Sometimes the writing journey is nothing more than a measure of how much you believe in you.
Friends, I believe in you.
Sometimes the writing journey is nothing more than a measure of how much you believe in you.
Friends, I believe in you.
Friends! I am so glad I chose Jennifer M. Lane’s Stick Figures from Rockport as my monthly Twitter-friends read. It was delightful! I’m pretty particular when it comes to women’s fiction, so I always hold my breath a little for the first fifty pages or so.
I like women’s fiction, but as a strong empath, it hurts to read about raw pain too often. And hello, what is women’s fiction, if not a whole lot of raw pain? Good women’s fiction, in my opinion, offers more than just a painful scenario, more than loss and hurt, more than fractured relationships and terminal illness. It offers the opportunity to grow. It offers insight into our own lives. Good women’s fiction allows the reader to peer into the pain of another female, peeling the layers page by page, and emerge with a deeper understanding of oneself.
And that’s what Lane was able to do in Stick Figures from Rockport. She did what many women’s fiction writers can’t—took me on a journey with a grieving character who was able to solve a mystery by piecing together a troubled past that once seemed perfect. It’s about love…and loss. And how learning a new truth doesn’t make your own truth any less real.
If you like women’s fiction, pick this one up! Lane is a talented writer whose writing flows gracefully and whose prose is poetic without being overly “purple.” Stick Figures from Rockport was a treat, and I can guarantee that I will pick up more of Lane’s work in the future.
Bonus—Lane lives fairly close to me geographically speaking, which means her main character (who lives in a Pennsylvania farmhouse) drives roads I know well and visits towns where I’ve worked in the past. How cool is that? Eastern Pennsylvania girls unite!
I love writing. I love writing contests. I do NOT love submitting to contests in person or having everyone know what I wrote when I may have just written it. (Give me a few rounds of edits and some critique partners and beta-readers first, please and thank you.)
If this also sounds like you, then I’ve found the perfect writing contest for you because it’s—
Woohoo! That means you can submit a 500 word sample of your writing under a pen name to be judged. If your work gets chosen by the slush pile judges (like moi!), it will be pitted against 29 other writers & their works.
In the end, only one can win.
No wait, that’s not right. There’s more to it than that. In fact, there are lots of winners. Just check out DL Hammons’s list of prizes to be won. Only one writer wins free admission to the 2020 DFW Conference in Dallas, but there are plenty of other prizes and where else can you get free feedback on your work?
Seriously. If you’re a writer who likes anonymity, this is the contest for you. So, what are you waiting for? Send that email to WRiTECLUB2019@gmail.com. We’re waiting to see your work!
Want to learn more? Check out the full rules and all the additional information here.
How is it already March? Guess what? That means another of my 12 Books segments! For this month, I chose The Changing Tide by K.A. Dowling. I’ve been following Kelly on Twitter for quite some time. She’s a ton of fun, has a bazillion hilarious stories about her toddler, and is relatable on just about every level. She’s real in a way a lot of people aren’t when it comes to Twitter.
Dowling is a phenomenal writer and a master at painting with words. One peek into her life and it’s clear to see perhaps why she’s so damn good at describing the world. She’s spent her life acknowledging it in a way most of us can’t even imagine. Because Dowling is deaf. Is this why her words feel so poetic to me? I don’t know. I’ll never know. Hearing or deaf, she’s clearly an amazing writer either way.
I chose The Changing Tide because I’ve been following K.A. Dowling long enough on Twitter to become ever-so-slightly familiar with a couple of the book’s characters. Here and there, I’ve gotten to take a peek at a few pages from a sequel to this book. I loved Dowling’s style so much that I had to delve in. What I found was both intriguing and frustrating. The Changing Tide reads like book 1 of a trilogy.
Um, Storms? It is.
Oh, right. So maybe I should get into a little more detail. I expected to be as immediately invested in the story as I was from the few pages I’d gotten to read long ago, but what I found was that this particular book was slow to move forward with the action. I wasn’t quite sure where the plot was going or when the adventure would begin, which means, of course, that now I have read books 2 and 3. It’s a good thing I’m a sucker for trilogies!
