Out with the Old, In With The New

2018

When I started 2017, I was feeling seriously optimistic. I teamed up with my husband, Ismael, and his sister, Megan, to create a free editing service called The Inkwell Council. Our trio had also united with Ismael and my son, Logan, to create a YouTube channel, The Geektastic Manzanos. I had written a new short story. I had finished a massive positive revision of The Order of the Key, my YA Fantasy novel. Everything felt like it was looking up. Megan and I had numerous conversations stating that this was our year. 2017 was gonna be awesome.

As it turned out, the year ran about fifty/fifty.

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The Inkwell Council has been a tremendous success. We’re helping the literary community and we love every minute of it. What was initially supposed to be one 3-chapter edit of a fantasy novel a month, spread into two a month, novels or short stories of any genre. We’ve got a bit of a following and we’re having a great time doing it. Follow us on twitter here. To see more about what people are saying about us, visit here.

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The Geektastic Mazanos, however, flopped. From the start, we saw the issues, but we figured we’d try it for a year and see where it went. This had been Logan’s idea from the beginning and Logan really wanted to make it happen. But Logan also has ADHD and that didn’t really make for cohesive video shoots. Also, we would have needed much more expensive equipment to shoot in the evening with any kind of visibility, and we had maybe two days where we had daylight time. Add to that increasing homework loads, and just how painstaking video editing actually is, and you’ve got a fun project that eats entire weekends. Logan’s spontaneity was being tamped down for when there was better lighting, and our enthusiasm just died a slow death. It didn’t help that, even with a giveaway, our subscribers didn’t make it over the 30 mark. That’s just sad. In the end, what remained was our love for taking loads of doofy geektastic pictures for our Instagram…so we’re keeping that.

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The short story sold. Blue Ice was included in the Spring 2017 issue of the Corvus Review. It’s a big time favorite of mine, and I was so happy to see it land a home. Even better, I actually re-sold another short story, Choosing to Stand Still, to Fiction on the Web in August. All good news!

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The Order of the Key, however, did not fare well. After years of revising and contracts with questionable publishing companies, and queries to loads of agents and publishing companies, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere. I love Order, and I still stand by it. It’s a great story and I love its characters, but I don’t believe the market is right for it at the moment. Though I still await contact from a few outstanding queries (whom I’d be very happy to work with, should I hear back with a positive result), I’ve mostly dealt with the idea that it’s time to put The Order of the Key on a shelf. Just for now.

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This is mostly because I’ve completed my new YA Romatic Comedy with fantasy undertones, Never Say Never. It’s fun and so very different from Order. I’ve fallen deeply in love with these new characters, and I hope you will, too. I’m currently in final revisions of Never Say Never, before I start putting this new baby out into the world, searching for acceptance. It’s a very exciting time in my life, and I hope you grow to love Brynn, Adam, Nina, Gabe, and Val. They are hopefully going to be meeting you someday soon.

So, that’s where I’m heading in the new year. 2018 will continue to be a year of determination, it will continue to be a year of meeting my goals. However, much like the outlines I make of my books, there’s always room for a little tweaking.

What are your plans for this year? Let me know in the comments.

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#p2p16 Editing Journal – Wave 2 

Please enjoy the continuation of my editing journal for #p2p16. To learn more about it and see how wave 1 did, check out my previous post here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016:

Today, I received my second wave of edits from Kaitlyn! I am very excited to dive into them. The main bulk of them are line edits, because apparently, she thinks I did a great job listening to notes in her previous edits and making the corresponding scenes and changes to scenes to make it work. However, there were a couple of things that needed to be discussed and punched up in certain places. A main issue was diversity, and the reason is embarrassing. 

In my mind, I envisioned a very diverse group of people for my Keys and Guardians. This was a group that should look like a cross section of this great planet we live on. There are Anglo, Irish, Hispanic, Black and Asian characters (there is a big cast), a gay character, and in book 2, which I have already started writing, there is also a bisexual character and a disabled character. So, I am not actually short on diversity. It’s been there in my sketch of the characters the entire time. 

The problem is, I chickened out. I became frightened of writing descriptions, because I worried they would offend someone. I wasn’t sure I knew how to do justice to characters of color coming from the position of a woman who is pretty much every kind of white there is. So, obviously, I had done something very wrong, because now, my reader had no idea there was any diversity. She thought I had written a stark white cast.

A big issue, upon researching this, was that my characters can’t have a culture of their own. They are born and raised together as Keys and Guardians, so they are pretty much all homogeneous when it comes to culture, although there were enough of them before The Great War that they aren’t exactly homogeneous when it comes to appearance. So, I struggled to give descriptions that weren’t heavy handed or worded in a way that would offend people, because descriptive words can be unwieldy things and people do not like to be described as food flavors for very good reasons. I wasn’t sure if there were other rules that needed to be followed just like that.

