It’s persistence, willingness to work on getting better that matters. Pick the person who is dedicated and has the most compatible personality. You can’t go wrong.

How to Structure the Partnership

Most of this will evolve organically, but once you find a person at the same dedication level to a creative career as you, the next step is to decide how often/when you’ll update each other and what each person will do to keep each other on track.

Pam and I update daily. The format looks something like this:

We praise the other person’s accomplishments from the email before. Did they reach their daily goal? Make a huge deal about that. Did they fall short? Help them dust themselves off and start the next day with a fresh start. Does your partner need a pick-me-up? A kick-in-the-pants? Next you state your goals. The conversations don’t need to be long. Sometimes we only have two sentences. Sometimes it’s longer depending on how things are going.

5 Reasons You Should Have A Writing Partner.

When I started writing seriously–seriously is defined as not just writing whatever the hell I wanted, but taking classes to get to a publishable quality—I took a class with the infamous Margie Lawson. First I bought and went through all her lecture notes. Then I realized that it would be incredibly valuable to get her feedback as an instructor. I’d seen her make points on other writers’ work and I wanted to know exactly what I was doing wrong at the micro level.

So in 2011 or 20 (I can’t remember) I took her class online and instantly paired with Pam as my class partner (in the class you have to pair up to go over assignments with each other first before posting them to the main class).

Pam and I hit it off. We were instant friends. She’s an easy person to get along with. But the amazing things didn’t stop there. We continued to communicate and took more classes together. Fast-forward about a year and we decided we needed to become goal partners. We didn’t know what that would look like, we had about a million false starts. First trying to update monthly, then weekly. (It should be noted that I always forgot to update). We tried phone calls (I always forgot to call or have my phone…and then there was this problem about Pam calling from the future. So a 9am scheduled call was 6am here). Until—now this sounds insane—we started email updating daily. Every day.

Now it’s been a few years. We’ve got the kinks worked out. I’ve thought of the main reasons you should get a goal partner.

1. It’s fun

Pam and I have a blast with our nightly emails. We have the occasional flat, I’m-in-a-hurry stuff, but sometimes we pretend we’re soldiers in battle, marathoners, mountain climbers. We’ve sort of taken the visualization aspect of reaching goals to the extreme. But hey, it works. When I’ve had a pretty crappy day, it’s a joy to open my email and see a creative adventure taking place. And then I get to come up with one for Pam. Each night the emails take me about five or less minutes to send. Sometimes it’s borderline silly. Shhh, okay, maybe always silly.

2. Get more done

It’s not rocket science. You set a goal and you have someone you hold yourself accountable to, eventually you’ll get that sucker done. So we have yearly goals for ourselves. They’re based on our own pace and lifestyle. Then we have monthly goals (breaking those big goals down into smaller chunks), then weekly goals. The weekly goals are more simple like: I’m doing 1k a day this week. Anyway, before Pam I’d write when I felt like it, set goals that didn’t get finished. When I have someone waiting for my progress report at the end of the day, I’m much more likely to accomplish what I said I’d do.

3. Set more realistic goals

Pam and I took a class on Self-Defeating Behaviors with Margie Lawson. It’s a class that teaches you about behaviors that keep you from accomplishing what you want. Some people set goals too high and then get depressed when they don’t meet them (me), some people write lists and stress over how much is on there and are paralyzed from ever starting, or some people let “I’m never going to sell anything anyway” attitude take over and they don’t bother to work harder or update their skills. In any case, Pam and I know each other’s pitfalls and initiate the karate chop, stop that motion when one of us is about to fall into a spiral. It’s a good reminder to reset and breathe. I have waaaayyy less anxiety related to writing because my fears and negative talk get stopped at the gate. I do the same for Pam. We get in the mindset before walking across the coals. Can’t do it in a panic, because that’s when you get burned.

4. Companionship

Writing is a lonely profession. I have a lot of writing friends, but not very many who I talk to my projects about. Creative stuff needs to be talked about to keep it exciting.

