May 2021 Update

So it’s been a couple months since my last post. Although my break has actually been kind of nice, I’m in a weird place. I haven’t been able to read YA lately (or anything other than picture books, really). Still, things have changed a little since then. I decided to send Ugly to a developmental editor my book coach recommended, as she thinks this editor could make the difference for me. So I’m going to give it one more shot. I should get it back from her soon, and then I’ll have to dive in. 

Additionally, I’ve decided to clean up the Sarah stories and publish them through Kindle Vella, which is a new serial platform that hasn’t been released yet, but is coming soon. This book is odd and was always going to be hard to sell. But it’s perfect for serialization, because it’s always been a novel in parts, where each part is a self-contained story, with all of them adding up to a larger story. So each novel part can be one “story” in Kindle Vella, with each chapter (or maybe a few chapters) making up an “episode”. Here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more about Kindle Vella. I’m in the process of finishing up the full draft (meeting with my critique partner today to go over the revised last story), and I’ll make any needed changes and send it to a developmental editor this week. Then, once I make any of her recommended changes, I’ve still got to send it to a copy editor (I could skip this step, but I probably shouldn’t—though I might be able to get away with it for the first one, since it’s been edited so heavily in preparation for going into my thesis). I’m still hoping to get the first story (I’m starting with “Now Would Be Good,” which is technically the second story chronologically, but I’m planning to do the actual first one at the end, as a prequel) published on Vella before it releases, but that probably won’t happen. But I can hope. 

I also found out that Finding Frances has won an indie award called the Next Generation Indie Book Award. There hasn’t been a press release yet, but I was notified earlier and you can see the list here. Once they’ve officially announced it, it will show up on this page. The book tied for first place in the First Novel (70k-90k) category. Now, this award isn’t exactly prestigious and there are a million categories, and I really would have rather placed in the YA category, but it’s still really nice to get some recognition. Somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good book, even if nobody is buying it. Also, the prize is $100, which I assume they’ll split in half since it was a tie. Which increases my income from this book by more than 50%. This book hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. 

Other than that, I haven’t been working on any other YA stories, instead focusing on my picture book venture. I’ve got two different drafts that are coming along nicely, and another new one I wrote a first draft of on Friday. I’m going to be starting drawing up thumbnails for the first one, even though it’s going to be a while before I can actually do the artwork. I’m taking Life Drawing this term, and let’s just say my ability to draw people… needs to develop a little. 

Here is a sketch I did in my Life Drawing class that doesn't suck.

 

A Change

So I’ve made a decision. Despite years of my best efforts, I can’t get anywhere with the gatekeepers in YA publishing. So I’ve decided to stop writing YA, as it’s not worth continuing to put this much energy into something when there’s no hope of getting what I want out of it. Ugly was supposed to be the one that got me an agent, because it’s exactly what they’re all claiming they want: something diverse and different. But despite over 115 queries to agents on it, fewer than five requested anything, and nobody’s giving me anything but form rejections (most don’t respond at all). I do still have one full out on it—my only thing out there, which she’s had since December—so maybe I’ll change my mind if she decides to take me on. But that is unlikely, given my track record so far. I’m 95% done with the Now Would Be Good stories, but that is virtually unsellable because it starts when the main character is 13 and ends the summer she’s 18. Nobody buys YA with protagonists that young, at least not without some serious convincing. I’ve always known this was a problem, but I thought I’d have a chance with it if I could get an agent on Ugly, which for so long I believed would happen. I’ve been working on Sadie Speaks, too, and my book coach thinks this one could make it, but from what I’ve been hearing at conferences, the YA suspense/thriller market’s saturated and it’s hard for new writers to break in. 

I’m still debating what to do about the romances I write under a pen name, because those I’ve long planned to self-publish, so I don’t need to convince anyone I’m worth looking at there. But I never cared about those as much as my YA, so I don’t know.

As you might have noticed from my blog here lately, I’ve already been sort of shifting my focus to my art and learning how to make picture books, so I’m just going to make that my only real focus. 

I’m not sure what this means for this site. I don’t plan to delete everything, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to switch to talking only about picture books when it’s been so focused on YA for so long. Do I start reviewing the picture books I’m reading here, or should I make a new site for that? I have no idea. I am planning to publish any picture books I make under my real name, so maybe I should just keep the site as it is and change what I blog about. It’s hard to know. 

I guess I’ll just figure it out later. 

