The Launch of Studious Wordsmiths Workshops!

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As you might be able to tell from my lack of posts, this year has been an absolute whirlwind.  Seems like between work travel, personal travel, online writing classes, and my role responding to the recent Refugio Incident oil spill in Goleta, CA, I’ve barely had time to breathe.

And yet, glutton for punishment that I am, I finally pulled the trigger on a project I’ve been considering for a few years now.  That project is a series of workshops to help writers explore and practice the various skills used in fiction writing.

I love teaching, and as time passes I find I love it even more. From wildlife skills workshops to the activities for the little kids I used to work with, it’s all fun.  I flatter myself that I’m analytical enough to break down topics in helpful ways and organized enough to present it well.  Paired with the sheer amount of instructional content on writing that I’ve consumed – why not try to help other writers?

That said, I don’t like the idea of telling people “the correct” way to write.  In fact, I think far too much of the teaching available out there is overly prescriptive rather than developmental (excellent exceptions being the courses I took this year with Cat Rambo and at The Brainery – if you have the means and the time, highly recommended).  Besides, I’m still working on my own skills.

Thus was born the Studious Wordsmiths Workshops.

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Focused on discussion rather than lecture and filled with practice exercises to encourage exploration, my hope is that these workshops will help participants find what works for them and their stories.  This is how I practice (minus the discussion aspects), this is the kind of class I wish I could take, and I hope the techniques will be useful to others as well.

So if you’re in Davis, California and this sounds interesting, stop on by!

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A Long-Awaited Announcement

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I’ve made a story sale!

Two actually.

If you follow me on social media, you may have already heard the news – a while back I made my first story sale to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  My science fiction story “First Strike” will be appearing in Issue #60 – and I’m also the subject of a new author spotlight, so y’all can read a little essay about the history of this story.  It’s a special one for me, not just because it sold first, but because… well, you’ll just have to read the essay!

You’ll also be able to read my science fiction short story “The Long, Slow War” in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine this September.

The good news just keeps on rolling, as I’ve finished the latest version of Cliff with No Edge!  A small fleet of readers are looking it over as we speak, and I’ll be spending the month of September on the final tweak and polish.  The plan is to have it out and circulating among my carefully selected agents by October.

In the meantime, I’m trucking along and trying not to obsess.  There’s still Book Two to work on and some new short stories that need some fiddling.  So I’ll get back to it, and let you all get back to your (hopefully wonderful) weekends!

A Season of Changes

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Wow, has it been a long time! I’m sorry for the incredibly long silence!

I promise I have a good reason for it.

Most of you probably know that I got a new job recently, and that required a pretty substantial move. I am now ensconced in my new digs near Davis, California. The chinchillas made the trip with me, and are all glaring at me from the other room (I still owe them playtime tonight).

I am still a wildlife rehabilitator, but I am now focusing more on oil spill preparedness and response, which is a new area for me to grow into. Once I’ve got the basics dealt with, I’ll find one or two local groups to scratch the itch of traditional rehabilitation. But for now, I’m still trying to dig out from under the boxes.

All those boxes also mean I haven’t had much time or energy for writing. In fact, I’ve done very little since I got the Cliff beta sent out in early October. I know the general wisdom is that a “real” writer will keep writing even through major schedule upheavals such as this, but I’m really not too concerned – and I’m definitely not beating myself up over it (and honestly, if you’re in a period like this, I urge you not to panic about it either. Things are always knocked off balance when your entire life changes!).

I’m finally starting to feel a little more stable, my new office/library is taking shape, and I’m starting to feel the pull to write again. I’m excited to delve into my beta readers’ feedback on Cliff, which I hope to have out to agents by sometime in February. As a Christmas gift, I also got tuition to Holly Lisle’s “How To Write A Series” online course (recommended to me by the lovely and talented Phoebe Kitanidis), and The StoryMatic, both of which I’m excited to try out.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I guess I’d better get started!

Anyone Interested in Beta Reading?

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This month, I’ve finally gathered up enough energy to get back into my revision of Cliff with No Edge, and I’m just flying through! I’m pretty confident I’ll have it ready for beta readers by the first week of October. Very exciting!

