(Parody) Still Alive NaNoWriMo


In approximately 12 days, writers everywhere will embrace NaNoWriMo.  The internet is alive with chatter like the following:

  • “Are you going to participate this year?”
  • “Do you have an idea in mind?”
  • “I’m going to lock myself in a cabin for a month so I can write a book.  What about you?”
  • “I like to outline my novel before I start NaNoWriMo.  What is your approach?”
  • “What foods do you eat during NaNoWriMo?”

I tried NaNo last year, but didn’t reach the required 50,000 words.  I’m not sure if I’ll do it this year.  Perhaps I should.  Maybe it would motivate me to complete my 2nd novel.  Hmm.  I still have 19 days to think about it.

In the meantime, I offer the following to all you NaNo writers out there.  May the force be with you and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Are those real?


As a fantasy writer, I’m always looking for inspiration on which to build characters, creatures, settings, etc.  Many times, I’m amazed by my own ideas born from my dreams and imagination.

Then I stumble upon something in reality that makes my dreams and imagination look like child’s play.

Not long ago, I posted pictures of the weedy and leafy sea dragons:

Today, I stumbled upon something just as intense and elegant…and it comes in the form of a mollusk.  Let me introduce you to the Blue Dragon (a.k.a. sea Swallow)…

Isn’t it beautiful!  And it has the name ‘dragon’ in it which makes it even more intriguing.

Check out this transparent sea cucumber.  Doesn’t it look like it came right out of a sci-fi novel?

Just goes to show…sometimes inspiration for fiction can be found simply by opening one’s eyes to reality.

Be careful what you put your name on…once published, there are no do-overs


When growing up, my mom and dad always taught me to think about my actions before acting.  They taught me every move has a consequence.  They taught me the value of a reputation.  If you break the law, you’ll be remembered as a criminal.  If you habitually drink, you’ll be labeled an alcoholic.  If you smoke dope and pop pills, you’ll be a druggie.  If on the other hand you do good deeds, help people, are involved in the community, you’ll be thought of as a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a caring person.  If you drop everything you’re doing to be with someone in physical or emotional pain, you’re considered the truest of friends.

The same advice used to get through life should also be applied to writing.  If you can help it, try not to put your name on something you aren’t 100% proud of.

I did that once.  One of my favorite short stories appeared in an anthology I am not 100% proud of.  See, I took on a job as ‘editor’ for an aspiring authors writer’s group I was in. The founder and publisher decided to put together an anthology of the member’s works.  There was no set theme, no cohesion, and, it was a ‘pay for inclusion’ publication for members only.  I cringed inside when I realized too late into the project I had very little ‘editing’ control over the submitted pieces. By then, I’d made a commitment to see the project through.  My reputation was on the line.  The result featured snippets of novels, short stories, some complete short stories, and some errors that would make most editors and polished authors quiver.  While it was a morale booster to those who submitted, the finished work was not what I had envisioned.  My name was on something I wasn’t 100% proud of.  I didn’t get to perform my job the best I should have, the best I would have, if given control of the reins.

Was the experience a bad one?  No, nor do I regret it.  I learned a lot.  I met some really wonderful people.  I gained experience of working with over 20 authors for one project, which was way cool.  I worked on cover design, formatting text, placement of stories.  It wasn’t a complete wash, but I wish I hadn’t included one of my favorite short stories.  Because it was published in this anthology, no magazine or publisher will touch it, even though I gave up no rights.  I’m looking at publishing it as a stand-alone e-book short story, that’s how much I love this southern paranormal tale.

We hear all the time of actors and actresses who say they regret making some of their first films.  Susan Sarandon has stated several times she would like to forget her role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Ironically, that is one of her most remembered and beloved roles.  I’m not going to go so far to say I wish I hadn’t participated in the anthology but I did learn valuable lessons like the importance of determining where your work appears.  Remember, in the publishing world…there are no do-overs, so make sure you do your best to get it right the first time.

Six Sentence Sunday


I keep forgetting to officially sign up for this every week, but I like to participate anyway.  Here are six sentences from a psychological thriller I started writing years ago and may finish some day.  The title of the novel is FLOWERS FROM THE FIELD.

******

Ben checked his son was asleep, then stumbled outside, beer sloshing from the bottle in his hand. He scooped up the dead dog in his arms, stumbled over the other dog’s body, and carried it inside.  Upstairs, he laid the lifeless form across the foot of Mitch’s bed.  You wanted your damn dog.  You got your damn dog.  He swigged back the alcohol and smiled.

******

How to write a fantasy novel


All of my life I’ve known I wanted to write fantasy novels.  I knew I wanted stories filled with magic, as well as cool characters like knights, faeries, satyrs and dryads.  But even at a young age, I knew having cool characters was only a small portion of a fantasy novel.  It wasn’t until I got older and started reading and writing a lot of fantasy that I began to see certain trends emerging.  Over the next few days I will try to share what I’ve learned through research, trial and error, on how to write a fantasy novel.  Afterwards, with your help, we’ll try together to figure out how to piece it all together and market fantasy novels to the young adult/new adult audience.