Feeling bit lost at the moment…

I’d Love a Review

As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a quest for reviews for Finding Frances. I want to run a promotion on Book Bub, and the rumor is you need at least twenty reviews to have a chance. This past Tuesday, I ran a promotion on the book that resulted in at least some sales, so that’s cool (my rating on Amazon went from 1,702,055 on November 4 to 27,553 on November 10). Obviously that’s nowhere near great success, but it’s nice to not be in the millions for a few days. Maybe someone who bought it will review it… I can hope. I’m also still in the middle of a review tour where I’m supposed to get eleven more reviews. I did get my first review that was lower than four stars, so that was interesting. I’m not upset—it still counts toward my total reviews and I still have a fairly good average rating.

I did decide to do NaNoWriMo for sure this year, and I’m barreling ahead with it, way ahead on word count because I’m working off an existing draft that has some usable parts (i.e., I’m cheating). I’m rewriting one of my romances.

At the end of October, I revised the first five chapters of Ugly and wrote a new chapter that comes between chapters one and two. I’m hoping these changes will be enough to make the editors and agents like it (though I have the rest of the chapters yet to do—that will happen after I finish my NaNo draft).

I also got my feedback back from Lou on the revised Sadie Speaks (the first 20 pages, anyway). He was mostly positive but had some tips I can use. I have just one more submission for him, and one for my research class, and I’m totally done with the MFA. My thesis was accepted by the library for binding earlier this week, so I’m officially done with that.

Style

Not a lot has changed in the past few weeks. I got my thesis back from the second reader, so now I’m ready to finalize it and send it in. I finished my class about narrative distance and got some feedback from the teacher, so now I feel ready to tackle fixing Ugly. I’m pretty sure I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year, after waffling about it for a while. I may not succeed—may, in fact, give up part way—but I’m going to start it and see how it goes. I’m going to be busy because I’m also taking two art classes. Being me, I decided to go for it, and I enrolled in a BFA program in Illustration. Crazy, I know. But I'll learn stuff.

I’ve still been working through a pen and ink techniques book, copying from the artist’s drawings. I’m getting better and learning some techniques, and developing my own style (slowly). I’ve included a few pictures below.

Drawing of trees on a hill

Drawing of small sailboat

Drawing of castle stairs

Writing and Education

I recently joined Sisters in Crime, a mystery/suspense/etc. writers’ group, just in time to attend there SinC Into Great Writing: Creating Authentic Characters webinar. I was excited about it because Lou Berney, the author I’m working with this semester for my suspense class in my MFA, was featured. But K. Tempest Bradford was also presenting about writing the other. I’ve heard of her but never seen her teach, which is a shame because she’s a great presenter. If you’re a writer wanting to learning about diverse representation and writing characters different from you, I highly recommend looking for her workshops. She’s very organized, clear, and deeply knowledgeable. She’s also a funny (not excessively so, but she kept it light despite the serious nature of the topic). She also talked about sensitivity readers. Apparently the going minimum is about $250/300, which isn’t bad to me. The next part of the webinar was a conversation about character with Walter Mosley and Lou Berney, which was also interesting. It really was just a conversation for the most part, with the moderator asking a few questions to get things going.

In MFA news, I sent my thesis to the second reader, which means there are no more changes to make. I also turned in the synopsis of rewritten Sadie Speaks to Lou last week and I’m looking forward to getting his feedback on it. If he doesn’t have recommendations for major changes, I’ll be able to submit two samples from the beginning of the book, which I’m hoping is two chapters each. Otherwise, I’ll have to revise the synopsis for the first submission. I just have one more submission to make in my research elective (though I do have half a book to read for it). So I’m really close to being done here.

Outside of that, I just started an online class called How Stories Get Told: Voice and Narrative Distance which I’m hoping is going to help me fix the narrative distance problem Ugly has. Because I think that’s the problem. We’re so buried in her head we can’t see the rest of the world.

I’m still internally debating doing NaNoWriMo this year. This is the month I need to do the planning if I want to make it work. I would be rewriting a romance of mine. I’m also trying to figure out if I’m going to cheat if I do decide to go for it. I already have some of the novel written (actually the whole thing, but only some of that is usable), so I could count the parts I pull in toward my word count. Normally, I’m a purist about it—I only start brand new projects and would never cheat. But it is 2020. So.

One issue is that I want to work on Ugly, too, so it will be hard to do both, which means I may not get to Ugly until December, when I told the agents I could get it to them by the end of the year. I’m also still actively working on the Now Would Be Good stories. I’m running it through my book coach 2500 words a week, with many weeks to go. On top of that, I’m taking another writing class on short stories that starts on October 13, so I’ll be trying to produce work for that. On top of that, I’m studying calculus to prepare for starting the statistics master’s again next fall. So really, if I were sensible, I would not do NaNo. But this is me, so who knows what I’ll decide.

