Author Archives: R. K. Brainerd

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention in my head, and if I don't listen to them, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. I've just recently begun my foray into the writing world and look forward to it all with devilish glee. Welcome to the adventure.

Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Contract Writing vs. “Free” Writing (June 2017)

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If you’re not caught up on my writing journey so far, I signed a contract selling my INITIUM series late last year. A month or two later, my editor said I needed to write a prequel because my world is very complex, and she was worried I started to far into my character arc.

You may have noticed I didn’t write a blog post for May (or June or July, for that matter, but that was mostly procrastination). I was still writing the prequel in June (as discussed in the previous post) and mostly digesting my edit letter and writing through July, and I felt it was better to write a post encompassing more of the process to get a better picture. Mostly because I’ve never done much writing that’s arrived out of another’s suggestion, so that was kinda a weird ride for me. I’ve never even really used writing prompts to start a story. Somewhere between always having massive novel projects and lack of interest, I just never did it.

And then my publisher requested that I write something. Something that didn’t arise from genuine interest and creative spark.

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I knew what this prequel entailed, plot wise, as it’s my main character’s backstory, but hadn’t ever considered it interesting enough to actually write a whole book about. And it definitely became a whole book (I really cannot apparently write anything short — this is the shortest I’ve written at 52k. And I’ve added almost 10k now).

To start, the prequel is 5 years before the original first book. My character is shaped and grows from a lot of things that happen in the prequel, so she’s almost a different character in this prequel book. These characters are in such different places in their life. This is before everything that makes Fairian who she is.

She’s also 14, compared to the 19 year old Fairian in book one. There’s something to be said for the age difference. Which, for the first time, actually became a little problematic for me. I’ve always written teenage main characters, so it shouldn’t have really been an issue, but I’m in an odd place where I’m not a teenager *myself* anymore. Which, has been a weird thing for me personally, because I don’t really feel like an adult, either.

I think the reality is I’m psyching myself out too much about it. I know how to write a teenage — I just can also relatably write a 20-something.

But anyway. This was the first time I wrote something that’s original inspiration to write it did not come directly from me. It was also a little weird because in all the books I’ve finished before, it’s gone through a lot of inward processing before it comes out on the page. The prequel? Quite of bit of it was just throwing sand into the sandbox as it came.

I wasn’t all that excited about writing it, which made it difficult to actually get the words on the page. So what should have taken a month or so took over three months.

I think this took a toll on the richness and vividness of my world and characters, too. As I mention below, quite a bit of the first edit letter was “write this out MORE.” I wasn’t as into the characters and plot, and I think that becomes obvious.

(Honestly this isn’t all a bad thing, because this will be a great project to learn how to actually write revisions… but still, it was annoying how flat the end result felt)

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I think it’s a typical dilemma (or at least one that I’ve seen writers lament about before) to be torn between making something you’re supposed to do and making something that seems to be coming out of your very soul. I feel like I constantly waffle between liking the project and ambivalence. I find a part I like and feel invested, but then I step back too far and I lose track of what I like about this project.

There’s a balance there, I think; you’ve got to make a living somehow, but if you don’t care about what you’re writing, I don’t think readers will either. You know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve read a book where it seemed like the author just stop caring, or wrapped things up too quickly, or whatever. Not wanting to do that.

Now, I got the first edit letter for the thing a few weeks ago now. Shockingly, the main consensus for the first round of edits was that I didn’t write enough. It seems bizarre to me that not writing enough is my problem, at 100k-130k length finished novels. But this isn’t the first time she’s said something like this soooooo…

To be honest, re-reading the manuscript weeks later, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. There were some parts in there that, in rereading, I felt pretty damn good about. I mean, we’ll see what my editor thinks when we actually get there — but it was relief to find things about it I liked.

We could all probably say that about our first drafts though. Writers tend not to like drafts very much when we first complete them.