Let the fun begin!

Step 1

What’s the first thing you need to write a fantasy novel (besides the obvious pen/pencil/paper/computer)?

An idea.

I know this sounds so incredibly simple and easy, but it’s not.  First, we have to have an idea that hasn’t been used before.  If you want to write about a boy who attends magic school to become a wizard…well, sorry, but that one’s been taken.  However, if you want to write about a magician who attends school to become non-magical…you might have something.  The story has to be workable.  There has to be an element of truth, of reality.  There has to be a logical structure.  You’ll need rules, guidelines.  Magic and the characters that use them will have to have limitations.  Your plot needs room to grow, expand, and your world needs to be large enough to compensate for the idea.

Step 2

Make your idea

Smart and Believable.

Simply being a magician who wants to become non-magical ‘just because’ is not enough reason to write a story.  However, if becoming non-magical can save the magical world from destruction, you might have something.

Step 3

Make your idea

Interesting

I’ve found through my own trial and error the plot of the book, the characters of the book, should pertain to something you are passionate about.  The last thing you want is for your book to end up on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.  You want people to read it.  To ensure that happens, you must write from the heart.  If you’re like me, you know what I’m talking about.  How many times have you written something your heart wasn’t into because your boss or teacher asked you to?  Too many, I bet.  Now compare those papers to those you wrote about subjects near and dear to your heart.  See?  It’s like night and day.  If you can find a way to incorporate your passions into your novel, that enthusiasm will shine through and your reader will feel it, too.

And there you have it, the first step to writing fantasy.  Have an idea that’s workable, smart, and interesting.  Tomorrow I’ll take a look at outlining – should you or shouldn’t you?

Open Submissions – do you know of any you’d like to share?


Over the past couple of days I’ve had a couple of friends ask me if I knew of any open submissions for anthologies or magazines.  I don’t know many, but the ones I do know of are posted below.

Please feel free to add any sites you know of that are open to submissions and let us know if you are submitting.  I’m here to cheer you on!

Nevermetpress

Carvezine.com

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Lightspeed Magazine

Heliotrope Magazine

Strange Horizons

World Weaver Press – Open until July 7, 2012

How many times have you re-written Chapter 1?


Guys, I must be a total dweeb.  I think I’ve re-written Chapter 1 of my novel 30 times if I’ve written in once.  As I write this, I’m in the process of re-writing it again!  Why?  Why do I keep fudging with it?

I have to admit this time it is much better and it moves the story forward faster and I can cut a bunch of words, but didn’t I do that the last time?  If I keep doing this, Chapter 1 may be gone and Chapter 3 will take its place.  Then Chapter 3 will dwindle away to make room for Chapter 9 to take over.  Ahhhhh!!!  Before I know it, my book will be about 30 pages long…the shortest fantasy novel in history!!!

Hey!  Wait a minute!  *snaps fingers*.  That’s it!  I’ll make it the shortest fantasy book ever!  I can do that!  But wait…no I can’t.  Writing means editing which means the first 10 words will be replaced by the next 10…page 4 will replace page 1, and so on, and so on until there’s nothing left.  My story will fall into oblivion.

Wait!  *snaps fingers*  Did I just find two more titles for books in that rant?  Who would have thunk?

How many times have you re-written Chapter 1?

Re-writing a manuscript: Stick with it or let it go?


I’ve been writing my Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy for years.  Yes, I said years.  I started a long time ago, mainly as a passing fancy.  Then, something happened in 2003 and I knew in my heart and soul I had to finish it.

I also knew it would have to be three books; otherwise I would have one, 300,000 word novel.  Big NOT.  I wrote here and there, working on all three novels when the urge hit me, but came to an abrupt halt about a year later.  It wasn’t working.  My writing was lacking that umph.  I needed help.

I began to read young adult books and fantasy books with a passion.  I also began to research the publishing world.  I found out that agents and publishers wanted stand alone books in trilogies or in a series, meaning they had to be complete unto themselves, even though the story continued.  Back to the drawing board.

I continued to write when I could find time between taking care of a family and working full-time.  I joined an online writer’s group out of the UK – YouWriteOn.com and began getting feedback.  With the critiques came praises along with a few slaps in the face.  The slaps in the face were the ones that woke me up to the problems, while the praises kept me motivated.  I have to admit I almost gave up, especially after a critique partner told me I should let the story go to its grave.  “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s better to let it go than continue trying to resurrect the damn thing.”

Let it go?  Was he crazy?  This was my baby…the novel closest to my heart.  I’d written others.  They’re gone now, lost, destroyed.  This wasn’t my first attempt…but it was the first time I felt so passionate about the need to tell this story and get it published.

