The BIG Announcement

A few months ago, I posted about two very exciting things. The first, I elaborated in my post—I got to see my name in print in the byline of an article on the front page. The second? Well, I kept the second a secret. But it’s been long enough and I’m ready to share. Without further ado, I give you…

…my release date.

Banner for A Thousand Years to Wait

My debut Young Adult Fantasy titled A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT is scheduled for publication in April. That’s right. On April 30th, 2019, you’ll be able to purchase a copy of my book.

And now we squeal. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkk!

Stay tuned for additional teasers, including reviews, excerpts, and cover art in the coming months!


Summary for A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Prophecies are meant to unfold on their own—they can’t be forced into fruition. Or can they? When a war-torn kingdom is on the cusp of falling to a usurping general, a young healer who doesn’t believe in magic is called upon to help a prophecy transpire. She must embrace the magic…or lose the ones she loves.

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A few years ago, a good friend got me this set of greeting cards. There is no more perfect a gift than this.

Owning It

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.

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So many fabulous writers. Dinner on a Friday night.

Who Run the World?

One of the things I love most in young adult fantasy is how often I get to read from the point of view of a strong female protagonist. Too often in real life, it’s expected that young women will follow societal expectations and quietly follow their path through school, college, careers, motherhood, and whatever might lie beyond.

Boys, on the other hand, have always been encouraged to take the less traveled path—to go on great adventures before ‘settling down’, to ’sow the wild oats’ as they say. And for a long time, literature has reflected this.

But in recent years, YA Fantasy has taken a turn toward following strong young women on their adventures and…I…am…loving…it! Where were these great books when *I* was growing up?

I just finished reading The Hunger Games series (a day late and a dollar short, I know) and one of the things I most love about how Suzanne Collins portrayed Katniss was her refusal to paint Katniss as anything but who she was. I lost count of the number of times I read about Katniss stuffing her face and it was amazing. She wasn’t ‘dainty’ because she was a young woman. She didn’t delight in attention and, in fact, she wanted nothing to do with it. She was a reluctant heroine who wanted only to save the people she loved.

And that was what I loved most about the series. We followed a young woman with conviction and agency, a woman who didn’t set out to change the world, only to protect her family. But one thing leads to another until the only way to protect her family is to change the world. It was done so organically that the reader hardly even registers the change in Katniss’s directive throughout the series. Brilliant.

If you’re looking for more YA Fantasy featuring strong young women who make their own decisions, saving themselves and those they love, I’ve listed several great novels to check out in my last blog post. As someone who often claims ‘Stubborn’ to be my middle-name, I adore reading about these stubborn, independent young women saving the world. Just don’t ask me how I like raising stubborn, independent young women (mine are 8 and 12 years old)…because that’s a post for a whole other day!

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My own stubborn, independent young women.

A Writer in Waiting

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.

What?

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?

Non.

 

The Never Expected and Always Unthinkable

If you’ve been following me for a while, odds are good that you know the health crisis we’ve been through over the last year as my husband faced a scary pancreatic cancer diagnosis last spring. The kind of diagnosis you’re not supposed to get at 43.

It was awful. It was traumatic. And until this week, I’d kind of sort of managed to tuck it away in the deep recesses of my mind. Because let’s face it—you can’t think about this kind of thing every day or you’ll actually drive yourself out of your head with worry, the kind of worry that comes with anxious, nervous energy that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning every night with no one but your miserable self to keep you company.

And then this week someone I know on Twitter (I can’t even call her a ‘friend’—we’ve never had a single personal conversation!), a Pitchwars mentor & writer whose debut book just came out this month, a woman who is living her dream—the same dream I have—just got word that her husband had been hit by a car and was in the ICU at the hospital. I don’t know the details. I know only what she has shared on Twitter.

But her story has hit me so hard this week. So hard. Because it seems like even when things are really good, they can still be really bad. Clarissa recently tweeted about how wonderful the doctors and nurses are, about how they’re making sure that she’s taking care of herself, too. And it brought the memories flooding back.

The day I couldn’t eat because I woke up with such severe anxiety three days after my husband’s surgery that my stomach had cramped into one big knot. The nurse on shift that day didn’t say anything right away, but by 3 p.m., she gave me a knowing expression with worried eyes that I swear could see right into my soul and she asked me, “Have you eaten anything today?” I hadn’t. I couldn’t. So when I finally managed to eat a banana at 7 p.m., I made sure to let her know. Nurses are amazing. They are incredible human beings who give so much more than I ever knew was humanly possible to give to perfect strangers.