This is the strongest character arc I’ve ever written, to start with. In the beginning, she’s insecure, kinda shy, a little lost, and a little needy. By the end, she’s paranoid, angry, depressed, and driven as hell. That part was fun. The difference between the beginning and the end. (This is also relates to something I learned at the Willamette Writers Conference which I will be writing in another blog post!)

Anyway, based on the comments from my editor, the main issue was that I didn’t immerse my reader into Fairian’s head and the world fast enough (as mentioned above). I’m really great at the slow burn — in plots, in romance, in characters. Probably TOO good at the slow burn. And this book really came into existence because I needed to introduce the world and character more fully, more quickly.

So. I’m currently revising the first few chapters with A LOT more world details and thoughts in Fairian’s head. Turns out, adding words later really is more difficult than subtracting. I’ve spent my whole author life trying to reign in my excessive wordiness and now I’m supposed to do the opposite! Oh boy.

Since I originally had a different book exploring a lot of these introduction world elements, there are a lot of the same things that I need to be expressing in this book (as it’s now technically going to be the first one out) only somehow different. So that’s interesting. I feel like I’ve actually been delving deeper into the mechanics of my world because of this book… and building further details. Interesting and unique details.

I don’t know if I would have done this much exploring of the world if I hadn’t wrote this prequel. Partially because by the time the original first book starts, Fairian doesn’t care about a lot of the society norms and structures (as her rebellious self has set in), so she doesn’t think about or explore them much. In the prequel, she’s more concerned with trying to fit in and being a part of society, which lends itself to talking about said norms in society.

(At the Willamette Writers Conference a few weeks ago I mentioned above, I took an Urban Fantasy workshop that heavily emphasized establishing the ‘norm’ before exploring the magical — and this seems to be fitting into that right now…)

Anyway, the other big thing that was mention in the edit letter was that my ending was way too fast. It felt like I jumped to the end too quickly or got bored, she said.

Funny story: I was trying to keep the ending short and snappy to keep up suspense (which I was told was important) and went too far with THAT one too. So I’ve added a chapter and a few big scenes to bridge and extrapolate a few points.

 

All right, all of that gives you an overview of what’s been happening in my writing world the past couple months. I’ll be returning to my editing now — the Willamette Writers Conference (that I keep mentioning) was really helpful for so much of what I’m learning right now. I picked up some great tips about world building and character development that I will be immediately implementing thank you very much…

Just in the past few days I’ve had a few things click. I have a whole segment that is going to do amazing things in establishing the alternative-history timeline which I am DROOLING to go write into the first pages (adulting = getting in the way of everything).

 

Questions? Comments? Concerns? I’ll try to not to have such a gap between these posts next time around! 


Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.

 

Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.

 

Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?


Prequel Problems: Likable Characters

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So I’m writing a prequel to my INITIUM series, the first book tentatively due out in Fall of next year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a prequel, as the events in it are fun mystery details throughout the first book, and you learn about them and why my main character is the way she is as the novel progresses.

But, it’s a lot of information, and my editor thinks I need a prequel so readers aren’t lost and/or inundated with too much information right off the bat. So I’m writing a prequel. The first draft is almost done — I wrote the final chapter, but I also left a bunch of ‘holes’ in the manuscript, scenes I felt I was forcing too much at the time, to come back and complete later. I’m writing those scenes now.

My biggest frustration so far is that a lot of the events in the prequel are what make my main character interesting in the first place, so before the events happens, my characters are…

Not that likeable. Actually, they’re coming across like spoiled little brats. Which goes with the territory, are they’re the daughters of a rich upperclass businessman — but I’m really worried it makes for some difficult reading. Or apathy about reading them, anyway.

And if people don’t want to read the book for your characters, they’re not going to read the book.

Fortunately, characters being likeable isn’t so important as characters being interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my main character is either at the beginning. Perhaps I’m being too critical, because I’m so used to her, 5 years later, being a snarky badass. Or maybe I just haven’t written from an insecure 14 year old’s perspective for so long it’s hard to believe that readers will really connect with her voice and struggles…

I believe my main character is interesting (and even likable) by the end, but if the beginning doesn’t hook someone, then it’s kind of a moot point.

