Tag Archives: Update

Dear Teen Courtney

Teenagers of the world, Dear Teen Me is for you.

For everyone who wishes they were on the football team. For everyone who would rather be in the glee club than ever run another lap. For the teens who dream of being far, far away from the small town or big city where they go to school. The prom queens, the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the good girls, the loners, the stoners, the class presidents, the juvenile delinquents, the jocks and the nerds.

The teens who have good days and bad days and sometimes really really really bad days.

This is for you.

Signed,
A group of authors. some famous – some up-and-comers, who care about you.

Yesterday my letter to “Dear Teen Me” went live. A lot of connecting and truth mixed with a bit of sass (yeah, that’s didn’t lessen with age) and eye rolling to create something real.

Oh and one great picture of teen me on one of my favorite and most ornery horses. Seriously, during training this horse rolled on me, put me into a tree face first, and tried to dump me in the creek, but I loved Goldie and got him to accept most riders. Just to wet your whistle, here’s that pic for you now.

Giddy Up, Goldie

Young love

So, go over and read my letter. Let me know what you think. Tell others. Then click around and hear from other amazing authors as they communicate with their teen selves.

DearTeenMe

What are you still doing here? Click click.


I’m here to Break Rules and Chew Bubblegum

And I’m all out of bubblegum.

We’ve all been there. In fact we’ve done it all our lives. “No, mom, I can’t do my homework until I clean my room.” “Honey, there’s no way I can do the taxes until all these dishes are done.” “There is no way I can go out and save Gotham with this spot on my cape.” We’ve all be there.

Dun Dun Da-oops. I hate laundry day.

Dun Dun Da-oops. I hate laundry day.

That point where the mess we’ve been living in, no matter how small or great, suddenly become unbearable and we must remedy this situation NOW. Usually at that exact moment when something even more important comes along.

This phenomenon of distracted productivity has led to some of the best and most effective outcomes of my life. That guilty pleasure of breaking the rules of what I should be doing now with the rationalized justification of “but I’m doing something that just HAS to be done” mixes together to create a beautiful synergy. Without which we would never have the clean rooms our mothers loved so much.

Or the clean manuscripts. Yep you knew I was going to make this about writing somehow. In writing people are always setting up great lists of how to write and create the perfect manuscript. I read these and try to take the great advice to heart. One of the biggest and most often quoted of these tips of writing is don’t break your momentum. Save your editing and revising for where it belongs, after your first draft is completed. The concept is that the more we put on the brakes to read and re-read what we’ve already written in an attempt to make it perfect the first time around, the less likely we are to finish it. We get bogged down in the first fifty pages doing them over and over and thus lose motivation and momentum to ever finish the last fifty. Every stop, every backtrack makes every restart that much slower and harder to accomplish.

And I believe in this tip. I use it and even teach it to my students in class. I put up a big picture of the Nike swoop and tell them “Just do it.” Just write and get the draft out without censorship or revising. Don’t break the momentum and writing become a lot easier.

Then we come to the rule breaking part. This last month I’ve been working on book 2, The Scions of Wrath, of the American Scion series. I have my beautiful research and outline to work from. I’m set and ready to just push through this manuscript. I’m even really excited because there’s so much happening in this book the readers can really sink their teeth into. But the first thirty pages were really bugging me. They came out far longer than I intended. They were pushing the inciting event way too late in the book. And as I kept sitting down to write the inciting event scene, one of the most important in any book, I would stare at the screen and worry and fret over those overly long first thirty pages. It was distracting to the point of debilitating.

And then I remembered cleaning my room before doing homework. It was a sneaky little trick to put off the inevitable, but it worked and in the end I had a clean room and completed homework. So yesterday I sat down and revised the first thirty pages making them much more concise and punchy. And it worked. I not only feel better about where they are but also feel great about writing the next scene and getting this bad boy rolling into hell, for my characters at least.