And in one tweet, Clarissa sent me right back to those horrible moments after the big surgery, the ones I pushed aside for the last nine months. My heart goes out to Clarissa and her family. I know what she’s going through. I know the fear and the worry and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same—that your entire future is nothing more than one big question mark.

I hope that you’ll join me in supporting Clarissa Goenawan and her husband in the weeks and months of trials they’ll have ahead of them. The medical bills can add up so quickly that it takes your breath away when you stop to think about it. We spent over $10,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses last year. Without insurance, it would have been well over $300,000. Life can turn on a dime and moments like these are sharp reminders to hold our loved ones tight and appreciate all we have been given.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 8.19.19 PMMany prayers for Clarissa and Choo and for a quick and complete recovery and a return to normal life.

And if you want to support a debut author in another most appreciated way, pick up a copy of her book, Rainbirds, released March 6th of this year.

 

Meet Author Ralph Walker

Hi guys and gals! One of the most exciting things for a writer is getting published! A close second is celebrating and promoting other writers who are getting published! And that’s what I’m doing today. I ‘met’ author and architect Ralph Walker on Twitter about a year ago when I was getting ready to head to the Philadelphia Writing Workshop. And YAY for hashtag connections or I might not have actually gotten a chance to know him at all.

Thanks to the #Phillyww hashtag, even though I didn’t get a chance to meet Ralph in person (there were a lot of people and I was suffering from introvert-paralysis), I’ve been delighted to follow him on Twitter, and cheer him on through his journey to publishing and his goal to hit #100rejections. But more importantly, I’ve been excited to share his publishing successes.

So without further ado, I give you—Ralph Walker!


Thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog. For readers who don’t know me, I’m Ralph Walker. I am an architect in New Jersey and I write speculative fiction, particularly near future science fiction.

Tell me a little about what you mean by Speculative Fiction?

Speculative fiction deals with the question of WHAT IF? What if Elephants could fly? (Dumbo). What if we forgot somebody on Mars? (The Martian). What if the world we see in a game was real? (Ready Player One). Speculative Fiction permeates popular culture, but it is really centered on that question of ‘What If?’

For me, I try to focus on ideas and things that are so close you can almost taste them. One of the first stories I published; Gators in Kansas, was about underwater farming, something that is really happening today, but I tried to push the idea further and explore other issues like climate change, immigration and the craft economy.

Gators in Kansas was featured in UnCommon Lands, which is available for purchase here.

And Near Future Science Fiction?

Many science fiction writers focus on space and beyond. I try to write closer to home both in time and place. The changes in our cities and landscapes are changing at a sprint, and I see so many stories in what might happen tomorrow, or the day after that. I like to imagine ideas that my children or grandkids might experience.

Are you an optimistic writer? 

That is a loaded question. I’m an optimist at heart, but in my writing I am looking for ways to break things. I don’t remember who said it, but another writer once said ‘A driverless car isn’t interesting until you know how to crash it.’ Or something like that. I love to take the best ideas I can come up with and turn them on their head. My characters have to have the stamina and wit to move the story forward. I fill my characters with hope and optimism even if the world around them is broken.

What inspires you?

So many things. I have the privilege to work in architecture and design every day. In my work I get to reimagine the built environment, but I also am faced with the realities of a changing climate, speedy technology and human nature. I love seeing how buildings age and where the natural environment evolves around what we build.

Near my office there is a river walk where I often take my lunch break. A long path runs along the river and it is a nice respite on the day. At one point on the path there is a tree that has grown, I kid you not, completely around a traffic barrier. Not a branch or some leaves, but the whole trunk widened out and encased the steel barrier. I don’t think they can ever be separated now without killing the tree and removing the steel. At least once a week I walk past that tree and get lost thinking about how that could have happened. I feel like that is where our world is today.

How does your writing process work?

I am a morning writer. I try to get out of bed and get straight to the work. Slippers, coffee, words in that order. I’ve been doing the #5amwritersclub for years now and it works for me. No I don’t get up at 5am every morning, but 4-5 days a week I am there pounding on the keyboard. Usually I’ll get a few pages done and then get on with the rest of my day.