5. Checks and Balances

I have an easy record to go back and see what all I’ve done. I wouldn’t have completed a goal list (it would have stayed in my head), I wouldn’t state my word goals (they’d remain loose so I could find a way out of them if other things came up). When I do these things I have data to compare to. I promised to do ___ I accomplished ___. Or I wrote ___ words this month. I completed ____ short stories, novels, books read, pages edited. We state craft books we’re going to read to keep the info fresh. It’s not all about the word goals, but the continued education of writing.

Bottom line is that you’re going to want a writing partner. Or if you work in a creative field a project partner, or a fitness partner, or a something. Working in pairs gets so much done. I used to HATE group work in college because it felt like someone was always doing a little more and someone was slacking off. The beauty of this is that each person sets their own pace and the other person is there to listen, hand out praise, or offer a pep talk. Obviously the chemistry needs to work just right, and the optimal conditions need to be in place.

But if you find it, it’s a really awesome thing.

A Comparison of Romance Writers Conventions to Science Fiction Writers Conventions

I’m back after a crazy week and a half in New York City! I was nominated for the RWA Golden Heart® in the long contemporary category for my unpublished novel Good Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty. A lot of people have said they’d love to read it and I’d love to sell it so that people CAN read it, but until then I’ve decided to do a little comparing of Romance to Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions.

RWA Nationals was my first official, in-person, large attendance romance convention. Before that, it was all small intimate workshops, mostly online. Since I also write Science Fiction and Fantasy, I’ve attended large conventions for that side of my writing life. And now that I’ve done a large convention from both, I can finally compare. These sorts of things interest me, so indulge me for a bit 😉

My low down below:

What Romance does best

Friendly—Romance writers have a reputation in the industry as being the most friendly, most approachable writers. This is absolutely true. The giants in the field also make an effort to make themselves available for casual interaction with other writers through free book signings for the convention attendees or after a panel.

Focus on business—The convention was packed with valuable workshops. Every one of them was a weekend’s worth of information packed into a one hour time slot. It was information dense. They also had it tracked out for Marketing, Self-publishing, Career, Craft—pick your poison or mix and match. If you felt there was nothing to offer you could attend the publisher spotlights and meet editors, or get an idea what a certain imprint was looking for.

Agent and editor appointments—At a SF convention you have to chase down an editor and agent and then awkwardly scream out your pitch to them, only to have them nod, uninterested and usually give you some line like, “Hey kid, anyone can send a synopsis to my assistant” *hands over card with old email address and/or link directly to their trash bin* At RWA’s National convention writers can sign up with agents (big and less established names in the industry) AND editors from the major imprints and small presses. Writers do not need to have an agent to pitch to editors. A lot of writers have found an editor this way and then found an agent.

What SF/F does best

More published writers—More writers who seem to know the ins and outs of a writing career. I wonder if it’s the fact that short fiction is a viable way for writers to start their career and recognition that there are so many more published writers when I visit SF/F conventions. Or if it’s that most writers who attend wait until they’re published or have credentials to their name before attending. Or maybe it’s that I notice more published writers because I run in those circles.

Networking—Where Romance writers focus on business, SF writers focus on networking. Man, can those guys network and chat until all hours of the night at a SF convention. It seemed that the majority of romance writers packed up at reasonable hours (before 5/6am) to get ready for the next day.

Awards—They also have more formal awards. Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula. Those are just three. Romance writers just get the RITA/Golden Heart.

Overall there does seem to be a different atmosphere between the two genres. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just each has its different flavor. What works for one person might not work for another. I’ve come to enjoy both equally.

I’m sure there are more differences if I concentrated hard enough to see them. I’ve made some awesome friends on both sides and am looking forward to seeing what they both have in common as well.

I love comments! Tell me about your experiences in each genre, for every comment you leave it will help me figure out the common threads in both industries.

What Yoda Teaches Me About Motivation

I was thinking of a Star Wars quote from Yoda; something like “try or try not, do or do not.” Or maybe it was: “there is no try only do.” Anyway it got me pondering about the connotation of certain words and motivation.

