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

– 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  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!


Note to my readers: This blog is a little late.  That would be because I was suffering my last month with a computer that quit on me.  But I’m back now, with a working model, and a blog that was more timely two weeks ago.  Ah well…consider it the obligatory holiday post.

It’s that time of year!  The time where families try to put aside petty grievances to eat dinner together (and usually fail), the time where we forget our diets, forget how long that drive to _________’s house is and do it anyway, the time where we kiss the behinds of everyone who’s behinds we should have been kissing all year, but forgot to in the shuffle of things (and the above-mentioned petty grievances, which usually are far outweighed by the good things).

So here I go, telling you the things I give thanks for.  Be prepared.  One day there will be an acknowledgements page in the back of a novel that looks something like this, but as that hasn’t happened yet, I figured I’d give it a whirl now.

There are plenty of people to thank, after all. So, to the following, I would like to say thank you:

– My husband, Ismael – I’m pretty regularly vocal about how awesome my husband is and that’s a pretty good place to start.  Ismael deserves a pat on the back simply for putting up with me at my worst, which he does with grace and strength, but also for being my co-writer.  I almost feel guilty signing off on anything as purely my work when every single idea goes through an Ismael screener session.  If life was a romantic comedy with me as the lead, you would be my perfectly imperfect love interest and hero.

– My son, Logan – I couldn’t have created a more perfect comedic foil if I had tried.  Though you are only four years old, you already have the makings of an amazingly frustrating teenager and an amazingly lovely human being.  My little smart alec – I’m gonna enjoy every minute of raising you.  Love you!

– My parents, in good times and in bad times, thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and for making me exactly who I am today.  I like me, so that is very important.

– Mel and Jon aka big sis and bro – I could not have asked for a better pair of partners-in-crazy  than you two.  Thank you for taking me to a movie and to get ice cream on the days I decided I was running away from home.  Thank you Mel for planning fight scenes with me in all their ridiculousness and Jon for being my first critic – important lessons were learned.

– D and Kristy for not only being great significant others for my siblings, but for being great friends to me.

– Manny and Helen, Miriam and Luis – Ismael’s screwball family.  I was blessed with you guys.  Every one of you provide your own particular brand of inspiration.  You have no idea.

– Jeannie and Genaro (my sister-in-law and my nephew) – Your strength, determination and your ability to reinvent yourselves at a moments notice makes me realize what people can truly be capable of.  Genaro, even at 14, your physical tenacity is a sight to behold.  You keep chasing your dream like that, I’ll keep learning from you.

– My protege (and Ismael’s), Megan (aka little sis) – That’s right.  I’m going to call you my protege.  Feel free to argue against that, but I like to be dramatic, so that’s what I’m going to call you.  And despite the fact that you can probably kick my ass, I’m gonna keep it up.  (Yes, that IS a challenge.)

– My best friends, Joy and Allegra, who, each in their own way, provide me with support for all of my ills, a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with, and generally act as my saviors in my daily life.  Without you and the boys I would be more of a mess than you think.  Really.

– My online crew.  Though you may rotate in and out of my life, and some of you were once real time friends, but we don’t get much time together anymore (Sean, I’m talkin’ to you!) but one thing remains consistent.  If you are someone who I share more than idle conversation with online, if we have discussed deeper topics, shared more about our families, about our lives, than you have impacted me and my writing world in ways you can not even begin to imagine.  I wish I could teleport to each of your houses and smish you all.  You know who you are.

– My actual work crew.  To Ulana and Karen, Lee and Heather, Carol and Gina, Kathleen, Nicole, and Stephen, to all of my bosses, and all of the people around the office who share with me and provide me with support each and every day.  I know it’s not perfect, but I have been blessed with a workplace where people care, really genuinely care, and that’s tough to come by.

– The rest of the Minners and Manzano families.  Though you are more distant, you guys are always providing me and my husband with love, support, and the occasional character studies. 😉

– Annamarie and Rino, who provide us with the house we live in.  Thanks for seriously being the best homeowners ever.  We owe a lot to you and we know it, and you provide us with a roof over our heads so we can continue doing all of the other stuff we love doing. Plus, your kids are adorable and awesome and you make pretty great friends too!