Outside of my morning writing I try to let myself ruminate on the story I am working on. I keep note cards with me and will scrawl out ideas for a character or a scene while I am at lunch, or on a train. Those bits of ideas wind up on my desk at night and are waiting for me the next morning. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they are just trash. The good ones wind up taped to my wall somewhere.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I have a few stories in various states of unrest. I am really good at starting something and getting through the first act and then stalling out, so I am trying to finish a draft of something short each month. My current story is a horror piece about a divorced couple trapped in an acid rain storm. I’m not sure if it is going to make it into the Rising Waters series or take a different form, but it is a fun piece to write.

Tell me more about the Rising Waters Series.

Rising Waters grew out of my love for short speculative fiction. The past few years I have been writing a half dozen or more stories each year. Looking over these stories a theme emerged around personal technology and climate change. I am really drawn to stories that poke at the ideas of what lies just around the corner or just out of reach. I want to tell those kinds of stories.

Why make it a series? Why not just release an anthology? 

I think that people are oversaturated with media these days and most of us can’t consume a whole book or anthology in one sitting. I wanted to make these stories fit into a small space. Something you might read on your commute, or waiting for a child to finish a swim lesson, and feel satisfied with the experience. Personally I like reading a short story in a single sitting and I hope readers will enjoy that experience with these too.

I heard a rumor that you have a book about a flying iceberg? Tell me more.

(Muffles laughter) I have been working on an Eco-Thriller about a washed out coast guard pilot who gets caught up with a Greenpeace / Whale Wars type group who is trying to stop a corporation from stealing ice from Alaska. I don’t want to give away too much yet, but there might be something to the rumors you’ve heard.

Awesome, let me know when you can share more. 

Will do.

What keeps you going on your writing path?

Besides the characters that wake me up every morning?

As an architect I work in a very collaborative profession. I get to create every day and work with amazing people, but I don’t always have the opportunity to create art for art’s sake. My writing habit was born out of needing to find another outlet to express myself artistically.

I am also lucky to be engaged with an amazing writing community. #5amwritersclub has been a godsend to me. Those folks inspire me every day just by showing up, and I’m really jazzed when I hear about their successes. I’ve seen them all bust their hump to get the words down and it shows in the work.

I hear you bring donuts?

Yeah. That started a couple of years ago (yes, years). I was joking online with another writer friend about needing a reward for showing up all week and we started sending each other virtual donuts on Fridays. Now I bring them for the whole crew. Friday Donut GIFs usually turn into Friday Dance Party GIFs and then it is just a free for all.

 

But you still get your work done?

Somehow. Last Friday I pounded out nine pages between shenanigans. I think we all know we have limited time, so the pressure is on to knock out the pages. I’m a father too, and my little ones don’t let me forget it.

What are you reading? What is your favorite fiction book?

Honestly I jump around in my reading. I read a lot, some in print, some on e-reader, some on audible, but there is always a book in my hand or in my ear.

I try to balance between fiction and non-fiction, but I often go on jags where I read whole series in a short span. Last year I was obsessed with VE Schwab and Pierce Brown. Then I bounced to The Art of Starving by Sam Miller. That book slayed me. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Right now I am on a short story jag. I’ve been rereading Kelly Link’s Get In Trouble and trying to read all of the Hugo Nominated stories. While I love novels, I really think some of the most exciting writing out there comes from short stories.

What can you tell me about your newest story; Stealing Air?

Stealing Air is, as you might imagine, a heist story. It follows a band of thieves as they attempt to covertly steal a very expensive drug that makes it easier to breath. Nora, our heroine, needs the drug not only to make money, but also for her ailing husband. In this adventure she is taken from the woods of Appalachia to a craft air manufacturer in the sky where she discovers a real treasure.

This is a story about unintended consequences of messing with nature. It was inspired by the debate about putting Fluoride in drinking water and more recent events in Flint, Michigan.

I hope you’ll check it out, and if you like it share it with your friends.

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Where can we find you or your work?

You can find my stories at Amazon here.

Or, if you are in New Jersey you can pick up the UnCommon Lands Anthology at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ.