I’ve also never really written ‘on contract,’ or written a character arc from the very beginning like this, so I might just be out of my depth and scaring myself (I’ll be writing about this whole process here soon).

I’ve also never really written a prequel (at least something this big), which I’m beginning to understand has it’s own difficulties. Not the least of which is writing a character that you know… but isn’t the fully formed character of the later book who is probably more interesting in first place.

Either way, I’m becoming more thankful that I have an amazing editor who’s excellent at developmental editing, because I’m going to need some perspective on making this work. I think I’m too close to this character, or the character arc in general, or too concerned about the ‘writing of a relatable 14 year old’ to just write the 14 year old. I was a 14 year old. I remember. Why I be making this so hard.

Anyway, it will be educational to see what my editor suggests going forward. And I feel a little lazy, looking to my editor for direction instead of figuring it out myself. But the truth is, I’m still pretty shaky on what revisions really need to look like, which is my real fear. I don’t know if I’ve fully ever revised a manuscript in it’s truest meaning, so my skill level there is… dismal.

So there’s some anxiety about my meh-characters not becoming interesting enough with this lack of skill.

Anyway, this is all a moot point if I don’t have the draft done in the first place! I’m off to finish those few more thousand words. I want this draft done by the end of this month (which gives me like two days). It’s going to be far from perfect — but all that’s left are a few holes to make this thing complete.

 

Stay tuned for the regurgitation of my thoughts about writing my first ‘on contract’ piece… in a week or two.

 

Questions? Comments? Similar anxiety-rants?


Published: Behind the Scenes (April 2017)

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Well this is going to be a short one. Much the same as my last post, I’m working on the prequel project assigned by my editor. I will be writing a post about what it’s like to write for oneself vs. ‘contract writing’ as they say, but I’d like to finish writing the thing before I delve into that.

So, just in case you missed it! I’ve written about my initial foray into developmental editing, which was eye-opening to say the least. I also wrote a post about my Path to Publication, which highlights how I even got my publishing contract that I still can’t quite wrap my head around as actually having oh my god my book is going to come out next year —

*deep breath*

So while you wait for more crazy thoughts of behind the scenes, here’s a snippet of what’s taking up so much of my time lately. Don’t judge too harshly, it hasn’t gone through editing yet (ha!).

The windowpane was cold on the side of my head. I could just move and relieve the discomfort, but I didn’t. I sat there, useless. Or maybe I was punishing myself. Everybody was always worried about that lately. Survivor’s guilt, they called it.

But they didn’t know it actually was my fault. If I hadn’t told my biggest secret, none of it would have happened. He’d made sure to tell me how special I was, that the secret I hid from the world was the reason he’d had to take my sister and me. Not just to ransom, like most people kidnapped upper class girls for. But for something else, something that meant he hurt us, over and over, without even touching us…

The cold from the glass was seeping from my head, down my body. Annoying little shivers kept hitting me at intervals, pulling me out of my reverie. I pulled the blanket tighter and higher around me, but the cold still penetrated. It made me squirm on the window bench; between the cold and my butt falling asleep, I wanted to move.

Damn it, I couldn’t even be miserable properly. I couldn’t even punish myself for being alive when she wasn’t.

I flung myself up from bench and stalked across the room. My eyes burned, looking for something or throw or to hit. A pillow went first, but that didn’t feel like anything. The water glass on the bedside table went next. It made a loud sound against the wall before hitting to the ground, a large crack down its side. The damn glass couldn’t even shatter properly.

I slumped down on my bed, trying to cry, trying to feel anything but hollow, like I’d had all my insides sucked out by those things that had taken us and held us and burrowed into our heads like worms that ate through our brains –

I slapped myself sharply across the face. The gleeful bubbling panic under my breastbone was too close; I’d let it too close. My thoughts ran frantic through my head, like clawing hands searching for a way to rip open the memories and spill them forth like sewage.