After I lost my job in 2010, I focused on nothing but my writing.  I set myself a goal, found a few great beta readers, and off I went to finish In the Shadow of the Dragon King. Exactly one year later, almost to the date of setting my goal, I submitted my novel to a publisher.  I knew it wasn’t perfect but I’d polished it the best I could.  With bated breath I waited.  And waited.  Three weeks later I got a response.  The message:  it needs work, but we’d love to see you resubmit if you decide you want to make the enclosed changes.

When I opened my attached manuscript, it was bleeding.  A lot.  I mean, it was mortally wounded.  I got a hold of one of my trusted beta partners and sobbed.  When I got over the pain of being kicked in the gut, she and I went over the comments and changes.  We both realized I had a goldmine in my hand.  A publisher took a lot of time to go through my manuscript, page by page, line by line, and tell me what was wrong with it, what I needed to fix, and if I decided to make the changes, to resubmit.

That was eleven months ago.  Life got in the way during that time, slowing down my momentum to re-write.  I have a month and a half to finish my revisions and send it back by the ‘not exactly a rejection’ anniversary date.  Should I stick with it or let it go?  I’m definitely sticking with it.

Have you ever had a project you almost gave up on only to be glad you didn’t?

“R” is for Rejected/Rejection


Hi, everyone!  This post is part of the A-Z challenge. Please take time to visit the other blogs that are participating.

For a writer, getting a rejection letter is one of the worst things that could happen.  After days, weeks, months, even years of pouring our hearts into a story only to be told to take a hike is a difficult pill to swallow.

Over the years I’ve submitted a variety of material for publication.  In my early years I submitted to magazines a lot.  Most of the time I got the standard form letter…Dear Jenny, thank you for submitting your work to [insert name of agency/magazine, etc.].  Unfortunately, it is not a fit for us at this time.

Okay, no problem.  I’m down with that.  I mean, they didn’t say my writing was bad; just that it wasn’t a fit, right?  Gotta move on.  Keep going.  For almost 2 years I diligently sent off articles, short stories, etc. with no luck.  After a while, the rejections began to take their toll.  Was I really that bad of a writer? Surely someone liked something I wrote.   I changed tactic and started submitting short stories for competitions.  Didn’t win anything.  Then I started looking for homes for some of my short stories, submitting to anthology competitions.  Again, nothing.  Not even one bite.  I decided to take one more chance with a short titled “When Herman Cries”.  It was a children’s story about a goldfish who lost his mother and cried so much, his tears overfilled his fish tank.  It was a story of grief and how kids find solace in the simplest of creatures.  I received the worst rejection I could have ever received.  I’ll never forget it.  Paperclipped to my returned story was a yellow note that simply said in black marker,

There was no salutation, no closing.  Just those four words.

I was devastated.  Two days later, in a heated argument, I tore up my first completed novel, “One Night With You”…a fictional piece about Elvis Presley.  I put my typewriter and pens away.  That was twenty-two years ago.

In 2003, the writing bug returned to me again.  Wait. Let me rephrase.  It didn’t return to me. I returned to it, and oh, how my heart rejoiced.  It was like being reunited with an old and dear friend.  How could I have shunned my soul’s calling for so long?  I began writing again, anything and everything…poems, short stories, flash fiction, novels, novellas, editorials.  You name it.

For the past seven years I’ve done nothing but work on perfecting my own writing as well as those of others.  I’ve read a lot, joined critique groups, landed a few lifelong beta partners.  The internet has been a lifeline for me and other writers, offering outlets that didn’t exist 22 years ago.  Now, my writing is better, crisper, but I know I still have a long way to go.  I still get rejections and they still burn, but I’ve also received requests for partials and a request for an entire manuscript.  And while each rejection stings, they are the yellow bricks that line the road to publication.  I have a belief in myself and my writing now that I didn’t have 22 years ago.  That publishing contract is close, I can smell it, and when it finally happens, I’ll have all the ‘Thanks but no thanks’ I ever received to thank for it.  What a journey it’s been.  What a fantastic journey it’s going to be.

What about you?  What was your worse rejection letter and how did you overcome the sting?

What name to use when published?


We all know the importance of branding.  Anyone trying to sell a product knows how important it is to get it right from the beginning.  Authors are no different.  We’ve written a piece (novel, novella, short story) that someone else believes in and wants to publish.  How are we going to brand it?

I’ve toyed with this topic for a while and decided to use my maiden name or some variation of it:  J. Keller Ford or Jenny Keller Ford. Lately, however, I’ve had other say they really like my married name, Jenny Michaud (‘me-sho’).  I don’t know.  How do I choose?

I know!  I’ll let you guys decide.  Which name do you like the best for an author name?  Please vote in the poll below and leave comments galore.

Virtual chocolates to everyone who votes!