NEWS! Giveaway, Anthology and Parties

August is shaping up to be a busy month for me. On a personal level, I get to go back to school shopping for the first time, try to get the kiddo to his next day camp, and try to get him to see his grandmother before summer is over. But no one wants to hear about that!

So on to news on the writing front.

First…I have a new anthology that came out today (well as it is an anthology it isn’t really mine, but I have a killer story in it ;p ) Undeath By Chocolate is a project some fellow Wattpad authors and I have been working on for a while. As soon as the editor (the lovely and talented Steven R. Brant) pitched the idea to me I fell in love. And I wrote my story immediately—it’s a Snow White retelling of sorts, but also the struggle of a young woman to regain her faith in love after an encounter with a witch in her youth.Undeath By Chocolate

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074FWCQ2L

Blurb: Have you ever met a necromancer with dreams of being a mariachi player? Have you ever mixed a potion with dragonfly tears, or made a deadly wish on a cake and had it come true? Did you ever visit a voodoo shop that only opens after midnight or kissed a corpse to life? Come and join ten specially selected authors for a sweet combination of paranormal and horror stories–tales which have both the undead and chocolate as their special ingredients.

 

Now on to my other August news. As I’ve mentioned before August is proud home of the Wattpad Block Party Summer Edition, and I’m one of the featured authors. So what’s new? Well, it has started and the posts even just of the first day are amazing. There’s even a great one on genre hopping.112942839-176-k490197

My article on Dialogue will be going live on August 4th (Friday) and I encourage people to check it out… because I think I’m brilliant. I’m mostly joking ;p

https://www.wattpad.com/story/112942839-wattpad-block-party-summer-edition-iii-august-2017

But there is more! More you ask? Yes. More. Cheers!

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There are a slough of giveaways that go along with the Blockparty.

For a full list visit: https://goo.gl/2x2anC

For my giveaway of a chapter critique you can go directly to the rafflecopter page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/27854a79389

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Accepting a Knife to the Kidneys (With a Smile)

Taking a knife to the kidneys with grace is an art form. And by knife to the kidneys I mean, of course, taking a critique. I’ve ranted before on the different type of critiquers and how some of them honestly just aren’t helpful and I still believe that. Critiquing is an art that’s learned, (a talk for another time.) Unfortunately for all of us who spend gratuitous amounts of time giving thoughtful critiques, accepting criticism is also an art form.

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So, what not to do when receiving a critique (some of these are obvious, some less so.)

  1. Never argue why you’re right and they are wrong. There is no need to change for their opinion, but they took the time to give it. Calling them out on being incorrect is unappreciative, rude and shouts to the world that you think you know best already (and if that’s true why did you ask for a crit?)                                                                                                                woman-315006_1280
  2. Don’t Insult or depreciate the critique in any way. Even if they are downright rude to you. Starting a firefight won’t help you. Realizing they are wrong and you don’t have to listen… that will help. But you don’t need to tell them that, in fact, you shouldn’t.
  3. Don’t take advice by the letter. Guess what? If you are getting peer critiques, chances are they don’t know any more than you do. So if the advice doesn’t gel or disagrees with the advice of others, ponder it, tuck it away for later and then forget it. And it’s just fine to take pieces of advice and not others.                                                                             book-730479_1280
  4. Don’t inform them what other critiquers think. I’ve noticed a trend of authors defending themselves (not saying they are right, but holding up a shield) saying “my other critiquers didn’t think this.” Okay… fine… What’s your goal in telling your critiquer this? Either you make the critquer feel bad because you’ve essentially just told them their opinion is wrong. If they choose to crit again, they will feel self-conscious and not do as good of a job. Or you’re insulting other critiquers to them by calling them unobservant. Which makes your critiquer wonder what you say about their crits behind their back. Point is, yes a little complaining about crits is okay, but you don’t do it in direct response to a comment in another critique.
  5. Remember that everyone is in a different stage in their writing and critiquing abilities. Don’t assume because something is short it didn’t take effort. Or discount all their advice because they quoted grammar rules incorrectly. They may not be grammar geniuses, but I bet they know how a piece of work makes them feel.

Now, if I do a list of don’ts, there must be a list of dos, so here goes.