Two deep breaths later, I knew I’d be able to conquer it. It wasn’t going to overwhelm me. I breathed deep and focused on one single point, keeping my mind still. It still took several more minutes of deep breathing before my hands stopped shaking.

The therapists my parents had been hiring weren’t completely duff. I’d mostly ignored all of what they’d said, because like everyone else, they wouldn’t listen to me when I’d told them the truth about what had taken us. But some of what they’d said about panic attacks helped.

The slapping bit was my own, though. Sometimes I needed something more drastic to get my stupid head’s attention.

I fell backwards across my four-poster, and nearly brained myself on the book I’d bought earlier today. Wincing, I yanked it out from under my head and stared at its dark cover.

It didn’t hold the answers I sought.

There was nothing in the book about what he was. Nothing had fit. Oh, plenty about the other things. Plenty about creatures that were more shadow than flesh, creatures that lived off of human blood, creatures that could change shape, ones that stole children and ate them, ones that looked to be a mix of several creatures, ones that controlled weather or elements – all of them categorized by their most common regions, favorite habitats, and common behaviors. Even dragons, and more creatures I’d never even dreamed of yet alone heard of from my grandmother.

Breathing deeply, I spent a few seconds calming, my train of thought courting the panic attack I’d just conquered.

Another thought hit me; my stomach gave a little lurch. The book held no answers about what he was, or why he’d taken us. But this couldn’t be the only book. And this couldn’t be the only way of finding new information. My grandmother was gone, everyone laughed off what I said – I was the only one willing to find out the truth.

The book was heavy and warm in my hands. It couldn’t be the only one with information like this. There had to be others of its kind, with more information, new information.

There was a way to find out who’d killed my sister.

There was a way to find the truth about the things that dwelled in the dark.

Comments? Questions? Laughter?

Have a fantastic writing day, friends.


My Path to Publication

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I was recently told that I’ve never actually shared a lot of my history as a writer. Which is funny and now seems obvious. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to share my path to publication.

The INITIUM series, the series getting published, is actually the second series I’ve written (well, third, if you count daily micro-stories following the same character for a year and a half I stared when I was 12). I finished the first book in this first series, a story about an orphan dragon, the summer I was 14. I ripped apart and put back together that manuscript so many times… and talk about using every bad-writing trope in existence. Black and white villains, endless passages explaining everything, narrative that went on forever, preaching about this issue or that issue.

Anyway. The INITIUM series started as a concept in my head a little after I finished that first book in the dragon series.

It took me until I was 19 to actually get that first book in the INITIUM series down, and it was so much better because of it. This is mostly because I was in college and had no time, but it allowed me to really process the lessons I learned from writing the dragon story and try out what I’d learned. For example, the explaining everything overmuch problem I had with the dragon story? Yeah, no. I drag out questions for DAYS in the INITIUM series. I thought about and re-wrote the beginning of Fairian’s first story so many times, the original concepts are the same only in name and vague direction.

I started querying for agents with my dragon series around 18. I really only got form rejections or silence as a response, a frustration I’m sure you’ve all experienced. As I was finishing up INITIUM, and learning a lot more about what was marketable, I realized that it was probably a fruitless adventure to try to launch my author career with my dragon story. It had too many common tropes and similarities. While it may be publishable eventually, it wasn’t something I could start with.

Again, though, I learned a lot from starting querying with my dragon story, from how to write a query letter to researching agents. It set me up in a much better place to start querying for Fairian’s story.

The queries began. The form rejections and silences followed. A few agents did answer, rejecting it based off of those personal things you can’t predict — not connecting with the world, not sure the plot fit into the other authors she represented, etc. Disheartening for sure, but all the comments I did receive complimented me on my voice, my style, and my characters. That helped a lot.