The one piece of Dowling’s writing that really hits me more than anything is her ability not only to create so many different characters, but to dive deep within them since she changes character point-of-view multiple times throughout the book. Each chapter is dedicated to following a specific character. The ease with which she shifts gears and slides into each character’s head, even though they differ extensively in thoughts and mannerisms, is positively awe-inspiring.
So if you get a chance, check out The Changing Tide. Then gear up for The Forbidden City and The Winding Maze, books 2 and 3 respectively, because you won’t be able to stop with just book 1.
It took me a little while to decide which book to pick for my February read since there were so many wonderful choices from my Twitter writing buddies.
This month, I decided to go with Sorchia DuBois’s Just Like Gravity. I’ll preface my review by saying I’m not a huge reader of the romance genre. While I love a good romance subplot, outside of my teenage years, I’ve never been able to read a story exclusively for the romance. That said, I cannot resist a reincarnation tale. You see, DuBois is a paranormal romance writer…and now you’ve got my attention.
Just Like Gravity was a fun tale with a ‘crabbit’ main character who can handle her whisky as well as she can handle her Scottish highlander, but what really grabbed me were the past life incarnations of the two main characters and I almost wish I could have spent more time in those stories. What can I say? I’m a sucker for history, particularly when it’s a haunted, tragic tale! In Just Like Gravity, there’s fortune-tellers, treasure, danger, murder, and romance. What’s not to love?
If you’re a reader of romance who can appreciate a good dose of historical and contemporary fiction, this is the perfect blend!
(I love DuBois for other reasons, too! She’s a fantastic editor who was a pleasure to work with, so if you’re looking for editing services, look no further. She can do it all! Check out her website. Also, follow her on Twitter!)
Did you miss Month 1 of my 12 Books series? Catch up here.
Maybe it doesn’t quite have the ring of Indiana Jones, but I think Indie Author Storms has a nice sound to it. So why did I decide to go indie and what’s next?
I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for four, and have four completed manuscripts—some of them with quite wonderful feedback from agents and editors. And until the last year, I really wanted to take the traditional route to publishing.
So what changed?
Cancer is one hell of an eye-opener. And when my husband was diagnosed in April of 2017, it didn’t just change the rules; it changed the entire game. He’s doing well now—a year and a half cancer-free. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t celebrate this. (Insert happy dance emoji right here!)
But his diagnosis wasn’t all.
At the beginning of my foray into Writer Twitter, I made friends with a wonderful professor and writer who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She documented her journey in life, and through diagnosis, and I had the pleasure of beta-reading for her about a year and a half ago. As with most interactions on social media, we dipped in and out of each other’s profiles here and there, commenting and leaving digital hearts in our wake. I learned only recently that she passed away in June.
Found out today that an internet friend passed away. Loss is hard even when you don’t know a person well. People touch lives in ways we can’t even imagine. Be kind, friends. Love one another. 💔
— L. Ryan Storms is NaNo-ing (@LRyan_Storms) October 13, 2018
Before she succumbed to the terrible disease, she followed her dream and published Blooming Out of Darkness: A Memoir about Cancer, Spirits, and Joy. The book, which sits on the bookshelf beside my piano, is a stark reminder each and every day—a reminder that we don’t always have the time we think we have. Between Alicia’s story and my husband’s ordeal over the last year, I’ve decided that it’s time to take the next step in the journey to authorhood.
There’s a beautiful change in perception that occurs when you reach your forties. (Okay, I’m not quite there, but I’ve got less than a year, so…) You begin to care less about what other people think or what other people would do in any given situation, and so much more about what you feel and how you can be good to yourself.
Indie authorhood is me being good to myself. I’m ready to have the fun, to release a book baby into the world, to take the next step and grow as an author. A Thousand Years to Wait is my gift to the world, yes. But it’s also a gift to me. And I hope we can enjoy it together.
A Thousand Years to Wait will be released on April 30th, 2019. You can add A Thousand Years to Wait to your Goodreads list here. Check back for excerpts, teasers, a cover reveal, and more! I’ll be updating regularly over the next six months.