An update on the expensive cat problem: my MacBook Air display died again, and this time they replaced it and two internal cables. So there really was something wrong with it that wasn’t from Maddox biting it. But I still installed a Maddox bite deterrent system:

Maddox Bite Deterrent System - cardboard taped to the corners of the screen

So far it’s working reasonably well. I’ve caught him biting the cardboard several times, but he hasn’t gotten past it yet.

Expensive Cat

There's really not much going on in my writing world. Still working away on the Sarah stories (Now Would Be Good). I worked up a new synopsis of Sadie Speaks to send to my mentor in a few weeks. I'm also really frustrated—I applied to a postgraduate semester in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts—I was hoping to work with a well-known YA author on Ugly—but they're taking a long time to get back to me. I think it's a rejection, which means I should get started revising Ugly again, but since I don't know, I'm stuck waiting. I'm kind of disappointed, though. I felt pretty confident in my application. But whatever.

I'm also trying to decide if I'm going to do NaNoWriMo this year. If I do, I'll be working on my second romance. It isn't totally planned out yet, which means I'll need to spend some of October prepping it. I haven't done NaNo since 2017, when I wrote Ugly.

I'm going to be running a sale (99 cents) on my book for a week in November and featuring it on Bargain Booksy again, on November 10th. I'm hoping to get a few more sales than I did when it was still $4.99.

Now for a little rant. This guy:

Maddox biting computer
Maddox trying to bite my work computer

Is in big trouble. I have a Macbook Air that I bought in July of 2019, and about four weeks ago the screen died. I fortunately have Apple Care, because they counted the chipped glass from Maddox's bites as accidental damage, so it didn't qualify for repair under the warranty (even though the tech at the Genius Bar agreed with me that it was unlikely to have actually caused the damage). That was $100. Within 3 hours of getting the repaired computer back, this monster bit the corner again, chipping it. Then, last Wednesday, the screen abruptly died. So, either his biting really is causing the damage, or I'm just really unlucky (no, I'm definitely unlucky, either way). I have an appointment at the Genius Bar Thursday. I'm hoping Apple Care will apply again and it will only be $100 again.

Sigh.

Notes from Lockdown

Story Genius book coverThis won’t be a very exciting post. Not a lot to report. Like everyone else, I’m stuck in lockdown, going stir crazy. I usually do most of my writing at Starbucks, so it’s been a challenge to learn to work at home. Especially when I’m working from home for my day job, too. I just sit in the same chair from 7 am to 8 or 9 pm, swapping out computers at about 3:30. One nice thing that is helping me not go crazy is that some of my writing friends and I meet on Zoom every day and chat and do writing sprints. It helps to talk to other people.

What I’m most busy with is my thesis (specifically the 15-20 page paper about a craft element in novels). I had to totally rewrite (well, reorganize) it this weekend. It’s due a week from Friday so I’ve only got one weekend after this one to finish it. It isn’t the final final version, since I can still work on it during next semester, but I don’t want to have too much to do on it.

I’m also working on planning out the final-to-be-written Sarah story, which will be the second-to-last in the collection. I’m using a method outlined in the book Story Genius (pictured here), but I signed up for the Story Genius Workshop, which is a self-paced online class that walks you through everything step-by-step. There are videos explaining everything, and then long worksheets to fill out. They also have the option to pay extra for a coach, someone who will give you feedback on every step. I applied for that and am waiting to hear how much it costs. We’ll see if I do it. One interesting thing about this process is that it is going to require me to change some things in the earlier story, especially the long first one.

I’ve also got Ugly out with a bunch of agents, though nobody’s biting. I keep getting form letter rejections. The gatekeepers hate me.

Not Quite Ready for March

Not a lot has happened since the release of Finding Frances, but the official release party is coming up in less than three weeks, so I’m planning for that. It should be interesting and I have no idea how many people are going to show up. I’ve picked a couple of very short readings to do and need to practice them, but it shouldn’t be difficult. I also need to write my little history of the book story and my thank yous out so I don’t forget anyone. I’m supposed to be sending out the invites today, and I haven’t even written them yet. Something for this evening…

This is going to be a busy month in general. There’s the release party, and I have to write the first draft of my 15-20 page thesis paper. My biggest concern is that I’m not actually sure that my premise is true; if it isn’t, it will be a problem if I can’t figure out something else to write about quickly. I also am going to be teaching a one-hour class on the role of relationships in character development at the end of the month. There is a lot of preparation to do on that one.

