Year In Review

2013 was a good year and instead of closing out the year with where I want to be, I’ve decided to take a look at how I got to where I am now that 2014 has begun.

– 2013 started with me riding high off of the announcement of my first publication.  This was huge for me, more so because it was genre work.  I have a few literary fiction shorts out there and those matter to me, but as I’ve said, I write weird stuff.  So, having my first publication be a genre story validated me as a writer, reminded me that I should continue to pursue what I fancy as a writer and not what others feel I should write.  Never mind the fact that I placed second in a writing contest.  Or the fact that the anthology was named for my title.  Icing on the cake, ladies and gents.

I rewrote a story that scared the hell out of me.  I took something deeply personal to me and put it out there and worked it and reworked it ad nauseum, until I honestly couldn’t bear to look at it again.  And though it didn’t get published in the end, the experience was worth every minute of artistic and emotional agony.  Not only did I learn a ton about the writing and revision process, but I finally allowed myself to explore the crazy feelings wrapped up in my spinal surgery and that entire time of my life.  It was a groundbreaking, cathartic, intensely difficult project, and I haven’t given up on publication yet.  It will happen.

– I joined the staff of Sucker Literary for Issue 3 and I learned so much about the lit mag submission process.  I also got to read some amazing work and make some great new writing friends and there is so much that makes more sense now.  Not only am I super proud of Issue 3 and my contribution to it, but I’m super proud to work for Sucker in general.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be returning for Issue 4 and I’m eager to see where that leads.

– I just joined an online literary critique group and brought Ismael along with me.  I have since submitted my first story and received excellent feedback that will help me revise that story and hopefully, eventually, up its chances for publication.

– I have rewritten two short stories, wrote a flash fiction piece, and wrote a prequel short story to that book series I always talk about, Keys & Guardians, that I plan to shop out as a stand alone.  Not bad for someone who had no intention of pursuing short story writing at all, huh?

– I have completed first drafts of The Order of the Key and Legally Insane. Of course, that has just opened up a whole new avenue of work, namely, “How do I revision?!!!”

– I have outlined and written a few chapters of The Lost Key, sequel to Order.

– I have begun to outline two new stand alone novels, The Broken Hearts Club and Soul Sight.

– I have resurrected a dead novel idea for a short story contest.

– I entered a couple of writing contests, which, while I didn’t win, provided me with the opportunity to create new content I wouldn’t have created otherwise.

– This blog had it’s first guest blog post! By the way, I’m always open for more, so if you’re a reader of my blog and have something relevant to say, please feel free to shoot me a message at justinehmanzano@gmail.com.

– I have continued writing blog entries for this blog, despite starting this a year and a half ago and basically giving it a life expectancy of a few months.  I assumed I’d be too busy to maintain it, but twice a month isn’t so bad, and as yet, I’ve managed to have the time to keep it up.

– Oh, and my big announcement – as of my next blog post (at some point between now and January 15th, this blog will become http://www.justinemanzano.com.  I’m making the investment to pay for my own domain, because I expect this blog to one day grow into something bigger than it is, and I want to be ready to make it into a true writer’s homepage.  It will still look the same, but I want the potential for growth that owning my own domain will create.

So, that’s my year in review.  Here’s to another year of steps forward in the process!  So, what advancements have you made in the last year?  Share below!  I’d love to hear all about your steps forward and the steps you plan to take in the New Year!

And most importantly, here’s wishing all of you a very Happy 2014!

New Years Resolutions

Before I begin, I would love to wish all of my readers Happy Holidays.  Whatever you celebrate, I hope you enjoy your time and as we approach that countdown to a fresh start, I hope you can look back at this year with happiness in your heart, and look forward to a year filled with new and interesting possibilities.

OK, so I lied last week and said that I’d be writing about Bad Guys this month, but I won’t.  We’ll get back to that next year.  In the meantime, I’d like to discuss something a little more on theme.  New Years Resolutions.  Which I hate.  When you sit around in December and look at your life over the last year, New Years Resolutions make you feel cranky.  They are rigid goal posts, planted in the ground to remind you of all the stuff you were supposed to do, but drove right on by.