  1. Do say thank you. Even if you didn’t find a single thing of use (you may when you look back, or you may not. Still thank them.) And take the time in your thank you to let them know you read the crit and heard what they said (unless you have a prior relationship established and feel it isn’t needed.)
  2. Keep in mind that writers helping each other is reciprocal. Does that mean you need to crit for crit? No. But it does mean that as a member of the writing community you should try and honestly give back as good or better than you receive.
  3. Expect it to hurt. Yup. Even glowing kind crits… hurt. Especially if they are good. The pain doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or that they are critiquing badly. As writers, words are your babies… It’s going to hurt having someone tell you when they are wrong.                                            woman-801711_1280
  4. Appreciate quality partners. I know I have a good crit partner when for two weeks they’ll send me rave reviews on chapters (notes on punctuation, repeated words, a sentence that didn’t flow, reminders about paragraph breaks but overall wonderful.) Then on the third week they’ll rip the chapter to shreds. It means that they aren’t looking to tear me apart, but they also aren’t throwing marshmallows at me. I would swim upstream the Nile river surrounded by crocodiles for these folks.                                                       girls-926784_1280
  5. Be clear when requesting critiques what you want help with. If you have done this and people ignore your requests, put the advice you didn’t ask for aside. Use the advice you did ask for. It is that simple.
  6. If someone goes above and beyond for you, let them know you appreciate it. I put this separate from basic thank yous because it is. I had a crit partner online pick up my story when it was halfway through on the website’s cycle. She took the trouble to go back and read (and do light crits) on the first ten chapters in order to give better crits going forward. Again…Nile River and crocodiles. These people are irreplaceable and hard to find and should be treated that way.
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That is my take on receiving a blade to the gut. I know that there will be points of dissension. A lot of that comes from each writer appreciating different things. I will try to go into that more when I talk about giving critiques- it’s all tied in together.

Halloweeeeeen is coming

Suddenly life got insanely busy 🙂

Over the past few weeks, I finally figured out where to go with the sequel to my novel and finished the first draft. On the opposite side, I got a few of my short stories in condition to start sending out and *crossed fingers* maybe not only get rejections. My son started preschool throwing off my entire schedule. I’ve also been working on a few Halloween shorts including one for an awesome collection on Wattpad- https://www.wattpad.com/story/8256175-thirteen-days-of-halloween

My story for the collection will be posting on October 20th 🙂 And the rest of the lineup is amazing.

Also my fifth wedding anniversary (and 10th year together) with my husband is coming up. In honor of that, my story for the Halloween collection is based in part on our zombie wedding costumes (this is what happens when you get married on Halloween!)

horror wedding Jesse spraguedress Jesse Sprague zombie bride

Covers, Covers, Covers (and a dose of Nano)

I despise making covers. Hate it. Seriously. Anyhow… for my nano novel this year I’m planning to do the second book in a series. The first book being Spider’s Game.

Spider's Game3

The upcoming book is Spider’s Gambit. Its all outlined (as much as I ever outline). Now I’m starting the part I like least. Making myself a cover. So far I have three options. And I’d love opinions on what works best.

Spider's Gambit 2 Jesse Sprague Spider's Gambit 3 Spider's Gambit

I also have been experimenting with new covers for my fantasy novel Kingdom South. Two options there…

Kingdom South option 2 Kingdom South option 4

Now that I’ve spent all day playing with pretty pictures… Perhaps I should get back to the real work.

The Lost Path, Found

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. As an author, as a girlfriend, as a student, as an employee…it’s the same urge. Just bone-aching tiredness inside and knowing that I’ll never get to what I want. Even if I got there, the goal would move and leave me grasping.

I’ve had enough nights lying awake regretting something stupid I said or did to last me until eternity. And sometimes, I have given up. I want to write down a particular moment in my life this week. I don’t know if anyone will read, but it means so much to me that I feel like I have to get it down.

After graduating college, getting a job…all that junk. I finished my first series of novels. Sent them out. Got turned down. Gave up. I didn’t have the time, energy or hope to succeed. So I let it go. And as the years went by I wrote a bit here or there but it was only because I couldn’t ‘not write.’ I didn’t finish anything and I never tried to get published or show my work to anyone.

My mom kept pushing for me to keep trying. My husband never pushed, but he always encouraged, even a whisper of that dream. My dad would ask every time I talked to her “You writing anything.” But I wasn’t.