Diversity is important to me. Having representative characters means something. I mean, my skin color was thoroughly represented as a child, but I still went and bought the Barbie with the brown hair and any doll with glasses, because that was the closest look to my own. I still loved Belle because she loved to read and looked the most like me. Why shouldn’t other people have that representation, and why shouldn’t a teenager discover someone who looks like them when they read my book? 

Still, as a Social Justice Warrior (I love when people say that as an insult, when it really makes you sound like a badass superhero), I wanted to make sure I did that correctly. In my research, I found the most amazing and helpful page, Writing With Color to help me avoid any pitfalls and allow my readers to feel represented without inadvertently insulting them with something I probably should have known already, but I will be the first to admit that I have some ignorance and privilege and welcome whenever I have the opportunity to learn more.

And so, I strike out on my 2nd wave of edits, looking to describe all of my characters in stronger ways as well as clean up some other smaller issues along the way. 

Kaitlyn has also informed me that she will be touching base with me about my query and my synopsis by the end of this week, and all of the edits will be due back to her by December 2, 2016. Thusly, here begins another two week whirlwind of edits. 

Monday, November 21, 2016:

Today I worked through Chapter 1 and 2 line edits on breaks at work. I also started the process of reintegrating my descriptions back into the piece as well as solving a couple of other issues through clarification. 

For Chapter 3, I worked to clarify the timing of events that happened before the start of the story. It was difficult to fit in without it being an info dump, but I tried, and found a place without being too ham fisted. 

I’ve worked all the way  through to part of Chapter 6, but I’m not feeling too well. I’m going to turn in for the night and wake up early. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016: 

I woke up at 4AM this morning (after going to sleep at 8:30 last night) and got to work. I made it through the rest of Chapter 6 and the beginning of 7 before it was time to take my little nugget to school. Not bad. 

Was very proud today to find a note saying something bothered Kaitlyn about my character that I put there on purpose. It may not be noticeable on the first read, but it was on the second, and that’s good, because it’s a lead in to where Book 2 is going. 

I changed a chalkboard to a whiteboard in an attempt to make the classroom setting in the story a little more modern, and I only changed it in one place. Every other instance still said chalkboard. ARGH!

That moment you realize you’ve been formatting ellipses wrong for all time…whoops.

I’m turning in early again tonight, but on Chapter 13. This round is moving along much quicker!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016:

I woke up early today to get some editing in, yay! Today is an odd day, with a shortened work schedule, and the opportunity to go see my boy in his Judo class, plus I need to bake something for Thanksgiving tonight, so I’m not sure how much I’ll get done, but I’m going to do my best to make a dent! 

Today, reading Kaitlyn’s notes, I realized I had telegraphed something for Book 2, but in the wrong direction, so I’m working through my edits to make sure I redirect that in the right way, so people aren’t confused and don’t expect something different. That’s not to say that something unexpected can’t happen, but for this, I need the progression to make sense, and if the reader expects what Kaitlyn did, they may be disappointed. So, a few line corrections to make, for clarification.

Thursday, November 24, 2016: 

A lovely day at my father-in-law’s house, with lots of Turkey and sides and desserts and no editing. Ah, well.

Friday, November 25, 2016: 

Nasty migraine all day, but still managed to shuffle my way through two chapters. I’m almost done though.

Saturday, November 26, 2016:

Though my morning was spent at the mall, I made a huge dent in the manuscript. I also received an edited synopsis and query letter from Kaitlyn. 

I have learned I ellipsis too much. I must ellipsis less, even if my characters are speaking in a halting manner. It doesn’t seem to read well. 

Reviewed Kaitlyn’s edit to my query letter. Wow, her blurb describing the book was so much better and more compelling than mine. I just hadn’t thought some of the stuff she mentioned was important, but now that I’m looking at it, I guess it would help along the lines of marketing. She’s sort of a genius. Okay, she’s not SORT OF a genius, she IS a genius. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016:

I’ve completed my edits! I can’t believe we finished with more than enough time. I don’t describe people much past the first introduction to them, focusing instead on facial expressions and mannerisms than physical appearance, so the corrections I hoped to make to make the diversity of my cast more apparent weren’t huge, but they are there. I’ve never been big on describing characters so much, as that’s one of the major things I enjoy leaving up to reader’s imaginations. However, I remain open to criticism if it is at all necessary, and hopefully that makes me a good enough ally. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016: 

I have officially handed in my finalized materials for the agent round! Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll post about how it goes. 