So there it is. I’m a teacher of rules and methods, and I’ve gone a broke a big one. And it felt great. As writers we need to listen to the rules and tips and trick to know not only when to follow them to make a great book, but also when to break them to make it all come together.

Image courtesy of  Jeroen van Oostrom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Writing Resolution Return

In my last update, I vague posted all of you.

“Make significant progress professionally on my writing. Result: OF SCIONS AND MEN was completed, revised from BETA readers, and completed fully. More on this on another post.”

I’m sorry. I know this is a horrible way to leave things. But I had to wait until everything was certain. Well, now it’s time to stop being vague.

Tell me now or the computer gets it!

Tell me now or the computer gets it!

OF SCIONS AND MEN, the distopian paranormal I’ve been working on for a while, has been picked up by the ever growing and innovating people at Curiosity Quills through the amazing Vicki Leigh. That means this series has a home to grow and evolve.

So, my immediate future will be full of work for these marvelous people. I can’t wait to share the next steps of this adventure, cover reveals, release dates, and the like, with all of you. In the meantime, I am also working on Book 2, THE SCIONS OF WRATH, to keep this coaster going.

Oh, and don’t mind me as I break out into the snoopy happy dance at random times. Just a bit excited.

That's right. We celebrate in costumes around here.

That’s right. We celebrate in costume around here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


To Resolve or Not to Resolve

Yes, I know. Bastardizing Shakespeare is a poor man’s wit. Or maybe that was something about Shakespearean punneries. But the question still stands.

We are only ten days into 2015, and I have read post after post about what a crock New Year’s Resolutions are, while the other side is posting promise after promise. Even Forbes had a list of resolutions that will change your life FOREVER! And it leaves a girl wondering what to do.

Resolutions are supposed to be positive affirmations we pledge to ourselves, the universe, God, the dark forces, whatever gets us going. Most people know that they are not going to follow through when they just tell themselves in the dark corners of their mind on New Year’s Day, so they have traditions to make these affirmations more real and boast about them in person and online in the hopes that others will make them more accountable than their own willpower can deliver. And thus are most gyms filled to capacity in January.

And back to business as usual by March. Sigh. So do they work at all?

To decide, I go as my mother has taught me to my elders for guidance. The man of writing and wit himself, Oscar Wilde has a strong opinion on the matter. He said, “Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak…. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

Well, there you go. Wilde has spoken, the answer given. Case Closed. End of post. Break the set and see you at the afterparty, folks.

But only a fool would ignore their own experiences in life for the comfort of words from a source who’s never walked a day in their shoes. Crap, okay, time to examine.

Last Year’s Resolutions:

Become healthier & stick with the gym. Result: I have become a regular at the gym so much so that people I still don’t know the name of comment on my progress. I have also lost over 10% body fat.

Finish my current crafting projects & learn a new craft. Result: I am current on my cross-stitching projects from last year and I’ve learned to crochet. Working on my first blanket.

Check off something from my bucket list: I flew a plane for the first time.

Make significant progress professionally on my writing. Result: OF SCIONS AND MEN was completed, revised from BETA readers, and completed fully. More on this on another post.

Action speaks louder than words. (Sorry, Mr. Wilde. I still love you.) Yes, resolutions can make a difference. I felt each of these check marks, and they drove me to do even more than I set out to do. So I’m a girl convinced and will dedicate myself even more this year.

That's my promise to each of you.

That’s my promise to each of you.


Writing in a Bubble

Teaching college level composition and other writing and communication classes I’ve begun to notice a disturbing trend. It’s been there all along, silently driving down people’s ability and desire to write. This stalking predator of words has driven students, young and old alike, into great terrified frenzies of self-doubt over the concept of putting their ideas to paper to share with the world. It drives classrooms to uncomfortable silences filled with the unmistakable desire of fight or flight.

This destroyer of creativity: writing in a bubble.