Yesterday I spent most of the day updating Ugly with some cleanup edits (instead of working on my March activities like I should have) and resent it to an agent that had requested a full and then left that agency before getting back to me on it. I’m hoping she will like it. It would be so nice to finally get through that stupid barrier. Still, I need to start sending it out in earnest again. I’ll send some queries out some evening this week.

Lastly, regarding Finding Frances, according to Amazon, only about 8 copies have been purchased. So it would be great if you’re reading this if you might consider buying it, if you haven’t already. 🙂 And if you have read it, it would be so helpful to me if you'd leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

First Post-Release Post

I feel like I should write a post for today since Finding Frances finally came out this week, on Monday. But in some ways it’s been a little anti-climactic. Nothing has really changed from my perspective. I know people have bought it, but I have no way of knowing how many, and I don’t have any reviews yet, so it’s all invisible. I think I can get a rough estimate of the number of books sold on Amazon with a week delay or so, so maybe I’ll get my first clue next week.

Still, it is kind of cool to no longer be a ”pre-published” author. All that work finally paid off. And man, was it a lot of work… Now I’m planning for the release party on March 21st.

Outside of regularly remembering I’m a published author now, I’m focused on the MFA and Ugly. One of the things I’m doing is a professional writing minor, and through that I’m getting some feedback on my Ugly query and the first two chapters. My instructor told me that the two chapters were maybe a little slow and that they didn’t hint at what the book is really about, instead making it seem like the main character just has normal teen problems. So I wrote a new short scene to start the book off, to be put at the beginning of Chapter 1. I’m waiting on feedback on that, but if she likes it, I will start querying again. Right now I have no queries out and only four few partials/fulls (sent in November). But I just figured out that one of the agents who had requested a full changed agencies after requesting it but before responding to it. So now I have to do some followup work on that one. I emailed the original agency, but I’ll probably have to requery the original agent at her new agency. I also followed up with another full I sent in November. So hopefully I’ll hear something soon on both of those.

The other minor I’m doing on the MFA is pedagogy. So I’m going to be observing a class in March and then teaching a one-hour workshop on the use of relationships in character-building. Both are with a former instructor who’s really nice, so I hope it goes well. I’m still developing the workshop, though I have the exercises ready. Now I just have to score books to find good examples…

Busy, busy.

Heading Home

Time for a somewhat rambly post.

Yesterday my third MFA residency wrapped up. It was a good ten days, but now I’m sitting at the Oklahoma City airport waiting on my already-delayed flight. And there’s three more hours for it to be delayed even more. It’s likely snowing in Seattle so I’m really hoping that I get in and home okay. I can’t wait to see my kitties.

On the writing front, it seems like everything is focused on promotion for Finding Frances right now. One of the classes I’m taking this semester is “Professional Writing,” which is going to basically be the instructor helping me figure out how to promote Finding Frances and how to sell Ugly. I’m supposed to be figuring out possible venues for my release party. I was hoping to have it at Barnes and Noble in Issaquah, but I’m not sure they’ll work with my publisher. So I’ve got to find some backup locations. And I’m also trying to find ways to get reviews. In other promotion efforts, I signed up for a blog tour starting release day and running for four weeks (a “book blast” where they’ll put info on my book on several blogs). I also signed up for a review tour, also four weeks, where I’m supposed to get reviews. I have no idea if these will really give me a return on the money I put in, but I have to try something.

The other extra class I’m taking this semester is in pedagogy of creative writing. I am supposed to observe a class and also teach one before the end of the semester. So I have to figure out what to teach on. I’m a little nervous about this—it should be on some element of craft, but the field is wide open. I did ponder doing one on outlining at various stages of the writing process. I’m not sure if that would count.

Besides that, my faculty mentor is looking at the writing I’m planning to use for my thesis (I don’t have to produce any new creative writing this semester since I’ve done it all already) and I have to write five short papers and one big one, 15-20 pages.

That’s what I’m looking forward to this semester. I’ll be busy, but it should be good.

Release Date

Finding Frances Book CoverSo, I finally got my release date for Finding Frances (!). It is:

Monday, February 3, 2020

I’d hoped it would come out before the end of this year so I could enter it in a contest through PNWA, but this is fine (I’ll have to wait until 2021 to enter it).

Other than that, there’s not much news. I’ve got my MFA residency coming up in January, and I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be my third semester.