Editing Journal: Wave 1 #p2p16 Edits

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The tweet announcing my #p2p16 win! YAY!

The below is a collection of my most important thoughts through the first wave of edits I received for #p2p16, or Pitch to Publication 2016. This is just the first set of edits, so we’ll see what’s to come, but so far, the general view of this process is a very excited two thumbs up. Read below to take the journey with me.

Friday, November 4, 2016:

Today, my edits came in from Kaitlyn. I read her reader’s guide, had a momentary panic, paced around my desk for a second, sat down and typed out an email with some legitimate questions and thoughts. She wrote back super fast with helpful and insightful commentary. Yes, there are big changes that need to be made, but nothing that hits the core of my story and nothing that compromises me artistically, so I’m much happier already than with my previous editing experience. Plus, Kaitlyn is so encouraging and excited about my project, it’s hard to feel anything but excited, too. Also, checking out her individual opinions throughout the document, rather than the overview, made it much clearer how I could go about instituting some of the changes. I was still afraid about the word count getting higher, as it’s already at the limit of where the book could be…until I worked on the first chapter and it came in a couple hundred words shorter, after I added some voice and a bit of extra geeky flavoring. So, that word count situation is feeling much better. I even decided to alter a scene she didn’t ask me to, because I felt it clearly gave her the wrong opinion of a character, and that meant I needed to rework it. Something I was communicating went wrong. In the end, the most important lesson I learned is that, though I have plans for a series, I need to focus on what benefits this book, and then worry about Books 2-6 when I get there. Yes, I can plan, but if there’s something in Book 1 that takes away from it, I have to pull it and figure out how to fix that mess with Book 2. I can alter my canon if nobody else knows it yet. The rest is up to my creativity. I’ve often preached not getting too attached to your outline, and staying flexible, and I’ve been doing the opposite. That changes now. I need to make this book the best it can be. I can’t do that with a closed mind.

Kaitlyn has given me until November 18th to return my revised manuscript to her so she can start another pass. That’s going to take some pedal-to-the-metal speed. My son is going to miss me for the next two weeks. 😛

Saturday, November 5, 2016: 

Today involved a lot of weirdo moments. I realized quite a few things. For one, I realized that half looks like it’s spelled wrong if you look at it too long. I also determined that my left knee is shitty, and I messed up my already post-surgical mess of a bionic back (scoliosis – had a double rod spinal procedure at 15. Hooks and rods and steel, oh my!) with just a few hours of editing at home. This has taught me that I need a more ergonomic typing situation than sitting on my couch and balancing my laptop on a pillow. I probably should have already realized this. What is wrong with me? Also realized? My computer screen needs a cleaning. I just mistook a smudge for an extra period and kept trying to erase it.

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WTAF???

I also faced the very random occurrence of the edit document randomly switching to French several times while I was working! Thank you to this site for saving my life.

I worked through Chapters 2 and 3 and part of 4. Only cut about 30 words from Chapter 2, but I cut about 400 words in 3. This is good, because I have a few things to add, and had no room to add them.

Another thing I’ve noticed: Once you get a note that makes you rework a line, it makes you rethink all the unnecessary words in that entire paragraph. A lot of the cutting I’ve done have just been about me tightening things because I’ve zeroed in on a paragraph.

Well folks, my mother has arrived. She needs help with some computer stuff she needs done, as she doesn’t have one. So, off I go. I’ll write in my journal again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2016: 

Woke up with a migraine and some serious allergy bullshit this morning, so this should be fun. My head hurts, my nose is stuffy, my throat hurts, my aforementioned knee and back are killing me, and I feel like a slug. On to editing!

I got to invent a couple of brand new scenes for the purpose of altering a certain narrative thread that wasn’t working. That was fun. I managed to get through Chapters 4-6 in this one day. And cut a few hundred words. I’ve gotten through the first 100 pages. YAY!

Monday, November 7, 2016: 

I’m not working at my work desk because it’s a slow day. Nope. Not at all. For Chapter 7, I had to rewrite almost the entire chapter due to a change in the plot point. Chapter 8 is complete as well. Between the two of them, I have cut three whole pages. We’re getting somewhere! I discussed some of what I was working on with Kaitlyn and she was, again, awesome and gave me great feedback and helped me to make sure I was on the right track. I may have to hand her every book I write forever. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016: 

Things were going relatively well until I got home and proceeded to watch election results. Then, there was no working.

