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!

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StoneThread Publishing Anthology – Things You Can Create Blog Hop

ImageHello readers!  I know I said I’d be discussing the married life of two writers in this next blog, but it appears I’ll have to push that back in honor of the early release of Things You Can Create, the speculative fiction anthology released by StoneThread Publishing containing my short story of the same name.  You can purchase the book, which is being released in e-book format only, here.

So, in honor of the release, I’m participating in another blog hop, the purpose of which is to introduce all you readers to the talented team of writers behind the stories in this anthology.  You can find the blog introducing this blog hop and a list of all of the authors who will be participating, as well as their blogs, here.

Enjoy the blog hop and this brief Q&A about my story.

Q: What is the title of your story?

A: The Things You Can Create

Q: Describe your story in one sentence.

A: A successful but bitter writer faces surprising consequences when she decides to kill off her main character’s love interest.

Q. Where did you get the idea for the story?

A: Writers all grow very close to our own characters.  They are our creations and they start to feel like friends and enemies.  They certainly begin to feel real.  The idea for this story came after a few too many cups of caffeine and a few too many hours torturing the main character of my novel.  At 2 in the morning, it’s easy to imagine anything – “My character would kill me for this!” isn’t much of a stretch.

Q: If your story was optioned for film, what actors would play the main characters and why?

A: Not sure.  I never pictured anybody.  I could definitely see Autumn Reeser as Laura, Kelly’s publisher.  When I think about it, I could picture Angelina Jolie as Juliana, Kelly’s main character, due to the badass qualities of both.  That is a slippery slope, because now I’m seeing a young, quiet but focused Brad Pitt as Kennedy, Juliana’s lover.  I can’t say who would play Kelly.  I feel like that would give too much away…

Q: Who are your favorite authors and why?

A: That’s a tough question.  I have favorite authors in many genres.  I love Orson Scott Card for his ability to think very far outside of the box, Kelley Armstrong for her ability to show the human condition in sub-human circumstances, Matthew Warner for his disturbingly accurate attention to detail, Suzanne Collins for her ability to make grandiose topics completely relatable, and Veronica Roth for the cadence of her writing voice.  And Joss Whedon for just everything.  Does Joss Whedon count?

Q: What else about this story will enthrall readers?

A: If you like “The Twilight Zone”, you’ll appreciate what this story has to offer you.  I’m no Rod Serling (nobody is), but there is a definite spooky feel to the piece that is very similar.  In that vein, it is much more of a character study of our writer, Kelly, than it is a suspenseful thriller or an action story, although this does contain elements of that as well.  

Q: What are you working on now?  

A: I have two more short stories completed, both of which are not genre fiction, but literary fiction.  I am currently shopping those out.  I have a third in edits.  I’m also working on the novel I discussed in my blog last week as well as two others that have taken a backseat, but are still in the works.  Basically, I’m a busy woman.

Finally, a brief excerpt of the story in question…

Some would say that the good I’ve done for her has done little to outweigh the bad, but I’m fine with that. Why? Because it pays to torture Juliana Collins. I sleep well at night despite the fact that her sad eyes stare back up at me from the ink-filled pages. Every time I see my name splashed across the newest Kelly Marin original, I take pride in it, despite the years I have spent torturing my hero in book after book of the “Chronicles of Heroism” series. It makes it all okay. I made her. She owes me. But lately that has changed.

Lately, a lot has changed.

 

 

And I promise – next blog I will actually discuss my married life with a fellow writer.  I promise. 🙂

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Hello readers!  I hope you all had a wonderful New Year!

I was tagged by Harvey Stanbrough to take part in this, The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.  Harvey runs StoneThread Publishing, the publishing company behind the anthology “The Things You Can Create”, that will be featuring my short story of the same name.  His blog offers many essential writing tips, so check it out.

Here are the rules for this Blog Hop:

  • Give credit to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules for this hop.
  • Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
  • Tag one or more other writer/blogger and add his or her link so we can hop on over.

So…here we go:

What is the working title of your book?
The Order of the Key

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This idea has gone through so many iterations, I don’t even really know anymore.  I came up with an idea for this at the age of 15, scrapped it, pulled it out again, wrote it, hated it and trashed it, then resurrected it, cannibalized it for the “good stuff” and dumped out all of the trite stuff I couldn’t even believe I had written.  Then, with a somewhat similar theme, a couple of familiar characters, but an entirely new mythology, this series rose from the ashes like a phoenix.

What genre does your book fall under?
Urban Fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
For the lead, Jacklyn, I have no idea.  I don’t think I’ve quite given up on the completely ridiculous idea that it’s going to be me.  Kevin Zegers would have the role of Kyp (Jacklyn’s romantic foil) in a heartbeat as apparently I wrote the thing with him in mind without even realizing I had done it (there will be a blog on this strange phenomenon in the future).  There are a few other roles that I have sort of dream casted with the likes of Michael Shanks, Gabrielle Union, Nolan Gerard Funk and Terry O’Quinn.  And there are still others that I couldn’t possibly cast yet.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence?  Really?  Can it be a run-on?  Oh well, here goes.

Jacklyn Madison discovers she has a birthright within an organization of people with extraordinary powers and an extraordinary mission – just in time to become a pawn in a deadly war for supremacy between the group’s dictatorial ruler and her idealistic son.

Now that was a mouthful.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know yet.  I have a few different avenues in mind that I may want to go with.  What I do know for sure is that this work looks like it’s likely to be 8 books, possibly more.  So there is a very good chance that whatever route I choose to start with, I may end up on a different route by the end.  I do intend for them to all see the light of day one way or another.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m still writing it, but to be fair, I’ve been working on other projects in between.  I’ve been working on it for a little over a year, but it has only recently started to take shape over the last 6 months or so.  Starting yesterday I began my own self-imposed NaNoWriMo – so the hope is, I should be up to the editing stage within the next month or so.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Any books by Kelley Armstrong, Richelle Mead, Veronica Roth or Cassandra Clare.  All contain some level of  blending between mythology, fantasy, romance and snappy dialogue, as does mine.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When it comes to this particular work, I believe that it was actually the main character that inspired the work.  Jacklyn herself was inspired by the part of myself that dreamed of living in a world that was more interesting than the usual day-in, day-out.  She was inspired by the part of me that wished something truly supernatural would happen to me and wondered how I would handle it.  But the truth was, I couldn’t imagine a world in which that could happen and a regular woman, no matter how empowered she may be, could come out of the ordeal unscathed.  I drew the story around the idea of her and how a hero could be forged out of such a mess.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
One of the good things about this story, I feel, is that it is real.  The lead has just turned seventeen, but there is no sugar coating and we are definitely not in a young adult novel when we enter this world.  Teenagers curse.  They think about sex.  They make decisions that others would consider vile.  Just like adults do.  In that way, there are no punches pulled.  I felt like having a girl who could fight super powered creatures say something along the lines of “Good golly!” wouldn’t lend a great deal of authenticity.  Also, I feel like I’ve managed to create a fresh mythology here.  We are out of the Vampire/Werewolf/Witches/etc. tropes here.  Are there similarities?  Of course there are.  There is formula involved in building any fantasy world and that assuredly exists in this story. But there is a whole new world to be explored through the Keys, their allies, and their enemies that I have endeavored to make as original as was possible.

And there you have it.  Be sure to check out the blogs of the next bloggers on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop on Wednesday, January 9:  Jess Sturman-Coombs and Dallas Woodburn.

I’ll see you in two weeks with a peek into what married life is like between two writers!

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!