So, I don’t make resolutions.  I make possibilities. I ask myself, “This time next year, where would you ideally like to be?”  And I remember that word, ideally.  Because it is important.  Life is usually far from ideal and a lot can happen in a year. As long as we don’t make resolutions, and list ideals, we can keep a clear eye on the list as potential goals, and not as failures when we don’t hit each of those goals within a twelve month period.

So, what are my goals for 2014?  I have a list.

1) Logan will be starting Kindergarten next fall, so I’d like to hope that, by the end of 2014, I will have a decent routine going after the great big change in the status quo.  Here’s hoping that by next December, I’m not still racing into my office late everyday because I still haven’t figured out how to get him to school on time.

2) I hope to be able to better manage my time.  I seem to have a real problem doing everything I want to do.  Which is not for lack of trying.  So, I’m trying to become better at procrastinating less, and staying more on schedule so I can have more time to see people and to get out and try new things.

3) I plan to manage my money better.  I went through quite the financial crisis this year, and I don’t intend for it to happen again.  So I’m trying to become smarter about how I manage funds, which means not spending extravagantly, and not offering to buy for everyone like I have a million dollars.  I don’t know why I do that!  But thankfully, nobody who loves me seems to allow me to anymore without a fight.  Thanks, supportive people!

4) I continue to shop out my short stories in the hopes of publication. I haven’t been getting any bites, but hopefully I will be celebrating another short story publication in the year 2014.

5) I would like to finish revisions on The Order of the Key and start shopping it out to agents/publishers by the end of 2014.

6) I want to get in better shape.  Do not read that as “lose weight.”  I just want to be more healthy, i.e. get my migraines under control, get my eating under control, exercise more.  Just generally become a more healthful person.

7) I would like to complete at least my first round of revisions on Legally Insane.  I do not expect to complete the revisions for this right away – the book turned out being about double the size it was meant to be, so I know this set of revisions is going to be extensive.

8) I have completed a prequel short story for the series I’m working on, Keys and Guardians (The Order of the Key is the intro book to that), and I would like to complete edits, begin shopping it out, and, preferably, have that published by the end of the year.

9) I have also recently started a new short story that I hope to have completed soon.

So that is my list of goals for next year.  This should probably give you a decent idea of what I will be babbling about over the next year.  Stay tuned for my end of year post, my year in review.  2013 was a sweet year.  2014, here I come!

Internet with Friends! And Other Relevant Links…

Welcome to the summer of Pieces of the Puzzle!  This is a little update on what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been reading all summer long.

– I joined the July edition of CampNanoWriMo and managed to write twice my projected word count!  If you are looking to sign up for the next National Novel Writing Month, check it out, here.

– I have spoken my Urban Fantasy, Order of the Key, and my Romantic Comedy, Legally Insane, on this blog before.  The first drafts of both of these novels are now complete.  It’s time to start throwing myself into edits and start outlining my next novels!

– It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a review!  Check out my review of Man of Steel here.

– If you’re interested in following my life in picture format, follow me on Instagram. My username is @justine_manzano.

– My little sister, another writer, has started a blog.  Check it out here!

– Zoraida Cordova is a talented Young Adult writer who writes about merpeople.  She also just happens to be my friend and was once my college classmate in two writing classes.  I just finished the second book in her Vicious Deep trilogy, The Savage Blue, and it left me scrambling for more!  Check out my review for the first book of the series here.  And, seriously, READ THIS SERIES.  If you like fantasy and adventure, you’ll like this.

– Working on edits to your stories like I am?  Check out these great tips to get rid of repetitive statements.

– Here’s another great article about editing.  Check out novelist Patricia Gussin’s list of things to look for in each reread of your novel.

– One of my favorite fandom influences, Joss Whedon, discussed his top ten writing tips here.  They are mostly geared towards screenplay writing, but there is much information to be gleaned from the article.