Then my mom, god bless her heart, apparently decided she was going to take things into her own hands. She contacted a man she knew at church who happened to be a published author and own a small publishing house. She asked him to talk to me.

That is how I met Nathan Everett. We talked about nothing in particular, my goals, my writing, all those things I thought I had buried. He asked me to send him some of my writing to look at and we set up a coffee date to talk. So I sent him my novella Shopkeeper.

When I met up with him, mind you this was only to talk, I had not sent him something to be published, just so he could see what I wrote. He sat me down, told me how much he loved it. Said that he wanted to publish the piece. He said that if I needed he would pay all the costs. That he’d only ever offered this to one other client, but he thought this little story of mine should be seen.

Well, things didn’t work out that way, but I will be forever thankful to him for that moment.

Sheesh, I’m crying again thinking about it, and I cried then. After giving up on myself. Completely. Admitting–this won’t happen. This can’t happen and dreaming about it hurts too much. After living that emptiness for so long, to have someone (who wasn’t family…was in fact, part of the industry) believe in me just broke down all those walls.

And I remembered how badly I wanted this. I remembered how alive I felt when I wrote. And I wanted that, I wanted it so badly it hurt. Not to get published, though I wanted that too. I wanted the dream back, pain and all. Because that’s who I am and without it, I was living a half-life.

That’s not who I want to be for my son. It’s not who I want to be for me.

So I picked back up the metaphorical pen and I wrote. I started to do my research. Joined a critique site to learn to do it better. I did Nanowrimo. I entered a contest. I wrote short stories. I tried. I tried every day and I knew that this time I couldn’t give up.

One person believed in me and that was enough. It was like a shield against all the doubt.

And no, I’m not a bestselling author now (ten months later…) but in the past year I’ve had a short story published, been a finalist in the PNWA’s literary contest and have a featured story on Wattpad.

And that’s because I decided to live. But more importantly I decided that no matter what it took I’d do it. I learned to use commas for god’s sake… I finished a degree in English Lit without bothering to know how to do that.

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So this is me saying thank you. Thank you to Nathan for believing in me when he had no reason to. Thank you to my mom for using her magical mom powers of knowing everything 😉 And thank you to my husband for supporting my dreams completely, never even complaining that I am not at my computer 100% of the time. I have so much in my life, and its not just writing.

I Put Words on Paper (or Computers) so I Write Words

A question I’ve been hearing a lot of recently is “So what do you normally write? What is your passion?” My auto response has been that I write science fiction with an eye to fantasy, but the more I think about it, the more that isn’t true.

The truth is I write a lot and I’ve always discounted my horror writing as being my slack off pieces. But that’s not what horror is to me at all, it’s just a different sort of release, a different style of imagining. Most of my short stories are horror and many novels have a bent towards that. But these aren’t slack off pieces or throw away bits. They just come from a different part of my psyche and refuse to conform to rules. In trying to make them fit for traditional publishing, I do feel like I’d have to sacrifice the integrity of the story, but that doesn’t mean are any less worthwhile to me… just that I won’t be querying them. So I feed them to the ravenous beast that is Wattpad, where they meet a few appreciative eyes.

Horror Novel Cover

Horror Novel Cover

The reason I think I see my sci-fi/fantasy as being “what I really write” is that those are the works I am willing to go through a gazillion drafts. They are the babies whose basic nature does not seem averse to traditional publishing.  I recently tried to put a fantasy novel up on Wattpad, or the beginning to one, and there is this horror in me that I’ve now killed this novel’s chances for publication. But it’s a tight spot. Having only horror and horror sci-fi visible means that any agent considering my sci-fi/fantasy works is going to say “Wow, she doesn’t really write what she’s pitching.”