I am very active on Twitter. Come say hi at @RW_Igloo

My website is www.ralphwalkerauthor.com

 

 


 

That’s all from Ralph. But wait, there’s more! You didn’t think I’d let you leave without enticing you into a giveaway, did you? Enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Uncommon Lands, featuring Ralph’s ‘Gators in Kansas.’

The Rafflecopter giveaway starts March 20th and ends March 31st with several opportunities to win!

Life by the Numbers

What is it about humans that makes us so quick to compare every aspect of our lives to others? We obsess over the numbers—sometimes becoming unwitting slaves to what those numbers represent. From the size of our paychecks to the size of our televisions (and other things…), we’re experts at using numbers in virtually every aspect of our lives. We measure the hours, the minutes, the seconds of our day. All day. Every day. We quantify our lives based on the money we make, how many chores we’ve completed, how many miles we can run, the number of sit-ups we can do, and—as a writer—the quantity of the words we’ve written each and every day.

So, let’s take a little look at my average numbers. Writing numbers, that is. I’m not going to tell you how many carpets I may (or may not have) vacuumed, how many loads of laundry I did (or didn’t do) last month, and I’m certainly not going to tell you how many miles I can(’t) run—mostly because I don’t want to.

Plus, let’s face it. No one really cares.

In the past, my writing was mostly done in the spare minutes after I’d gotten home from work, when the evening had come to an end, and the kids were finally in bed. Writing was something I did for fun and, sure, I hoped it would lead somewhere someday, but it wasn’t really a task I took seriously.

I managed to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo in 2013 when I added 50,000 words in one month to a novel I already had a 50,000 word head-start on and that was exhilarating, but that’s the most I’ve ever written in a single month and even now, when I’m writing on a much more full-time basis, I don’t write 50,000 words in a month. If my memory serves me well, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything else that month that wasn’t related to writing, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, or putting children to bed. My husband stepped up and did it all that month. If I want to stay married, though, that’s probably not a good longterm strategy for writing.

My writing habits have definitely changed since I began to take writing seriously. Whereas I used to rejoice in putting any number of words on the paper on any given day, I’ve got a schedule that I (generally) stick to pretty religiously these days and it usually results in 5,000 words or more added every week. The key for me is sitting down and making the words happen no matter what. Some days, the words flow like fine wine and other days, I’m lucky if I manage to make the pages sound like they were written by my second-grader… But that’s what it takes to get a first draft done. Fine-tuning can come later.

And some days? Some days life just gets in the way. Case-in-point—I planned to spend a large portion of this weekend writing. Instead, the husband ended up with a migraine in the early hours of Saturday morning, which meant I needed to take him, kids in tow, to Urgent Care for a shot of the good stuff that magically makes migraines disappear—all before breakfast. Then, kids and I got to wait for an hour and a half (because Urgent Care was a madhouse), tired, hungry, and cranky. Half of the day was gone by the time we got home and, to be honest, I was so fatigued just from the running around (introvert much?) that I didn’t have it in me to write. I think I managed maybe 250 words that evening, but really? I didn’t even care about words at that point. So, it’s okay to throw in the towel some days, and admit that it’s just…Not. Going. To. Happen.

The key is making sure that’s not a regular occurrence in your life, and that can be tricky. The novel I’m currently working on is one I started in November of last year. Originally, I wanted to be finished with the first draft by the end of February, but sick kids, sick husband, and life in general got in the way a lot those first few months and it kept me from making the kind of progress I had hoped to make.

I picked up the pace by January, and I am on track to be finished with the first draft of this story by the end of the month. This makes me a happy writer for sure. My numbers show an average of 15,000 – 20,000 words over the last two months because I’ve been living by my own rules and getting the words written, even if some days it’s like pulling teeth to do so.

Most of the time, I don’t encourage assigning a value to the things we do. After all, it’s not what we do, but why we do it that really matters. And you don’t matter less as a writer if you write 500 words a week. (Just the same, you aren’t valued more if you’re a writer who gets 10,000 words written in a week…even if I do gaze longingly at your ability to get so many words down in such a limited time.)

Do what you do because you love to do it and it makes you happy. If the numbers make you happy, keep track of them and rejoice when you hit your milestones! (I do!) But if they don’t, turn off the wordcount feature in your file and plug away without looking. There’s no need to be a slave to living life by the numbers—now or ever!

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My current WIP progress from start to today, 3/11/18.