A large part of succeeding as a writer boils down to your willingness to put in the time. Can you accept sitting at a desk, dreaming up worlds, typing (or scribbling) the words, and getting it done? The answer to these questions has always been a resounding yes for me, but I tend to fail when it comes to putting in the face time.
I did just that this weekend. I put in the face time and met dozens of wonderful writers and agents and editors at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC. It was fabulous. I participated in PitchSlam, in which authors are given one hour to pitch as many agents as they can in three-minute segments. (Truly, it’s any introvert’s nightmare.)
But you know what? While I was nervous going into my first pitch, it melted away quickly. Why? Because I discovered something as I delved into conversation with these agents. I found myself admitting something surprising. Out loud.
I love my book. I love the characters. I love the plot. I love the interactions and the quirks and the personalities. It was a fun book to write and I had fun writing it! And when you enjoy your story, I think it shows. You start to enjoy talking about it and telling people why it’s something they’ll want to read…which makes it a lot easier to pitch.
Proof? I pitched 6 agents and all 6 made requests for partial manuscripts (requested lengths varied). This may or may not result in progress moving forward, but that’s not the point. The point? When you love your work, it shows.
Writers. Friends. I have one piece of advice for you. LOVE YOUR WORK. It’s yours. You wrote it because you loved it.
Now own it.
My sink is full of dirty dishes, my dishwasher full of clean. The laundry needs to be moved to the dryer and the carpets could certainly use a vacuum. But I am a writer waiting on betas. Which means I must refresh my email exactly 12,483 times a day to see if anyone has left me feedback.
Yes, I know I have a problem. And yes, going on submission is far worse. I understand.
But none of this stops me from wandering the house listlessly, contemplating my own existence.
I’ve taken up learning French. Does it help?
— L. Ryan Storms (@LRyan_Storms) April 11, 2018
Have you ever stopped to think about how your favorite author got to where they are, how they wrote and published so many books, how your most loved novels ended up on your bookshelf? Probably not. Most people don’t. At least, most people who aren’t writers don’t. But for those of us who write, contemplating the path to writing success is something we do on a regular basis.
I was a writer when I wrote my first story about magic roller skates in elementary school. I was a writer when I attempted my first magical realism romance at 20 and I was a writer when I completed my first full manuscript at 32. I’m a writer now with nearly four finished manuscripts under my belt.
But if you ask me to compare myself to Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or any other published and uber-successful author, my automatic response would be instant cackling laughter. Because the steps involved in getting from my little corner of the universe to theirs is as vast as the interior of any black hole.
I once thought the stages of being a writer were like a ladder, with the newborn writer on the bottom rung and super-success stories on the top. But having been involved in the writing community for several years, I’m much more likely to turn that ladder sideways and view it as a timeline instead. After all, we’re not working against gravity. We’re just working against time. (Except for you hard sci-fi writers…you might actually be working against gravity.)
The stages of writerhood tend to go as follows:
Newborn Writer—Realizes affinity for writing, attempts stories, dabbles in ideas.
Fledgling Writer—Has at least one finished manuscript, probably raw and unrevised, but oh-so-beautiful.
Emergent Writer—Has begun to realize the importance of community and is eager (if terrified) to get feedback on finished or in-process works.
Working Writer—In a constant state of writing something new, editing something old, and getting feedback from a much loved tribe.
Querying Writer—A working writer who has moved into querying literary agents.
Agented Writer—A writer who has gotten agent representation, but is mired in revisions before going on submission to publishing houses.
Subbing Writer—Agented writer whose work is on submission to publishing houses, but has not yet been accepted.
Accepted Writer—Agented writer whose subbed work is accepted & who has been offered a deal with a publisher.
Counting Writer—Writer who counts the days until their publication date and hops from foot to foot, eager to relay news they can’t share until their publisher has given them the green light.
Published Author—Writer whose work has been published and theoretically read by people who don’t share their home or genetics.
Working Published Author—Published writer in a constant state of writing something new, editing something old, and getting feedback from agent and much loved tribe. Also, writer who fears they will never be able to write a second book.
Multi-Published Author—Writer who has published a handful of books, has stayed the course despite the high barriers to entry and has begun to feel as though they just might ‘do this.’ Still works a day job to pay the bills.