Image

As it was just recently put to me by a student, the idea is a student can either sit down and write a good paper by themselves the first time, or they are a bad writer. This student shared with me how the idea of a professional writer having to edit and edit their work was so, well, novel.

See, I had recently shared with my class one of my writing projects, a query letter. I showed them my first attempt; they read it and liked it. Then I showed them all my mark ups. They were amazed; there was more red than white on my paper, and I was okay with that. I showed them my next draft and its mark ups. And the next. And the next. Until I finally showed them my strengthened and concise letter. We then discussed the advantages of the last version to the first one they all liked in the beginning.

This made more of an impression than I had even intended. To see their teacher writing and re-writing, and talking to others, and getting feedback, and using the writing process I was teaching them was new. They thought from their high school days and earlier, that if you had to rewrite your work, obviously you were not a good writer and should be relegated to the dunce chair. Thus they were devastated every time they got marks back.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a4/Museum_of_Lincolnshire_Life%2C_Lincoln%2C_England_-_DSCF1724.JPG/256px-Museum_of_Lincolnshire_Life%2C_Lincoln%2C_England_-_DSCF1724.JPG

So, I’ve changed how I talk about this.

Even more than before, I’m stressing how “real writers” don’t need to write in a bubble. They have people look at their work, read their work, give them feedback, and they rewrite not because they aren’t good, but because they know it can be better. And don’t we all just want to show the world our best work as the reflection of the creativity of our soul.

I bring in examples of not only things that can help them and encourage them to work with and talk to one another about their writing (for some reason they thought that was cheating!), but I also show them how the writing world has been set up to do this. Now the classroom is a alive with conversation and sharing.

Perhaps this is one big difference that has been happening lately in the publishing world. With the now big five and even mid to large level publishers, the safety net of not writing in a bubble is built in. There are a slew of people to go over the work, edit it, market it, help with art, give feedback on everything, and protect you on a multitude of legal and creative fronts. But in self-publishing, you have to seek out and create this net, or chance it with writing in a bubble. This is not impossible, but it does take more work. I’ve seen even recent movers and shakers like Curiosity Quills, Spencer Hill and Angry Robot Books taking up arms to protect their authors while making their works even stronger for the commercial world, a feat thought impossible before for those not of the Big 5 ™.

In the end, no matter where we are writing, class, online, publishing, we need to remind ourselves that perfection is not about having to do everything right the first time, or even the seventh, but to end up with the best work we can using the resources around us. We are a writing community, and in the spirit of community, we need to realize, that sometimes it takes a village to raise a book.

Images courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Green Lane /CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Another Day, Another World

As my queries and partial live out in the world of agents for a while, I turn my attention to my next project. About halfway through revising BLACK SUN, an idea hit me for what I should write next. It is much more urban fantasy, taking our world only about a generation ahead of where we are now. The problems and forces affecting us now grow and change and make a recognizable both wholly different. Taking what’s happening now and pushing it forward with its own delicious paranormal twists.

For the last few months, I’ve let this new world germinate in my head. I’ve gotten research done (some of which I’m sure landed me interesting watch lists). I’ve written up shorts for people who will never be in the book but helped me determine what happened when everything went wrong. I’ve discovered and created political factions. Unlike Black Sun, this new world will be much deeper with a lot more characters interacting on a deeper level.

Taking a page from Kim Harrison’s highly successful playbook, I have also outlined 3 books. This way I not only know what my characters are doing and interacting, but where they are going and how they are changing as they get there. These will be working outlines that will of course grow and change as I write and revise, but knowing where my characters are headed has made me excited to jump into this world.

And jump I will. Now that the character sheets are done, scene worksheets and outlines are completed, and the GMC for all my main characters and the history are determined, I am ready to plunge into this urban fantasy head first.

Diving

Geronimo

So, my goal for the end of the week will be to send out the rest of my round one query agents and to put word to screen on my new work. An exciting week all around. Now to go for a run to get any last minute explosion of ideas.


