Long Time, No Post

Well, it’s been a minute.

I haven’t updated this blog much, mostly because of a tandem of life events. If life events are meh, skip ahead to the more writing-related sections below.

The first: I now work full time and have health insurance through my job! Woo! As a person with chronic health conditions, health insurance, or the lack thereof, has been a fear hovering over my head since I was 14. For the hell of it, I once calculated what the uninsured cost of my life-preserving meds would be for a year (just the meds) and it came out to $136,000. Which is just, um, terrifying. And that’s just for the one condition (the MS) and for a good year (just the “keep it controlled” meds, not the “save me from my own rebellious immune system” meds, which are a great deal more expensive). To my everlasting gratitude, my work has promoted me to full time and now I health benefits!

Which neatly brings me to the next life event: part of the deal for full time was to also get my Master’s in Library Science, so I’m back in grad school and trying, oh so hard, to finish this whole program by summer of 2022. Because I refuse to turn 30 and still be working on (another) Master’s. I have rules. They may not be wise rules, but I have rules.

And thirdly, I gave myself the self-imposed deadline to finish drafting the current novel within the year. Because it would mean that I wrote a novel in a year, which is often the timeframe of publishing contracts, and my last, er, four books were each written over the course of two years+ (I think a year and a half was the shortest, but most averaged two and a half to three years). Specifically, I set December 10th as the deadline.

WHICH I HIT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!

*ahem*

Though I failed in my original endeavor of writing fanfiction, I did, however, succeed in writing a 157,000-word novel in a year (started Jan. 6, finished Nov. 27). Well, I say finished, but it’s quite ready yet for beta-readers. I still have to name things. Because proper nouns are my great enemy and there are a lot of placeholders waiting for proper terms to be created. And in order to create those terms I, er, have to invent a language. So the draft is done, and hypothetically, you could read it through and it would make sense, it just…would have a lot of random ______ lines everywhere. Because that’s how I make placeholders. ______. Basically, the book looks like an a giant game of adlibs right now, but I’m working on it! Goal is to have a finalized, legible draft by January, and start lining up beta-readers for it.

Tentatively titling it Prophecy’s Exile. So, er, PE for short?

And because I can, the (also tentative) query blurb:

The Remdari Empire needs a navy to cover their retreat from an ill-advised war. The island nation of Odiřa has such a navy, but no reason to lend its services to their expansionist imperial neighbor. As the decennial treaty renegotiations loom, an alliance could be finagled—and naval support procured—if only Odiřa’s negotiator wasn’t a xenophobic nationalist whose most ardent prayer is for the entire Remdari Empire to sink into the sea.

Odiřa does have a prophecy, though, one foretelling the return of a great war hero who will kill the gods to teach them true divinity. Anyone attempting to fulfill it gains near instant renown, the kind that may stretch so far as replacing a certain anti-Remdari negotiator with one secretly loyal to the empire. The Remdari need a spy, an ambassador, an accomplished liar and cheat.

What they get is Gev Hyromius Caerus, a forty-year-old quartermaster with more of a talent for supply line logistics than killing mortal gods. Abducted from Remdar, deported to an ancestral homeland he’s never seen, and magically branded a criminal exile, Gev is pressed into service as an imperial spy. His goal: fake the prophecy long enough to earn a place at the negotiating table and save his empire’s ass. His reward: removal of the exile brand and the reinstating of his old life. The problem: that prophecy isn’t theoretical.

Bonus points if you can guess what IP sparked the idea for the failed fanfic that ultimately led to the novel.

I itch to start edits on it, but must wait till I complete this semester. Soon, though! Very soon. All those placeholders will be removed, words cut, words added, y’know. The usual.


I also attended my first in-person convention (WindyCon) since before the plague. It was good. It was also a bit nerve-wracking. Still not used to large crowds yet, and I question if I ever will be. However! The experience was incredibly validating for a multitude of reasons.