Wednesday/Thursday, November 9-10, 2016:
Yeah, I tried to work, but nothing got done. Without going into politics too far, I mourned. I cried. My artistry got squashed a bit. It took a lot to recover.
Friday, November 11, 2016:
Today is a very good day. Not only is it a day of honor and respect pledged to our veterans, but it also happens to be my best friend’s birthday, and spending time with her always manages to rejuvenate me. I struggled through my day, but managed to get through a couple of chapters. Then, I got to participate in a very successful surprise party for this awesome, inspirational person (I’m not being hyperbolic. The lady is a hero. She saves lives for a living). I feel ready to attack tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2016:

Woke up with a migraine again! Have I mentioned that I have three cats and they are all over eight years old and I just recently discovered I’m allergic to cats. Meaning . . . that’s not going anywhere because my cats aren’t.
I did finally pull myself together by around 1 PM and continued working through the night. Then I shocked myself by making it through five chapters! I even shot a question off to Kaitlyn, who quickly answered and told me my suggestion on a fix for an issue was on point. So I ran with it. And got pretty far.

Sunday, November 13, 2016:
And that’s it! With seven chapters to go, I managed to finish just in time to watch The Walking Dead. I’m kinda shocked. She gave me until the 18th! It just went so smoothly. Once I decided what I wanted to do to help cover the edits she requested, it was easy sailing and I felt so much better and more confident about the story. Plus, I got my enormous word count under 100,000 words! That made me happy, because it helped open up my options a little more, in case I don’t land an agent in the agent round. Either way, I’m a happy chica. Time to crash and await more edits from my editing partner.

If you’re looking to hire an editor, I highly recommend Kaitlyn. Check out her website at http://www.kjohnsonfreelance.com/ or email her at k.johnson.freelance@gmail.com.

 

2015 Year in Review, Dancing into 2016

Hi all!

So I know I’ve been kind of absent this month, and mostly that was just me being the usual speed-of-light blur that I’m known for. Post NaNoWriMo, I had a ton of work to make up for in daily life, so I ran through that and have just now come down from the big spin. But, now that Christmas is done (Happy Holidays!), my 33rd birthday is here (Happy Birthday to me!) and 2016 is on the horizon (Happy New Year!), I always like to take a minute and look at how much things have changed in a year.

Highlights of 2015

  • IMG_2318I signed a contract for my series! So, things may be a bit delayed from my original August release, but that’s because I switched publishing companies in the middle of the process. It was a difficult but necessary decision to make, and while it set things back a little, The Order of the Key is still going strong and will be on bookshelves and hopefully chilling in your e-reader in 2016. So, stick with me. 2016 is going to be a banner year! I am also over halfway through writing Book 2, so things for the Keys and Guardians series are going well and moving right along.
  • Speaking of which, if we’re going with firsts, this is the first time I’ve ever edited a manuscript for a publisher, and it has been insane. Bang your head into the wall, pull your hair out of your head, angst-ridden crazy, but we’re about halfway through the muck, and the product has been incredible. I’m in love with what we’ve done so far, and damn…my editor is right when she’s right, you know?
  • lastcover1My husband, Ismael, signed his book series! Fans of the blog know just how invested I am in my husband’s work (we work as a team, are each other’s first editors, and brainstorm out most of our work together). Obviously, he is more excited than I am, but I am still over the moon! Soulless, Book 1 of the Soul Broker series, is in final edits and due out early in 2016. Life just got very different for both of us, as I’m sure you know.

 

  • Logan is kicking butt at First Grade and has decided he wants to be a writer too. We’re not expecting anything, but he’s pretty angry he can’t publish a book now, because Mommy and Daddy are, so why not? One day, kid. Or maybe not. You decide.
  • Once we both got picked up for series with Fantasy Works Publishing, I also took a job with them, and I’ve been having a grand time with my newfound duties. I’ve been working in acquisitions, as a content editor, and I’m about to strike out in a new branch – I will be running the soon-to-open audiobook branch of the company. So keep an eye open for that. You can get an idea of all of the wonderful things FWP has to offer at http://www.fantasyworkspublishing.com
  • Lastcover I mentioned my content editing above, and I’d like to introduce you to the book I’ve been editing. If you like horror and dark fantasy, you will love following the twists and turns of Gage Greenwood’s first novel, In the Eyes, In the Shadows. We’ve been having a great time working on his novel, he is extremely talented, and a breeze to work with. I know you all will fall in love with his book just like I did, so follow him for news on its release. You’ll be seeing it in 2016 as well.