– Getting together your fiction query letter?  I will be, very soon.  So here is a link to one that works, with a very nice analysis of why.

Okay, that’s all for this month.  Check out my next post in two weeks, where I discuss the debate of writing vs. income.  Take care all!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop…Again!

The awesome Jess Sturman-Coombs tagged me to blog hop with her again, so I figured I would discuss my latest writing project (aka, what I’m tackling now that I’m in edit mode with The Order of the Key).  Because I’m out of projects to successfully blog about, I’m not going to tag it forward – simply because I fear being tagged again.

And now to attempt to answer some questions about a project I have mentioned on this blog before without going into great depth.  Here goes…

1.  What is the working title of your current/next book?

Legally Insane.

2.  Where did the idea come from?

This story started as a simple tale of a divorcee who had lived her life for her husband until her divorce, and is now trying to find herself professionally, socially, and personally. That portion of the story admittedly arose from a personal place.  My mother was a housewife for my entire childhood, and hadn’t held a job since before my sister (who is 12 years older than me) was born.  When I was 14 my parents divorced and my mother was forced to navigate the working and dating world (to varying degrees of success).  Leah Marinillo was created at a time where I was creating an active wish-fulfillment world in which my mother had an easier time of her transition. There were differences, of course – Leah is not a mother, she is younger at the time of her divorce, and her husband is a soul-sucking bastard of a human being (my father is not) – but Leah’s journey was in many ways an idealized version of what I wanted for my mother.  

However, the story stalled there.  I had this great story of a woman re-establishing her own sense of self-worth in the world, but when I tried to sit down and write it, it just didn’t have legs.  I couldn’t find a strong motivation for my characters and it was a little too normal for me, given my tendency towards the bizarre.

It wasn’t until I was having a conversation with some of my friends in the Stargate fandom about what it would be like if the characters acted as the angel and the devil on your shoulders (Daniel as the angel, Jack as the devil, for anybody familiar with the series).  I thought it over and I started to play it out in my head – walk through my day with either Jack or Daniel commenting on everything I did as I did it.  Did they approve?  What did they think I could have done better.  And Carter St. James was born of that – he became Leah’s Guardian Angel / total hallucination – her favorite television character walking through her life and telling her how badly she was handling it.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

Romantic comedy.  

4 .  What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This one, I haven’t got much for.  There is a severe lack of actresses who look like Leah – short, somewhat plump, with a mess of auburn curls.  Doug, Leah’s love interest would definitely be  Michael Shanks.  Carter would be Ben Browder.  Callie, Leah’s best friend, was created as an amalgam of my two best friends in real life, Joy and Allegra, and my best online friend, Pip.  Appearance-wise, I’d probably cast Warehouse 13’s Allison Scagliotti.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Previously content to be a housewife, Leah Marinillo navigates a divorce, a new apartment, a new job, new friends and sexual tension with her new boss, all while taking orders from her favorite television character, Carter, who appears to her after a traumatic experience to set her life straight.

SUCH a run-on, but I’ll take it.  

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I intend to attempt the traditional publishing route first.  If not, wherever the wind takes me.  The wind will likely take me to self-publishing, in that event.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m still writing it, although admittedly, so far it has been a massive jumble of scenes without any structure.  I am just starting to organize it into chapters and see what I have missing (since I write out of order).

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think this book can compare well with any romantic novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and any story about a woman finding her place in the world.  There’s a lot of that out there in the world, but I’m hoping my little Carter-shaped twist makes this one unique.  

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think this is accurately answered in number  2.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?


I’m hoping that this book will accomplish my mission of sending the reader on all of the emotional ups and downs of starting life anew.  By Chapter 4, Leah is embarking on a new life and has no idea what to do with it – and even when she gets it, she’s got a bunch of kinks to work out.  Even Carter isn’t always the great fount of wisdom she thinks he should be.  

Okay, that’s the project I have just started working on.  Please pop on back in two weeks when I discuss why time is always on your side.  Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day!