(Self editing note; Apparently neither of these is a quote from Yoda. Because the powers of Google cannot let this stand I’ve made an offering of the correct quote to the internet god’s volcano of quotes: Do. Or do not. There is no try~Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back)

First I should probably explain connotation. It’s the feeling expressed by certain words. For example, we can describe a person with pressed lips and a wrinkled forehead as a “scowl.” The word scowl has a negative connotation. We think of scowls as a mean expression. Now if I described this same expression as “thoughtful” it changes the image a bit. We soften the features of the imaginary person. Thoughtful has a positive connotation, meaning we tend to think of “thoughtful” as a pleasant expression. I’ve completely changed the mood of the person by changing only one word. Yet, if I were to describe the facial features of both words, they would be very similar in the basic explanation.

Poets, writers, and politicians seem to have a grasp on this little mis-mash vortex where English crosses with psychology. So you’ll notice that people will choose words carefully to provoke emotion when telling a certain story—to paint a very specific picture. Riling up emotion isn’t difficult, especially if someone already is predisposed to feeling a certain way about a topic. You can change someone’s mind by not changing the action, but simply the words used to describe the action.

Some words are harder to pinpoint and can be negative or positive depending on the context. One group of people might like the word and take ownership of it. Another group would see the same word as an insult. Some words might change connotation depending on an individual’s cultural, environmental, or socio-economic status.

In counseling we’re trained on how to change someone’s behavior and emotions by using a technique called cognitive-behavioral therapy. And this is where my pondering on Yoda began.

So, consider the word “try.” Does it have a negative or positive connotation for you? I realized it had a more negative leaning with me. Here’s why: I’m from the country and pretty low on the socio-economic ladder with my background. We value what a person does rather than what they say. If I say I’m going to “try” it’s a pretty weak statement. Trying is not doing. Trying is saying I’m afraid of getting a little failure on my favorite shirt. There is only do it or don’t do it in my world. Yet, when I attended college there was an attempt to reframe the word try. “Give it a try!” or “At least you tried!” were supposed to be positive affirmations. And it did change the way I saw the word. It went from being a dirty word to something I’d give a second chance to…try again.

*insert mad giggle*

I noticed that when the word was introduced in my goals or if someone made a “try” suggestion in writing I’d avoid it. It usually wouldn’t get done. “Try to not use adverbs” I’d adverb all over the damn white space like a potty training toddler. Then I’d get frustrated and do the opposite. I’d cut adverbs from my life like a cheating ex-boyfriend. Try made me do silly things.

It was not just the word try that had this power over me, but other words, too. If I set a goal and it was connected to a certain behavior or emotion if it was positive then I’d do it. If it was negative, I wouldn’t.

So knowing that the words I used had a power over my behavior, I described my goals differently. Less of a suggestion and more of a command (also: I list only two simple goals a day. Something I learned in a Margie Lawson class. If I listed a ton of things, I could beat myself up later about not doing enough, so I learned to break things into small components and do them a little at a time. The more success I could introduce into my goals, the more motivated I would become. And it would change the connotation of the word “goal” to mean something I could attain, not an impossible set of posts I had to hit a ball between every time or I’d fail my team).

I noticed that a lot of people who weren’t athletes, or didn’t do well in competitions tended to shy away from making goals (like they floundered when introduced to competition and freaked out if it looked like they’d never win, or would be expected to count on others… or gasp, others count on them!). Is it the word or the action that makes them so distrustful of the behavior? Or just the action/word/behavior pairing they’ve learned over a lifetime that has shaped their emotion on a word?

Now the word controls their behavior. Wow, this is getting creepy.

Anyway, our history with certain words might make a difference on how likely we are to complete an action. And by eliminating ‘try’ it helped me with mine. Plus, I tend to adhere to the cognitive-behavioral framework and pair positive actions with positive thoughts to change my view on a task. Oh, I’ll still be the usual writerly stressed while doing it. “Will people like it? Will it sell?” But at least I’m doing it, and at least I’m not feeding myself negative answers like “It sucks” or “I’m never going to make a living at this” “People are laughing at you.” I could easily change the word “writing” into a negative, disappointing task if I were to pair it with hurtful phrases.

Think about the words you use and take care. They really are powerful.

I love comments! Every comment you make will help a writer break free from negative word/action/ behavior chains that are binding them into lack of motivation.