I went to the Willamette Writer’s Conference in 2015, where I learned a TON, and got to pitch my story directly to agents and editors. With help, I managed to hone my pitch into something reasonably good. I also switched my pitch last minute to a woman who seemed to be looking for something a lot closer to what I was writing — though, it turned out she was an editor to a small publisher based in Portland, not an agent.

Despite being nervous as hell, my pitch went well. Way better than I expected. I could tell she was tired listening to all the authors pelting her with information all day (I was in the afternoon, and with 15 minutes a pitch, switched out like clockwork, for 8 hours — you do the math), but I was respectful and she seemed to perk up at the story. She said my novel sounded interesting, and like it would fit into their repertoire. Excited, I sent off three chapters the following week (after getting it reviewed a few more times by the friends I’d just met at the conference).

Commence… waiting. Meanwhile, I make my eyes bleed doing research on the publisher, small publishers in general, the dangers to look out for, how an author becomes successful with small publishing, etc. There were a few things that bugged me — this particular publisher’s website was non-professional, and held a few of the ‘warning’ signs that articles like this talk about (fantastic article, you should read it).

Three months later with no word, I gently nudged and asked about my submission. She profusely apologized and said they’d been having a few technical issues, that she didn’t think she got my email, and to submit through their new submitting service. Starting a feel a little weird about it, I did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I started entering Twitter contests, like #PitMad and #P2P. Similar response as querying before. Mostly form rejections, a few compliments here and there. I opened my horizons to small publishers, since I was getting more comfortable with the idea. Got a few strange rejections from that process.

In one of these contests, another editor at the same publishing house as before asked for a submission. I mentioned it was already in their queue, and gave the title and details when she asked.

Then, via another Twitter contest, I heard from Carrie from Glass House Press. She was really interested in my pitch, and wanted pages. Within 24 hours, she wanted the whole manuscript, along with all my social media information, and my plans for marketing.

This publisher checked out a lot better than the other one. Much more professional website and online presence, no big problems in Writers Beware, and I got a good feeling from the emails with the editor.

Commence… more waiting.

I’m pretty sure I started the third INITIUM book during this time, entered more contests, met awesome writer friends all striving for the same goal. I wrote blog posts, tried to ignore the excitement/dread feeling in my gut, stared at my manuscript and agonized over it’s faults.

I kind of forgot I’d submitted to that first publisher — it had been around 6 months at that point, and I was pretty sure I was going to reject an offer if they gave it anyway. I received a note through their submission website to go ahead and submit the full manuscript. They mentioned in the notes that it would take at least a year to get back to me. I didn’t go forward with that — between my funny feelings and the YEAR response for a small publisher, it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me.

It was shortly after that I entered a mentoring contest, where I met a ton of really neat people. I had a ton of fun interacting, guessing which tweets were about my own, finding a new friends. Then, shockingly — I was chosen as one of the mentees.

An hour later, Glass House Press sent an email saying they’d like to offer me a contract.

Nothing, for years, and then two great surprises at once. I talked it over with the editor, explaining that I’d been selected for the mentorship and I’d hate to miss out (not just because of the agents at the end, but because of the networking, lessons, general fun) and she said she had no problem with waiting for me. So, I accepted the mentorship, had a blast, didn’t get really any bites from the agents who signed on to look at the finished project of the contests, and then contacted the publisher back.

She reviewed the manuscript again in it’s changed form — taking a few months — and then offered me a contract.

I was very nervous about this part. I didn’t have an agent to back me up, there are many horror stories on the internet about the whole thing, etc. I reviewed it carefully — reading up on every publishing clause in existence, religiously reading any articles from experts in the field — read it over with my father who works with contracts (of another kind) all the time, with one of his business friends who works with sports-publishing contracts. Not the same, obviously, but I had a few intelligent minds look it over who weren’t in omg-a-publisher-wants-me euphoria. I requested a few clarification sentences, changed a few words, and…

Violà. I signed a contract with Glass House Press.