Crafting a Lightning Rod: The Truth of Queries & Synopses

Many successful authors explain getting published similarly. They say to get published you must 1) write a stellar novel, 2) get lucky, 3) have lightning strike. With the hundreds of thousands of potentials out there, all hoping for the same bolt of lightning to strike them, it’s nerve wrecking. How can I change my charge from those around me to attract that electricity to my camp?

Big money, No Whammys. Hit me!

Taking this metaphor another level, apocryphally Ben Franklin gave the answer. A key of metal to act as a lightning rod will channel that power directly where we want it. So, we strap ourselves to a homemade lightning rod and brace for the blast that we hope will blow our socks off and change us forever.

But what is this homemade rod to glory? Our rusty metal key is the well-crafted query and synopsis. Those are the small articles we count on to change our overall charge from those around us and bring heaven to earth. Yet every other nut is out during the rainstorm crafting their own homemade rod.

And yes, I’m in the rainstorm too. For the last week I’ve spent time crafting my query until I have ten drafts that I’m reasonably happy with, even if I will never be fully done with it. Working on this, I have researched and studied what the success stories with their blasts have explained about their queries. Also, I’ve studied the weather itself and what agents have said and joked about what makes a query stand out and what makes it a dud. So, for the moment, the head of my key is completed.

Now the tail of the key cries for the same time and talent. Thus for the last few days, I have turned my attention to a synopsis. Why is summarizing 400 pages in 1-2 so difficult? The story is completed. It is all there. No more surprises to discover. So, why does this seem like a tougher task than writing the novel in the first place?

Going back over what I’ve written already, I have one thought on this. It is because I’m being asked to take all the edge and excitement that I’ve spent years crafting into the story out completely leaving only its bleached carcass to finish my lightning rod with. I’m not a science wiz, but I don’t think bone is a very good conductor.

Doing the same research I did for my query, I’ve come across an interesting phenomenon. Almost every agent and editor I’ve seen who’ve blogged or answered questions about synopses nearly unanimously say they hate reading a synopsis. They are boring and tough to get through. Authors who were successful in writing them almost all say they hate writing them because they are boring and tough to get through. So, why do we do this? If everyone hates them, how on earth do they attract any electricity for us?

Finally, doing research, I got a decent answer. They are only to prove the author knows how to craft a story and character development. That’s what is being looked for in a synopsis. That’s why they are important. I was wrong. It isn’t the bare bones we are getting them down to; it is the strong structural design. And that structure had better be strong straight steel. Now that’s a good lightning rod.

So, today and tomorrow I am redoing my synopsis with this new image in mind. I’m looking forward and am incredibly nervous about casting out my homemade lightning rod and standing out in the storm. Here’s a toast in hope of getting the blast of my life.

Picture by: Suvro Datta


Back and Hitting Overdrive

Wow, is it February already? A lot of work and news has happened. The Gothic Blue Book with Antidote for the Soul has been out for public consumption for months. I have even signed a few copies people have brought me. No matter who you are, when someone asks you to sign something you’ve published, a little voice inside you goes “SQUEEEE”. And mine certainly did.

Still Available in print or Kindle. SQUEE

Adding to that, I have also guest lectured classes on the writing process and creating worlds and characters for two separate classes. These were both outstanding experiences that I was much honored to be a part of these young writers’ journeys. Hearing their ideas and answering their questions allowed them to bring new ideas to my writing at the same time that I was trying to help them.  The most fun was hearing all the little details that they’d caught that I didn’t think anyone but me would get. Easter Eggs are fun for everyone.

In other news, I got word back from my wonderful and talented Beta Readers, and as of yesterday, I have applied the notes and finished the last draft of Black Sun. I’m really excited about these changes, and they couldn’t have happened without outstanding Beta Readers. I owe each and every one of them a drink of their choice.