In conclusion, this is one big vent. I write prolifically. I write because I must. I write because I’m inspired whether that inspiration be a shiver that crawled up my spine while darting across a dark parking lot, a fascination with gothic heroine’s and their kidnappability, a desire to build a world to suit a spiffy MMO character (Yes…this is how several of my characters have come to me…don’t judge.)Felix

I write how I read. My bookshelves became acquainted with Christopher Pike when I was twelve. They met their first fantasy heroine when I was eight. Science fiction came later but in a rush as I drank in old classics and newer gems. Telling someone which of these genres I read would be impossible because the truth is I read them all. I’ve even been known to sneak in a steamy romance when no one was looking…saved some of those too…they are all missing covers. I read and write fantasy because the world we live in can feel like a trap. A release has an exotic beauty to it. I write sci-fi because I like to play god, toy with worlds, universes, cultures. I read sci-fi because I like to be part of other authors playing the same god games I do. And I read and write horror because the dark undercurrent of fear makes me feel alive.

fantasy horror author

Sexy Lamps, Roses and Villainous Rodents

Rabbits! My next novel will feature one of these nefarious beasts asthe villain. Yes, a fluffy, hippity-hoppity devil monster.

For two years now, I’ve been trying to regrow some rose bushes the previous owners of our house cut down. I spray them (to keep the bunnies off.) It rains. The bunnies eat them. I spray them again, water them…the bunnies eat them. This year I bought chicken wire and caged the roses, sprayed them, watered them…the bunnies ATE THEM.

I should take solace that at least they made it through most of the summer this round and my raspberry bushes are not completely destroyed. I don’t.

One of these days, I’m going to aim for one of those furry beasts in the driveway and hit it. This will be followed by a maniacal laugh. I swear this time I will not be stopped by the “aw, it’s cute” reflex or the “it’s only acting on its nature trying to survive,” hippy morals I was raised with. Bunny is going down.

Both on and off topic does anyone remember the Buniculla books? My bunnies aren’t like that. They are pure evil. Thought I’d clear that up.

The novel with a bunny as the villain will also have a sexy lamp in place of the female protagonist. You’re welcome.

http://sjwiki.org/wiki/Sexy_lamp_test#.VcQlZ_lVhHx

The Best Writing I’ll Ever Do

You know what the worst is? No? Well, how could you there are a bazillion answers to that. At the moment, I’m talking about rewriting. Now let me be clear, there are different kinds of rewriting. Most of them are not awful at all. Like:

When you decide a scene doesn’t work and cut it. Then you have to rewrite

When you decide a scene no longer makes sense because of other changes so you rewrite parts.

When you decide a scene isn’t adding enough so you cut it and add in some sort of one line transition.

Now all of these don’t suck. They aren’t always fun, but they don’t suck. I have a magical folder on my computer called ‘deleted scenes’ in which I hold these little gems. I never look at them again but having them there keeps there from being a little hole in my soul.

What sucks is when you LOSE your work and have to rewrite it. For me what happens then is whatever I wrote becomes the best writing I ever did, will ever do. It is impossible I can ever write that so well again. In fact, I might as well give up writing because to write that again would only be a shallow imitation of real art.

Why do I feel this way? If you know, I’d love to be educated. All I know is logic doesn’t have any part of the madness.

This week I lost one of my notebooks, in which there were several scenes I had not yet transferred to the computer. I obsessed. I turned the house upside down. I sat at my computer and pried approximately five words out of myself over a solid hour before quitting.

This morning I found that notebook and read the scene. It’s awful. Terrible. Just… I don’t even want to put it on the computer.

On the upside, since I couldn’t get any real writing done last night I got a huge laugh out of doing character interviews with some friends on CC. And did a final edit of my synopsis before sending out some queries today.

But I think I’ll frame that awful scene. Literally frame it on my office wall and stare at it next time I lose/delete something I can’t retrieve. Maybe I will believe tangible proof that just because it’s gone doesn’t mean it’s good.

Oh and my phone is still broken so now I get to decide if I’m going to dredge up some internet pictures of find some highly inappropriate picture from my personal stash to tack onto this.

If I Knew how to Speak, I Wouldn’t be a Writer.

Well, this was an eventful weekend. I attended the PNWA literary contest and I learned several things, mostly about myself but also about the world at large.

The first is… I’m not crazy; I’m just a writer. Having met other writers it has suddenly clicked that all those things other people give me ‘that look’ for…are things all the other writers do too. It was so liberating to stand in a room with people who understood things like ‘I don’t know where my book is going now. My characters refused to do what I wanted.’

The second is… smartphones are really fragile. Like ridiculous. Standing in the bathroom this morning my cell slipped from my exhausted fingers to the tile. Now I am not 80,000 feet tall. It did not fall from the roof of a building. From my hand to the ground. Even if I was holding over my head (which I wasn’t) that’s what? Just a little over six feet? Shattered the screen and I must now make an e-bay trip to see if I can avoid paying $400 + for a new one.