I’m working on finishing up the Now Would Be Good collection about my character Sarah, which I’ve now decided is going to be a novel in parts rather than a short story collection. Each part will just have its own arc, in addition to the whole book having one.

My critique partner is almost through Sadie Speaks, so I may pick that one back up and revise it.

I’m still shopping Ugly around, without much luck. I’m a little irritated about that one—I’m not getting as many bites as I think I should. They all say they want something different (which this story is) but it seems like they really just want the same thing as always. Frustrating.

A Release Date Is Coming

I made the last edits I’ll make on Finding Frances and my editor sent it off for formatting. Once I get that back, I’ll approve it and then I think I’ll finally get a release date.

One of my critique partners did a full read of Ugly and gave me a few recommendations. I’ve implemented two of the three I plan to deal with before submitting to the agents and editors who requested it at PNWA and ECWC. Just need to do the last one…

Another critique partner is working her way through Sadie Speaks a few chapters at a time. That book needs quite a bit of revising, but she’s giving me some good guidelines for doing it.

I’m still working on the “Now Would Be Good” story collection that I’m going to submit for my MFA thesis. My critique group is going through the last story I’ve written. I need to plan out the next (last) story, or maybe the last two if necessary—I can’t decide.

That’s pretty much what’s going on right now.

Ugly Updates

I don’t have much of an update right now, except I found out that Ugly is a semifinalist in the BookLife Prize. This is a contest for self-published and unpublished manuscripts. You can see the public entries (you don't have to display your book/review) at the contest listing page. The funny thing is that all the others have book covers and mine’s just a gray box. I keep wondering if I should put something up there, but I don’t know what that would be. I’m not going to pay someone to make a cover.

I’ve also got a friend doing another read of Ugly to see if I need some “light moments” (as an agent suggested I might), and to help me find good spots for them if so. Once it’s ready, I’ll send it to the agents who asked for it at PNWA.

I’m looking forward to starting the third semester of the MFA in January, but other than that, my writing world is quiet because all my time is going to the statistics class I’m taking (or more specifically, suffering greatly from).

Edits In

I got my edits back from my editor at Wild Rose Press Friday. It was interesting, because there really weren’t that many things (she told me it was a very clean manuscript). It turns out I use the word ’t-shirt’ a lot—and their convention is to write it ’T-shirt’. So she changed that in each instance. And she did not approve of my many ellipses, so she removed most of those. And they don’t allow you to have more than one sentence-terminating punctuation mark, so I had to change a handful of ?!’s too just ?’s. I also overused the word ‘smile’ (there were 111 instances of ‘smile,’ ‘smiles,’ and ‘smiled,’ plus 25 of ‘smiling’) and had to rephrase my way out of more than half of them. They also have a specific convention they follow for texts, which I had done differently. (They do them in italics surrounded by em-dashes, like —wassup—) But that was really it. I went through it Friday night and yesterday and did a quick final read through this morning, and sent it back to her. So things should proceed reasonably quickly now. I’m hoping I’ll have a release date soon. 

Other than that, I’m currently working on the last part of my book in parts (it used to be a collection of short stories, but I decided to not require them to stand entirely on their own, because they’re all about the same girl, anyway.). This is the book that the short story I’ve posted on this site, “Now Would Be Good,” will be a part of (though I’m going to have to rework that part a bit). I’ll have that done and somewhat polished by the end of the year, which means when I start the spring semester of my MFA, I will have all the raw material of my thesis. I’ll get feedback on that part and the end of the last one, and then I’ll be ready to start putting everything together as an actual thesis. I’m really hoping to get it mostly ready in that semester so that the fourth semester will be easy. 

I still have queries out on Ugly, plus one partial. I had another partial out, but it came back a no. She gave me some actual feedback, some positive and some more critical, which will be useful if I hear the same things from other people. The main critical point was that she didn’t always understand Nic’s motivation and choices. I don’t plan to change those, but it might be important for me to clarify her reasoning. 

Moving Along

I don’t even remember why I missed posting last week. I think I was studying for the math class I just finished. I took the final for it yesterday. This was just a precursor—a review class—of what’s to come in August, when I’m starting the real classes. It’s going to be tough, but I’m hoping it’s worth it to my money-making career. 

As far as writing goes, I’m waiting on edits from my editor for Finding Frances. She should have them to me by the 29th, if not sooner. Then I’ll have 30 days to follow her suggestions (whatever they are; I have no idea what to expect). Apparently after that, things move fairly quickly. I’m hoping the book’s out by November. 

I’ve also got two partial requests out on Ugly, which is good, even though I’ve gotten about fifteen rejections.