What’s New in 2016

  • Aside from all the release dates and pending projects? Well, I’m still writing Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key, and I’m also going to try to shop out my last remaining short story, One Headlight. It’s been a busy year, and I let that one fall by the wayside. Either way, with book signings and marketing on the horizon, I have a good feeling that 2016 will have a crazier and much longer list of highlights than this year.

Alright guys, that’s what’s up with me! How is everything with you? Post below so I can get a look at what everyone has been up to and what is to come!

Virtual FantasyCon

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Hi all! Today, I’m here to discuss this great event that I’m participating in this Sunday, November 8th. I will be hosting a booth for YA Sunday, but I am also featured on one of the panel discussions. Virtual FantasyCon was created to reach out to readers and lovers of the speculative, the fantastical, the strange. The convention, which is hosted in Facebook events, actually started yesterday and will continue through the 8th, with varying topics as the days go on. For more information on what you can find throughout the week, check out the flyer below.

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The conventions is being run by these hard-working individuals who are doing it all for the fans.

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And finally, please find the links for each of the targeted days of the convention below. Come join us! Find some new books to read and some new authors to love. We’ll be waiting for you.

Submissions – An Insiders (and Outsiders) View

It’s official. I’ve converted to the Dark Side. Once upon a time, I was just a lowly author.

A short time after signing my book deal with Fantasy Works Publishing, I was given a job there as well. After several back and forth conversations with owner, Jen Leigh, in which she would hand me a potential acquisition and ask me to evaluate it to see whether or not our interests lined up, I suddenly found myself working with her in acquisitions. Instead of the rejected, I have become the REJECTOR. And I feel the need to talk about it a bit, because it’s a huge difference, looking at it from the inside. And possibly because I need a little talk therapy.

Here’s what I’ve learned from working in acquisitions through two pitch sessions.

  1. It is a SLOG. I used to be very annoyed at how long it took agents and publishers to turn manuscripts around when you sent them in, but I was wrong. Reading through that many submissions can be a lot of work, especially when you consider the fact that we have other duties in acquisitions, like sending out contracts or rejections (more on both, later). And that isn’t even factoring in the fact that in small publishing you can wear many hats. Also, for me, specifically, I have a day job, a writing career, and a family. We try to keep your manuscripts for less than a month before we say something, and that’s mostly due to Jen, who reads so much faster than me. But in small publishing, all it takes is one minor business hiccup to mean we can’t read acquisitions for the rest of the day until we get it straightened out. Because putting out fires with the authors you have takes precedent.

  2. It is a JOY. People are creative. REALLY creative. And a whole lot of fun. Even if something doesn’t fit our particular vision for our company, we usually fall in love with something about every manuscript we read.

  3. It can be disappointing. There are few things that hurt worse than discovering a manuscript that you fall in love with, and having that author decide not to sign with your company. You invest a lot of time when you read a manuscript from cover to cover, and a lot of emotion as well. And when you fall in love, you fall hard. So it’s sad. But it’s also important that you are both on the same page, business-wise. So just like you have to make the best choice for your manuscript, we have to make the best choice for our company. The only thing I would suggest is that you only submit to a small publishing company if you would be interested in publishing with them. If you are relatively sure you are looking for an agent, it wastes everybody’s time for you to submit. It happens far more than you would think.

  4. We know, very quickly, if we want to sign you. Nobody wants to hear this, and nobody wants to say this, but it’s true. I often know by page 5 or 6 of whatever you send me, if I’m going to want to read further. If I fear a no, I’ll still read the entire packet you send, hoping you’ll prove me wrong, but I have yet to have that happen. Taste is subjective, and that doesn’t mean that the same will be true for the same writer any other place. By no means does this mean you have to be perfect, but when I pick up a manuscript, I have to be captivated by something (your writing style, a character, voice, plot) by the end of the first several pages, or you’ll be hard pressed to win me over.

  5. We hate rejections. If Jen tells me she has grabbed a pint of ice cream, I know it’s time to send out rejections. We hate every single email we send, because we don’t want to crush anybody’s dream. We’d much rather say yes, because…

  6. We love to make a dream come true. Jen has said this to me time and again, but it wasn’t until just recently, when I was given the chance to make a call on a manuscript by myself, that I understood the power of selecting a novel for publication. That book became my baby. I’d worked on books in their nascent stages before – mine, my husband’s, my good friend, Louis’ – and you become emotionally invested in them. Their success becomes just as important as your own. But never, had I read the work of a complete stranger (though, thankfully, not anymore) and had that same magic happen to me. And then it did.

And this is why I wanted to do this. This is why I added Acquisitions Editor to the many pieces of my puzzle. Because the writers we have chosen deserve to have a voice, deserve to have their day. And I’m enjoying every chance I get to make that happen.