Beyond that, I am gearing up to polish up an eye-catching query letter and synopsis for agents to peruse and, hopefully, fall in love with. In this pursuit, yesterday I was given an outstanding exercise. An agent was holding a contest for people to win a chance for him to go over their query letter. In order to win that opportunity, writers had to post a 100 word scene from the POV of their villain/antagonist. This was an outstanding exercise that I would recommend to every writer. I put an added challenge in mine, and made sure that my villain/anatagonist’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict were identifiable in those short 100 words. Whew, never knew 100 words could go by so fast. I’m already about four times that in this blog post alone. So it was daunting to get a coherent, engaging snippet from my darling villain and also convey his true goals with his reasonable motivation and the thwart to his overall plan. The funny thing is, he ended up sounding in his own POV like he was a hero. But then again, shouldn’t many villains seem themselves in the right? I was so intrigued by this that I’m going to write more on it in my next post.

For now, I am moving forward in as quick a pace as my day job will allow me. Time to get this bad boy packaged up for others in this world to see and l enjoy.


Antidote for the Soul is going to be PUBLISHED!

My title says it all.

I had this wonderful, thought provoking, craft educational post all thought out and outlined for today, but nope, that will wait for another day.

Last night at 9:05pm I received an email from BurialDay Books:

“Dear Courtney,

Thank you for sending us “Antidote for the soul.”

We love your story and would like to publish it in the Gothic Blue Book!

We will be in touch shortly with a more formal letter and details.

Regards,”

Time for a few fireworks in the world.

I am an author (soon to be officially published in both ebook and traditional print) and teach others how to write, yet I can find no words to describe how I felt at that moment. Excited, too pale and blah. Elated, nope, not enough hop to it. Ecstatic, not enough zing. Euphoric, getting closer, but still not enough to describe that one moment in time.

Everything just froze. I read it and re-read it. I then got up, did my happy puppy dance all over the room as I called all those who had helped me on my journey. It was a moment I hope to relive in the future, but no matter what, I will always remember and work back towards that feeling.

It’s true. As of the end of next month, my words will be in ebook and traditional print format. People will be able to go out and buy them, take them home, read them, judge them, enjoy them. I have street cred.

Exciting and humbling all in the same breath. So, next rounds on me, folk. Let’s celebrate!

Image by: xedos4

 


Short Story, Big Package

As many of you wonderful followers know, for the last week I’ve been tirelessly working on my short story “Antidote for the Soul” for Burial Day’s Gothic Blue Book submission. I came up with the idea over a dinner and had an outline within an hour. I could see the big scenes, feel for the characters. I executed more research than I’d done for my last paper and educated myself to match style and substance. It was fully planned out and ready to write.

And write it I did. But every work has its complications and so did this one. The issue for this piece was the requirements. To give you some background, “Gothic Blue Books were abridgements of full-length Gothic novels. The subjects of the books fell into one of two categories; the first being set in a monastery or convent and the second being set in a castle.” For the publisher, the whole short story had to be 3,500 words. My students looked at that and went, “How can you write that much?” I looked at it and said, “How can I tell this entire tale in 3500 words?”

It’s been a task, but fun in its way. We get used to writing styles: novels, novellas, long format fiction, papers. When asked to step into new shoes, we have to start all over again. This piece came out to be a full piece short story, now it was time to abridge. So came out the red pen and scenes and characters got cut. It was like surgery. Merry Bond gave me great advice last week, “you really shouldn’t put in hardly any details, you just want the story, the gruesome, frightening, creepy, wonderful story with just merest touch of ambiance.” Thank you, Merry!

Let's see what the publisher thinks of our little convent.

Now reading the finished product, I like it. The story and most of the mood is still there, even if it was planned to be four times this length.

Beyond it being done, it’s off to the publisher. It’s in their hands now in more ways than one. It would be an honor to be included in their work. Just have to wait and let them read and decide.

Now time to leave planet again and deal with my vampires and werewolves in the deep of space, but I enjoyed my venture Earth side in the darkness of our horrific past.

Image by: Salvatore Vuono