  • I sold books! Myself and a few other local writers often split a dealer’s room table to sell our books, and I not only sold out of the stock I’d bought for the convention, but made a good dent in my back-stock from pre-Covid times. I, shockingly, even managed to make a profit. Egads.
  • I did panels! I was even a surprise panel moderator (surprise, as in, surprise to me) on a panel with two highly successful professional authors and I was scared out of my wits! Wee! (Jody Lynn Nye and Seanan McGuire, who were both lovely to interview for this panel but also, -hyperventilates slightly-)
  • I received a contract for a story I sold and signed it! (More on that at the end of this post)
  • I received a partial request from an agent! Aaaaaah!
  • A representative from the convention art show tracked me down from one of my freebie bookmarks and demanded to know why I didn’t have my art in the art show. Which…I mean, there’s no actual reason, I’m not boycotting it or hiding from it, it just wasn’t on my radar? However, I did promise to submit my art to the show next year, so that’s now a thing? And it also gave me the impetus to pick up the digital brush and start painting again, which, I’m happy to note, that even after a year of stagnation, my skills haven’t atrophied. The muscles in my right hand, however…

DGB Query Trenches Stats:

  • 20 Queries Submitted
  • 2 partial requests (1 rejection, 1 pending)
  • 1 full request (ultimately rejected, but a nice one!)
  • 11 rejections
  • 9 still pending

I’m going to take a break for the holidays and come back to this in January, especially seeing that quite a few agents on my to-be-queried list have closed for the holidays as well. I’ll be honest, I’m actually rather shocked by my request rate, seeing that this book is an “unsalable” 186k words. 15% ain’t bad!


And lastly! My weird west short story, “A Cold Dark Line to Cross” will be published in Wicked West: A Summerstorm Press Anthology on December 1st! Sometimes, being dead gives someone a chance to be a better person than they were in life. To earn his permanent death, undead outlaw Gabe Dunn has one last member of his former murderous crew to kill, but doing so will mean confronting the man who made him into a monster. Teenage necromancers out for revenge, their personal ex-outlaw attack zombies, magic users with strange powers over animals, all chasing each other across the Mojave Desert in an alternate late 1800’s.


Here’s where I’ll wrap up. Happy holidays to those celebrating holidays during the coming season! Maybe next year (ye gods, I’m not ready for that!) I’ll finally reintroduce the month of books wrap-up posts. Or maybe I’ll try something new.

Either way, signing off.

-dun dun dun- The Query Trenches!

The first batch of queries for Dead God’s Bones have officially been submitted! The novel has embarked upon its journey to agents and I am now, once more, wading into the query trenches. The number of submissions this time around is, quite honestly, small, but I’m trying a new approach to querying. With In Blood, I tended to shotgun query (even when they were personalized, they weren’t, per say, strategic). In the end, I submitted 43 queries, had two partials and one full request, but ultimately shelved the book.*

With DGB, I’m going for strategic. I am also trying damn hard to not only choose agents to submit to with intention and careful consideration of who and what they represent and what I, personally, am looking for in an agent, but to actually express this in the query letter itself. The letters are, by extension, taking a great deal longer to write, but I feel a more confident in the submission. With IB, I always feared I was pestering. With DGB, I have done my homework and chosen these agents specifically, so I feel less like I’m wasting their time. What will the end result be? I have no idea, but the immediate effect is that I feel more centered. So there’s that.

Fly, novel! Fly to inboxes! Fly and be read! And maybe garner a request or two!

In other news, still plugging away at the new novel. At 110K or so, and things have, necessarily, slowed. Because I need proper nouns. Like names. And locations. And words in this conlang I’ve been putting off semi-constructing. So! For the past week or so, I’ve been poking at phonetics and grammar and working on making it have a consistent “sound” so I can mash consonants and vowels together in a way that has an internal rational behind it so I can finally name some things. So far, I have letters and phonemes. Rules for what can and can’t follow certain things and what syllable you stress. Most of this will not be in the book, but I need to know something of it, otherwise, it’ll all be a garbled mess.

As for drafting, I’ve gotten to the point where the book starts drawing in some horror elements. My main character, Gev, has a sixth finger growing out of the back of his hand and can’t touch anyone, else he’ll curse them with extra unwanted digits sprouting from unexpected places. Soon, he’s off to meet the wizard in the magic, floating rock-castle-thing for a consultation. Drama will occur. The finger will be addressed. And then it’s smooth-sailing to the end of the book.

Well.

Smooth-sailing for me. For Gev? Not so much.

Also, have a potato-Gev, courtesy of a joke with a coworker that led to some spudsy doodling.