But that also means I better send out a call and start compiling my list of willing test subjects readers. And you, lucky friend who just happens to be within my social media sphere, qualify! If you have any interest, please read on for more details.

Here’s how it works:

Beta readers agree to read the nearly-finished draft of my novel and give me comments to help improve it. There are no special requirements – beta readers need only be people who like to read and who want to help me improve my book.

I will send out a list of questions along with the book. These questions are there to answer specific questions I have about the reading experience. They aren’t meant to limit your feedback in any way. They are more of a tool to help you think critically about specific aspects of the book (think third grade book report: “what character was your favorite, and why?”)

The book will be provided in a Word document so that you can use the “track changes” and “comments” functions if you so desire. If you want a different format, I can probably swing it, just let me know. If you don’t know how to use “track changes” or “comments,” I can probably show you!

Beta readers get to read my book before it is completely finished. That means I love them most of all my friends, but it also means they’ll have to read a pre-publication-quality book with errors and problems. They have to promise to point out these problems and errors with complete honesty. They also have to promise they will still love me even after seeing “the” misspelled for the fourth time.

Speaking of misspellings, although I will always appreciate every word of feedback I receive, there is no need for beta readers to get too down and dirty with my prose (grammar, spelling, punctuation). Final polish & copy editing is a whole separate ball game, and happens after I have made all the content changes for the book (why spend tons of time on a section I might cut?). At the same time, I promise that I have been over the draft several times already, and it should not be painful or unintelligible.
A couple notes on content: Cliff with No Edge is an adventure fantasy, and has magic, action scenes, and a different world and culture. It also deals with some heavy subjects. There is violence, both in the “fight scene” sense and the domestic violence sense. It is not, in my opinion, overly graphic, but if you are sensitive to these topics, it may not be for you. Check out the “sneak peek” section for an idea of the intensity level.

I hereby set this deadline: I will finish and send my book to beta readers by October 5. This means that beta readers will have 6-8 weeks (think end of November) to read and respond about the book. In December, I will begin the next revision. That means I will appreciate and read late feedback, but it will be less useful to me depending how far into the revision I am.

If you would like to be added to my beta reader list, just let me know! I can never have too many opinions at this stage, so the more the merrier. Message me, tweet me, post on my wall, leave a note in the comments section, whatever. I will need your name and email address to send you the file. If you have expressed interest to me in person, I didn’t have a list then, so I probably don’t remember – sorry!

Thank you all for your wonderful support!

King’s Mark Launched!

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My novel King’s Mark is now available!  If you like magic, adventure, and a touch of steampunk (or if you’re simply interested in what I’ve spent the last two years working on) you should check it out!

Nearly a century ago, the immortal King disappeared. Now, his Marked servants are hunted as demons and his land is falling into chaos. Three Marked have survived: a sheltered river princeling, an exiled mercenary, and a charismatic street urchin. Faced with overwhelming odds and blessed – or cursed – with a magic they cannot control, these three must fight to save the people and land they love.
Right now King’s Mark is available in any format from Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon.  It will be available from Barnes and Noble, Apple, and just about every other ebook vendor (in many countries) within the next week.
I also want to send a huge thank-you to everyone who has helped me along the way!  You are all incredible, and this would not have happened without you.  If you want to continue to help me, please feel free to use (and distribute) the coupon code below to get a free copy of the book from Smashwords, and leave me an honest review on the site of your choosing.  At this point, reviews are worth far more than treasure – even if they aren’t entirely positive – so be candid!
Coupon for FREE ebook of King’s MarkVP62E (expires 5/22/13)

The Obligatory New Years Post

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Happy New Year!