The third is… I’m not nearly as bad a loser as I thought I was. I was really worried that as a finalist in the contest I was going to be super upset when I lost (yes that is how I thought of it.) But when the awards came I found I was almost as excited for several of the other finalists as I was for myself. I found myself calculating the odds that either me or the two others I was rooting for in my category would place. 9 finalists. 2 winners…and discovered it was actually pretty good odds. Well, I didn’t place, but one of the others I was gunning for finished first. And despite my apparently compulsively low opinion of myself I was legitimately happy.

I keep emotionally poking myself trying to dig up some of that gooey self-hatred I expected and nothing’s there. I am just happy to have met the amazing people I did and happy that such deserving people won. Could it be I’m actually not a raving bitch deep inside?

The fourth thing is… I really need to work on my public speaking skills. And by that I don’t mean standing up in front of a crowd and speaking but literally speaking in public. Every agent and editor I talked to at the conference the first thing out of their mouths was ‘Are you nervous?’

And while I guess consistency is good, I’m not sure that I want to be remembered as that ridiculously nervous girl who can’t talk if there are more than two people in the room. And while I know that the spoken word isn’t my forte I probably shouldn’t sound like I have the vocab of a five year old… its just not going to sell me successfully

I intended to take a picture of all the beautiful author and agent/editor cards I got at the conference. But if you’ll refer back to point two, I no longer have a working camera. So Instead, I’ll give you a random picture of my dog running. You’re welcome.

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Featured List & Ice Cream: There is no Such Thing as Calories

Ugh, I won’t share the temperatures because most people would just laugh, but it’s ridiculously hot here. It’s my own fault for living in a place so temperate that even small variations seem extreme. But heat added to good news means celebrating with ice cream.

Yes, good news again. This has been a fantastic year for me and I will just have to cross my fingers that it stays that way. I submitted one of my stories, Deprivation, on Wattpad for the featured list, which for those of you who don’t know is Wattpad version of real publishing. The featured list serves to give Wattpad some validity in the writing world by showcasing works that are, if not publishable, close to. It also helps little nobodies like me get my work out where people can see it.

Deprivation

Fantasy/horror novel titled Deprivation

Any of you who are writers know the word ‘platform’ probably with a bit of a shudder. Well…this is fantastic news for my platform.

The actual change in my story from not featured to featured they said would probably happen in about two weeks. Which isn’t in time to use it as more than an aside at the conference but I’m not complaining.

The day I got the e-mail, I took my son to Costco for frozen yogurt. A. Because it’s cheap. And B. because I figured that would be fewer calories (kill me I’m a little vain and want to fit into my summer dresses.)

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But when we got there the little guy saw they had a strawberry sundae and asked so prettily. So I’m pretending that has just as few calories. Because I’m often delusional when I try to diet.

Veryberry

Costco samples also have no calories if you are wondering.

This whole year so far feels like that, ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Like somehow it’s going to happen that I’m just kidding myself and none of this is real. I do it every time. When my story got published, I sort of held my breath till it actually showed up in the magazine. When I got the call I was a finalist, an illogical part of my brain screamed it was a prank call. And now that same voice is telling me Wattpad could just change it mine be like ‘sorry, we got your story confused with another one… yours is actually kind of gross… why would you write about a severed hand sticking up out of the floor? Sicko.’

But unlike Costco samples, so far all of it really has been ‘calorie free’ enjoyment. Of course, if I’m to push the comparison further I do a lot more ‘working out’ for my writing than I do for my diet. Carrying my son to and from the car counts as cardio you know…even more so if I park in the basement and have to carry him up the stairs.

I think if I wasn’t getting rejections along with the successes I’d have pinched myself a lot. So far I’m making a 25% acceptance ratio, which I’m proud of thank you. Part of me thinks I should hurry and get two rejections in before the conference though…just so maybe I get a yes there.

Additionally, this is a lot more mentions of my son than I usually allow myself since this is meant to be my writing blog, not a parenting one. But as a stay-at-home mom it’s hard to remove the little guy from my stories without way more effort than I’m willing to put in when it’s this hot.