Professional Author—Writer who has published books that have earned enough in royalties to actually constitute a salary.
Uber-Successful Author—Writer whose books have become movies, whose characters have become household names, whose pages have been read again and again. Also, writers who may seclude themselves for protection from overwhelming fanbase.
What’s most amazing to me is the willingness of writers at every stage of the game to help those who are one or two steps behind them—Working Writers who draw out Emergent and Fledgling Writers and encourage them to join critique groups; Agented Writers who cheer on Querying Writers and who offer to help revise query letters; Published Authors who help ‘push’ a Counting Writer’s work because they know the book that’s about to come out is insane and they want their readers to know about it; Multi-Published Authors who run online writing contests that offer Querying Writers a chance to have their work seen by agents. So. Much. Love.
So much love on so many levels. And that’s what makes this community worth being a part of. In the past, I’ve compared writing to video games and this model is consistent with that idea. Expect to see me tweeting #WritersLevelUp to encourage writers of all levels to keep going. If you’re dedicated, willing to work, and passionate about what you do, there’s only one person who can keep you from leveling up, and that’s you. So get involved, get passionate, and encourage others to do the same.
(And if you’re a writer on one of the further rungs on the timeline, feel free to let me know if there’s something I’ve missed. I think I covered the basics, but as a Querying Writer, my ideas of what happens next may be skewed!)
I follow an eclectic mix of people on Twitter, but by far my Twitter feed skews toward the literary. From querying writers to veteran authors to agents to editors, I tend to follow it all. And in my honest opinion, if you’re not following these folks, you’re missing out!
(I think I’ll need to make this a semi-regular segment in my blog, so if you haven’t made this list, don’t worry. I’ll have lots more to share in the future!)
In no particular order:
Michelle Hauck (@Michelle4Laughs)—For up to date information on amazing writing contests, Michelle is one to follow. She’s a smart and fun-to-follow author who writes SFF and gives back to the writing community in abundance! Also, don’t miss her blog!
No marches near me today but I’m marching in my heart. https://t.co/7JvdWvSpsB
— Michelle Hauck (@Michelle4Laughs) January 20, 2018
Dr. Uwe Stender (@UweStenderPhD)—Not all literary agents are created equal. In my years of stalking…er…following literary agents on Twitter for the sole purpose of gaining industry knowledge, I have found that some agents are quick to provide a helping hand to those who are just starting on their journeys. I highly recommend following Uwe Stender. Why? Because his literary advice is real and good and his #askagent sessions are the best. (Bonus: His nutcase files can’t be beat!)
Kids, if you want to be a literary agent, know this is a job that may give you a ton of joy and excitement, but be prepared to work 24/7/365 for it. I have been on this for 13 hours today, and that went for the weekend, too. And it’s been like that for 12 years now.😎
— Dr. Uwe Stender (@UweStenderPhD) January 9, 2018
Lakshmi (@Lakshgiri)—Because her writing is lyrical and moving and her cooking photos make my mouth water, Lakshmi gets two thumbs up in my book. Her blog is filled with poignant stories about parenting and motherhood, and her open adoption story is unlike any I’ve known. She faces parenting challenges with grace and her raw, emotional writing resonates.
— Lakshmi (@lakshgiri) January 18, 2018
They’ll provide your daily dose of crazy with a side of smiles. Follow them. (And maybe Sam will release another hostage.)
A.S.H (@MizWrlter)—Because I agree with everything she posts and she’s basically my spirit animal even if we’ve never met. Dogs and cats and posts about writing. Wait. Maybe she’s actually *me* in another dimension.
— A.S.H. (@MizWrlter) January 19, 2018
Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) – Because you need a dose of astrophysics & feminism. Bonus: She pipes up in occasional bouts with Chuck & Sam, making my day, week, and even month. And it’s really fun to watch her stop mansplaining in its tracks. Even J.K. Rowling agrees.
Visible matter makes up only 5% of our universe, which is dominated by dark, unexplained forces.
Congrats on being one of the sparkly bits pic.twitter.com/8glPzOjp6k
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) January 18, 2018
Who are your Twitter favorites? Give them a holler in the comments section so I can show them some love with a follow!