* This was not due to rejections, but rather, a new understanding that, really, that book, as much as I love it, had little marketability and wasn’t up to snuff, not for publishing. So it has been shelved, but fondly.

We Have Crossed the 100K Barrier!

New novel is officially long for it has crossed the 100,000-word line. Though I still aim for 140k, I have to admit, it might possibly weigh in at a bit heftier. I still have the other half of this fight scene, the aftermath, the reporting-back, the off-to-see-the-wizard section, then you-might-be-the-chosen-one-I’m-too-sober-for-this aftermath, then the last scene of proving chosen one status, and end of book. Which, um, sounds like a lot, I realize. It’d be nice for it to be 140k, but we’ll see.

Screen shot for proof:

Forgive all the placeholders. Proper nouns are my arch nemesis and usually the last thing I work out in a draft, so everything just has hundreds of ________. Also, the precision of the word count meter wasn’t intentional. I knew I was getting close, stopped to check after finishing a sentence, and ‘lo and behold, it was 100k exactly, so I screenshotted. Because how many times will that happen when the word count falls on such a nice round number without it being choreographed or cut off mid-sentence?

Endgame begins. My writing soundtrack has shifted from ESO ambiances to Witcher III combat music.

Aiming also to have this book done and polished by the end of this year. It’s been a personal challenge to see if I can (finally) write a novel and finish it in the time constraints of a typical publishing house contract, since most of mine have taken between two years and three, but I’ve never dedicated the whole of my attention on the one book. Previously, I was writing the novel while I was doing creative writing grad school work, and while I’m still doing grad school work (though for a different degree), the fact that I started writing this book the first week of January, it was too tempting to see if I could finish it in a year.

It might happen. I want it to happen. I’d be really happy if I could finish the initial drafting by the end of August and move on to fixing all those proper noun placeholders and doing revision work to the beginning in the fall, but best laid plans and all that.

Anyone else hitting fortuitous word counts that make nice screenshots lately?

When You Accidentally Start Writing the Wrong Novel

So I hit my self-imposed goal of 30,000 words by January 25th. Yes, I realize now in looking over my 2021 Goals post that I’d said 20,000, but proceeded to then forget the actual number and went with what I vaguely remembered—30k.

The other…interesting hiccup is that this…isn’t the novel I started with. See, I was about 15k into a different novel, then this thing came along and blindsided me. Words were coming slow for the 15k one, so I decided, on a lark, I’d try my hand at fanfiction just to shake things up.

The attempt last less than a day. I categorically failed at writing fanfiction.

What I did succeed at, though, was starting a completely different book, a book that I humored for the first 1,000 words. Then the second. Then the third. And by the time I hit 10k in less than a week, I had to admit to myself that, er, this was the new book, not the other.

Essentially, I’ve written 30,000 words in three weeks. That’s probably the most productive I’ve been in sheer word count since undergrad. Huh.

In retrospect, I tried to pull the other one out of the proofing drawer too soon, and while it looked risen at first, the more I tried to knead it, the more I realized it hadn’t built up the gluten. This thing is more like the baking equivalent of three ingredient no-knead bread.*

It’s also an absolute blast to write. I’m currently sitting at 32K and honestly, my output has only slowed because grad school started this week and I’m still acclimating to that.

This is not the novel I intended to write, but it is the novel that’s getting written. Which is…interesting, to say the least. In many respects, this is the first novel I’ve worked on without a formal outline planned. Yes, I know where it’s going, but because it’s rather more linear that my previous ones and, so far, has just the one viewpoint character, it seems to require less pre-writing, less balancing of story threads, so I can fall back more on plain-old play. “Oooh, if I introduce this complication, what’ll happen? Oooh, if it instead jinks to the left here instead of the right, where does that lead?”

It’s also rather refreshing to tackle a project that’s rather finite and, hm, constrained. It’ll probably be a duology, but only because it’d be impractical, size-wise, as one book, but it is one story. There are no standalone components. And, as it’s just the one viewpoint character doing the one thing, I have to juggle fewer future timelines and reveals because, er, it’s rather simple in its structure.

Which brings me to the grand reveal: it’s Chosen One fantasy.