– Dawn, for taking flawless care of my pride and joy when we can’t be home with him.  You spend so much time with him and play such an important role in raising our son.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you so much, again, for everything you do, especially as we get him ready for school (GASP!) next year!

– Harvey for giving me my first chance, my first ever fiction publication.  Thank you for seeing the strengths in my story.

– Hannah and the Sucker team, for coaching me as a writer and for welcoming me to join the staff of Sucker Literary.  I love working for the magazine and look forward to next year’s promotion of Issue 3 (and the search for more stories for Issue 4, if you’ll have me).

– And finally, my readers, be it here, the people who retweet and favorite my Work In Progress Quotes on Twitter, the people who follow me on Facebook, the people who post feedback on my fanfiction, or anybody who has looked at my writing online.  You guys keep me doing what I love doing.

It’s been a tremendous year, with lots to appreciate and more than enough joys to be had.

Please pop by again next week for my mid-month post, where I discuss Bad Guys…and how to make them as important to your story as your Hero.

Until then, Happy Holidays!!!

It’s official – I’m a Published Writer!

ImageHello all! 

I just wanted to throw a post up here really quickly announcing the release of Things You Can Create, featuring my short story of the same title.  You can find it for purchase here.  Expect a promotional blog hop post from me discussing that particular short story and introducing some of the other authors in the anthology to be posted on January 15th.  

As always, thanks again for your constant support!



To My Thirties, With Love

Before I really get started with this blog post, I’d like to say that I hope all of my readers had a great holiday season.  Wishing you the best in this New Year we’ve got before us.  Also, the world did not end.  Which is always a good thing.  I’ve been saying this wasn’t going to happen forever, but nobody listens to me.

Now the confession: I wrote the first draft of this blog a month ago, and when I came back to post it, I realized how different my views were in just that short a time.

Initially, the blog was written to absolutely bemoan the fact that this coming Saturday, I will be turning 30.  The big 3-0.  THIRTY.

And then two things happened to derail that train of thought.  Both good and horrifically, mind-numbingly bad.

1) The Sandy Hook shootings.  There are no words to describe the way this left me feeling, but my brother wrote an amazing blog about what it says about our media and the way they handle coverage of incidents like this and I feel like he said it better than I ever could.  You can read it here.  Upon hearing this news, it seemed incredibly foolish to complain about getting another year older when so many others would not be getting that chance, especially when so many of those involved would never reach their double-digits, let alone 30.  This was an instant reminder to cherish every second of your life, and not to complain about trivial things.

2) That would have been enough of a reason alone to let go of that whining blog post.  But then, something amazing happened.  One of my chief complaints about turning thirty was that my fiction work had yet to be published.

And then, on Christmas Eve, sitting beside my mother, my husband and my son, I got the news that I was getting published.  As a matter of fact, I had won second place in a speculative fiction contest, the resulting anthology being set for release by StoneThread Publishing on February 1, 2013.  More info on that can be found here.  I squealed ridiculously upon receiving this email and managed to scare the crap out of everybody around me.  I realized in that moment what I should have already believed, but hadn’t allowed myself the luxury.

My thirties are going to be my decade.

And so, I write this letter to myself, to read whether I’m on the verge of turning 31 or 39 – my list of things to remember, written right now, while my brain is still clear and happy, still riding off the Christmas high.  My list of lessons I’ve learned in my twenties.  Here goes…

Dear 3_ year old Justine,

Your thirties are going to give you the best times in your life.  Don’t waste any of it.  This is when things are going to begin to happen for you.  Save well.  Don’t overspend.  Make your money count for something.  Don’t worry about the thoughts and opinions of others.  Those that count will still be around no matter what you write or what you believe.  Keep working – don’t let anything sway you from your dreams.  And most importantly, appreciate what you have – it gets you through those moments where you feel like you don’t have enough.  

Love always,

Your 20-something year old self – AKA She who worries too much.

Happy 30th birthday to me.  This blog is to remind myself, and all of my readers that every day older is another day you’ve got – an important thing to remember.  So stop complaining and let’s start making our lives into something we want.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!