I have been working on a sequel to my book Frozen Hearts. I started… *flips over to Excel tracking to check the date* …in July of this year. Sometimes when I’m writing it feels like I’m flying, like I’m in the zone, like I’m immersed in the world and characters and everything is ok.

This was NOT one of those times. The book has been hard to write.

First, I had a massive editing project to do which took a major chunk out of the beginning of the year. Second, I picked up an additional job, so my writing time has been compromised. My word count schedule is still at an extremely regimented level. I have a minimum daily word count I must reach or make up the next day.

No fun stuff, no internet, no tv before writing time, but my word counts are lower so this story has been a slow go.

I also went into it blind, pantsing it’s called in the writerly world, basically writing by the seat of my pants without a detailed outline. I did scratch out my overall plot points so I would have some direction, but the majority of it had to be snatched out of the air as it flew by.

Writing in short burst on a story that I had to wing has made this a grueling experience. There has been magnificent moments of discovery, of learning the characters motivation, of finding out what the real theme of the story is, but it felt like digging through sun baked sand rather than freshly tilled earth.

At this point, I’ve figured out a good idea of how and where the story will end. As I’m barreling at the speed of a sprinting snail at the conclusion, I often think of quitting. I get these horrible imaginings that this is the worst writing in the world and no one will like it, the story doesn’t make sense, and the characters are flat.

I usually feel this way at the end of EVERY project. Usually, I breeze past the self-flagellation. But because I’m keeping such a slow pace, my doubts are gaining more mass, speed, bulk, like a Hulk bent on smashing my writing dreams.

Again, I’m reminded of running (writing and running are inexorably tied for me).  At the end of a run when my knees are getting twingey, my playlist has run out of good song, my nose is running, and the cold is cutting into my lungs, I think—no one would know if I stopped.  No one would care if I stopped. The world would not shame me for stopping . I could just walk home. Then I hear that click that says, I would know. And I could not give up on my running, my project, or myself.

So here I am, the finish line is close but the doubts nag me, tug at me, slow me down. It really doesn’t matter because I know, even if I do have to walk home, I will cross the finish line.

What about you guys?  Ever tempted to abandon a project?

12/31/15 EDIT—I have finished the book. It still feels like a horrible unreadable mess, but I finished, and now I can edit the mass of glob until it’s a prettier more readable glob.   Happy New Year!

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 😉



I can blame my first exposure to science fiction and fantasy on my dad. On snowy weekends when I was a kid, my brother and I would dog pile onto the floor (and each other) using my dad as a backrest and watch all sorts of movies and shows. From Westerns to Andy Hardy movies, we loved them all. But one of my favorites, and introduction to science fiction, was Star Trek.

This interest in science fiction was a mild flame and segued into the time of Star Wars. No elementary-aged kid missed the science fiction epic, and my family joined the masses to see it one summer night at a drive-in, and my young life was transformed. The movie had the quick-draw appeal of a Western, the swashbuckling of a pirate movie, and the adventure of any of my Saturday cartoons.

But better, it had a Princess that was a force to be reckoned with. Pistol in hand, she ordered the boys around, led missions, and hardly needed any saving at all. (The crushes on Luke then Han would come later—my first love was Leia) I still have my Leia action figure stowed away in a box under the stairs.

Then there was the Terminator with the unparalleled Sarah Connor morphing from victim to freedom fighter, taking her future in her own hands.  (Plus she could do a hard-core-full-on pull up by T2.) Who wasn’t inspired by her physical and mental toughness?

The list continues with Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Xena, and Buffy. All main characters leading their own shows giving me the idea that a woman could be strong, powerful, and just as interesting as the boys.

Let’s not forget other non-main characters such as Zoe, River, and Kaylee from Firefly and most of the companions on Doctor Who: Rose, Amy, Sarah Jane, Martha, Donna, and Clara.

Another recent source of inspiration has been Game of Thrones. All Martin’s characters are gray and compelling, but his most moving examples of toughness, intelligence, and power are Arya and Daenerys. They lose everything that matters to them, yet they keep going, they keep striving, they keep surviving.

When I feel overwhelmed, lonely, broken, at the bottom of my will, I still think what would Princess Leia or Xena do?  What about Diana Prince or Sarah Connor or Buffy? Buffy literally died twice and kept going.

They wouldn’t give up or in. They would fight. And from all those years of watching these characters fight, I am pushed to dig a little deeper and  try harder. They may not be real, but the feelings they inspire are.

I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to both fantasy and science fiction is that it consistently provides wonderful examples of strong and intelligent women, and I only see that continuing with Katniss from the Hunger Games and Tris from Divergent. I’m proud to be a sci-fi/fantasy nerd and will continue to be inspired by and (create in my own) kick-butt females.

I am excited about the new Star Wars movie and hope the franchise continues to provide the next generation (and me!) some fascinating, powerful, and take-no-crap heroines.

What about you? Did you have a fave sci-fi/fantasy hero or heroine that gave you inspiration? Or just drop down below and say hello. Thanks for stopping by!


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.