I swore I’d never write Chosen One fantasy. It’s boring, it’s familiar ground, it’s been written to death. And yet…exploring it, directly engaging with it, balancing homage with subversion, has been a fascinating sandbox in which to play.

Also, I really enjoy the idea of a chosen one who’s fast approaching middle age and is, essentially, a level 1 hero but a level 50 quartermaster; all his skills are with numbers, ledger books, and logistics, not with waving swords around and challenging gods. And I’m having far, far too much fun with a character who is ethnically from a certain land, but culturally from another, and struggling to adapt in the land supposedly his homeland when his heart belongs to a completely different place, one that, frankly, is more often the aggressor…

I realize this is incredibly vague. I tend to do that. So! In light of vagueness, I instead present—drumroll, please—concept art!

Because why not riding dinosaurs? No color version yet, but their feather crests are almost macaw-bright, with the rest of their scaly selves more alligator/crocodile in coloration and texture. And with this one, fantastical change, suddenly, I have so much freedom with designing the local flora and fauna. So far, it’s limited to the dinos and a sort of cross between a ring-tailed lemur and a skunk, but I expect this to continue, because why not? Because if I’m going to explore such familiar territory as the Chosen One, I might as well go completely ham with everything else. At the very least, it’ll push my creature-design skills to their limits.

As a challenge, I aim to finish this draft within the year. Step up my production schedule, ’cause three years for a novel is rather long, just in the scheme of making this a career. So! 120K by January 2022.

That’s the goal, at least. We’ll see how this goes.


* Have I been watching a lot of The Great British Baking Show? …maybe.

2020 Year in Review/2021 Writerly Resolutions

Although, if I’m to be honest, “resolutions” seems so chiseled in stone and imposing than just “goals” so perhaps we’ll just go with “goals.”

Anyway.

Last year I made a resolutions plan for 2020, some of which I’ve accomplished, some of which I have not. Like the goal of 60 submissions. I don’t think I even made 40 (*cough* 28, according to the Grinder) in 2020 but, erm, there was the whole plague and quarantine that happened, and I lost easily six months of potential writing productivity to just a general sense of hopelessness and defeat. But, hey! Three acceptances! Same as last year, so fewer submissions but same rate of acceptance. Go figure.

I did, however, hit every one of those goals for Dead God’s Bones. I finished the editing pass, then did another, found betas, got feedback, did more editing, found more betas, did more editing, and got my submission packet together. Then decided, er, might be better to wait till 2021 for this. Querying in 2020 didn’t seem either wise nor feasible, so I mostly researched agents, put together my list of who to send it to, and just generally did prep work. I did write at least five short stories (five exactly) and I also started the next book (more on that later—possibly more on that in a separate blog entry). I also did a bit of painting, so there’s that?

I didn’t end up querying In Blood another 20 times; I think I did five or six more then retired it. I thought I’d be absolutely heartbroken but a year of distance between querying it and three years of distance from writing it, and I can see its flaws more clearly. It’s not a bad book, and there are elements of it that I still love, but I’m all right with it just being for me. The component parts don’t fit together as seamlessly as DGB or the new book, and I’d like to think I’ve leveled up as a writer.

So I suppose that’s 2020. The most surprising things this past year mostly happened around my day job. I was promoted, realized I’ve reached the ceiling for advancement/pay without a degree in the field, so applied, was accepted, and am now going back for yet more college.

Moving on to that handy bulleted list I used last year.

2021 Resolutions Goals:

  • Hit 40 submissions again. I need to get back into the habit.
  • Start querying Dead God’s Bones with intent. I have my list, I have my packet, all that remains is to do the legwork. So far, my agent list is about 15 agents strong at this point, but for DGB, I’m going for more targeted querying than I did with In Blood. We’ll see how that works out.
  • Continue working on the new book (more on this in its own dedicated blog post). I’d like to get 20k words in by the time I start school, and while I’d love to have the draft done by this time next year, not sure how feasible that is with grad school looming. I’d be happy with halfway by January of 2022. Anything else is extra credit.
  • Go to school. Again. This time, though, instead of a degree in writing, I’ll be working on a degree in libraries. In my day job under another name, I’m the Assistant Head of Circulation. My goal, however, is to specialize and become either an Outreach Librarian and/or a Reference Librarian.
  • Write 5 new short stories.

Onward to 2021!