Hope you all had an excellent 2012 and are looking forward to 2013.  I know I am.
Of course, at this time of year every blog and every writer is thinking about goals – those set for the previous year and the ones we’ll focus on now.  In fact, I’m pretty sure goals are on most people’s minds.  So I’m here to join the party!
I’m still not a big New Year’s Resolution person, at least not for my personal life, but it is a convenient marker to look at what I hoped to accomplish and what I actually did.
So, first off, let’s look at the passing year.  If you want to see a complete explanation of what I wanted for last year, you can read my first post of 2012.  But essentially, it breaks down like this:
1. Submit King’s Mark to agents.
Done.  I haven’t submitted to all, but I’ve submitted to enough.  My story didn’t sell, but that wasn’t the goal – the goal was to submit.  Yay for success!
2. Submit completed stories to available markets.
Done-ish.  I have done a decent job keeping my stories on rotation, but I haven’t been quite as snappy at keeping them out there (there were multiple week stretches where I let stories languish in the stables).
3. Write and revise my second novel.
Almost done.  Still not ready for beta readers, but it is so close I can taste it.
4. Read through my shelf of writing books, don’t buy any more until I’ve completed the ones I have.
Fail!  I did read about 60% of them, but it is kind of hard to tell… I didn’t stop buying them.  Oops.
5. Complete half-finished stories on my hard drive.
Mostly fail.  I did 2 of them, and I am quite happy with them, but I left many behind.
6. Avoid burning out by maintaining a life beyond work and writing.
Done.  I’m still a pretty insular and solitary person, but I’ve got a life and friends, and I have not become a complete hermit.  And I even read some books for pleasure and went outside.
So, not 100%, but I’m happy with it.  75% is pretty decent, especially since I honestly attempted all of them..  Not only that, but I’m incredibly encouraged by the successes of my friends and associates in the Wordslingers – everyone’s hard work is slowly beginning to pay off, and it makes me proud and confident about my own future.
On to 2013.  I have big plans for this year!
First off, the repeats:
1. Finish up and ship Cliff with no Edge to agents, start the next book in the trilogy.
2. Keep my completed stories out on rotation, finish at least 4 more (new or from the vault).
3. Finish the rest of my writing books, don’t buy more until this is done.
4. Avoid burning out and continue to maintain (or hopefully expand) my life beyond work and writing.
And now the new ones.
5. Research, develop a marketing plan, and independently publish King’s Mark.
I put it away for a year, pulled it back out, and discovered I still believe in it.  I am confident that it is worth putting out there, and that making it available to people can only help my career, not hurt it.  I have a lot to learn before I’m ready to do this, but I intend to get it done this year.
6. Become a slush reader for a magazine.
Apart from learning from other people’s writing, I quite like critiquing and have discovered an interest in editing in general.  The bottom of that ladder is slush reading – usually a volunteer position with a magazine where I would help to sort submitted pieces into might-be-what-they-want and definitely-not-what-they-want.  So I’ll search out and apply to positions in the kind of magazines I enjoy, and if possible, try out this slush reading thing.
7. Save up to attend World Fantasy Convention in 2014
It’s a big convention.  And with my life, I have to plan this far in advance.  But if I can make it there, I think it will be extremely worthwhile.
And that’s my list.  See you all soon!

Title Shenanigans

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Time for another mid-NaNo report!

I completed another couple scenes, bringing me up to 85% through the book. And we’re into the real fun now – without giving anything away, it’s all life, death, and explosions. Super fun!

To be honest, I was less productive than I hoped to be, but I have a few days off now and I should be able to make up some ground.

BUT, on one of my off days I figured out the titles for this trilogy!

First off, I chose the working title “Thieves of Moirai” because I thought “Thieves of Fate” was probably taken and I needed something to fill the gap while I came up with something better (search Moirai in Greek mythology to get the reference. I always knew it wouldn’t stick, ’cause it is secondary world with no Greece). But I think I’ll keep “Thieves of Fate” as the trilogy name. I searched it, and miracles of miracles, I can’t find any books with that title. Besides, it fits.

Now for the big reveal… drumroll… the first book of the Thieves of Fate trilogy is called… A CLIFF WITH NO EDGE. Don’t worry, when you read the book, you’ll understand how utterly perfect this title is. Not to sound conceited…

If you ask me in person, I’ll tell you the other two titles. I just don’t want to announce titles for projects I haven’t even started yet. Call me superstitious, I guess.

I’m terrible with titles. Mostly I stick with pretty straightforward statements. I mean, how creative is “King’s Mark” (speaking of, if you have a suggestion for a better title, I’ll take it). So having three that I’m really happy with is quite an accomplishment. I’ve been living in the glow for days.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Check back in December, I’ve actually got a few blog topics planned out, so I’ll be talking about stuff that isn’t all my projects. 🙂