You’d expect what followed would be furious conversation, edits, and a game plan moving forward. It was a bit anti-climatic, to be honest. With developmental edits, she wanted to start working with a thorough outline. So after I sent that to her, while she worked through it, I collaborated with the social media manager, building a game plan, focusing certain aspects (my Instagram is not longer just about goats!), and building a few up from scratch (actually starting a FaceBook author page…).

After a while, developmental edits began… which is a whole new subject. I’ve started chronicling the whole behind-the-scenes-in-being-published thing, which starts with this blog post here. (Feel free to check it out if you’re interested!)

And that, writer-friends, is the first leg in my publishing journey.

I’m pretty excited about the next steps. I really feel like I can move forward now as an author, carving out a path for myself with books and everything else. Despite being noticed, being published traditioning, the hungry, notice-me feeling isn’t gone. Neither is the fear of failure or not being good or not knowing enough. There are so many other steps going forward, so many other mileposts. But I like that there’s always the next goal post. I like that ‘getting published’ isn’t the end, or some gate that once you walk through it’s all smooth going. It’s a challenge, an on-going opportunity.

It’s all an adventure, and I’m exhilarated to make it happen.

 

P.S. Oh yeah, that first small publisher that was interested in my manuscript? I’ve since learned they’re legit, and not trying to scam anyone. But I still don’t think it’d be a good fit for me. The benefit of a small publisher is that you get more attention and more say on your book, at the cost of the power and prestige of a big publisher. For me personally I didn’t like how they treated authors, their public image, and I got the feeling I wouldn’t get the attention that’s kinda the point of a small publisher.


Published: Behind the Scenes (March 2017 edition)

Published- Behind The Scenes.pngIn October of last year I signed a contract with Glass House Press for my alternate-history fantasy series to debut in 2018. For fun and for the benefit of anyone interested, I started up this blog series chronicling monthly updates of the behind-the-scenes in being published. Read the introductory post here! A list of all the other posts I’ve written so far can also be found at the end.

In my previous post, I got in-depth about developmental editing and progress with that. This post, I’m going to have a little less to talk about, because as mentioned before, I’m writing a prequel to my series. So what’s primarily happening behind the scenes? Lots of writing. Which, hey, we’re all doing, that isn’t anything new. This entry is going to end up a little diary-like.

The basic reason for the need of this prequel is that my world is very complex, and a lot to jam into a first chapter. Additionally, my first book arguably starts out too far into my character’s arc. My editor thinks there too much for the reader to catch up on and takes away from getting the reader into the story. It can easily be too confusing, with all the cultural terms along with hints about character and world history I’m throwing about.

I personally think it’s fun to have a bit of mystery about the character and world to drive the story… but I can’t be sure I’ve created enough of a reason for the reader to care about Fairian and hang around for getting answers.

(So we’ll see how that all works out when we get to the editing of the actual writing and how the story works out bit, but meanwhile — )

I’ve been assigned to writing the prequel. Which is unfortunately slow going, as I haven’t really written anything (fiction) on ‘contract’ before, so I’m discovering the jarring difference between writing for oneself and writing for someone else. There are many author-ly laments on all platforms of social media about this problem, so I don’t feel like I need to go into it here. Needless to say the experience will be good practice.

Despite the reasons for actually making the prequel happen, I am discovering my love for the story. The events in the prequel I’ve always treated as past history, as influencing ‘current’ events and seen through the lens of the present. Writing the prequel as present, in the eyes of my main character that’s 5 years younger… well, that’s pretty interesting. And hard. A lot of the characteristics that make up Fairian (my main character) have developed in part because of The Events in the prequel, so they’re not in place in her personality yet. But I can’t have her a completely different person. So I have to plant the seeds of her later personality, then have The Events, and then show the start of her personality change.

This is surprisingly hard. Mostly in the sense that Fairian is kind of a spoiled, naive brat at this point in time, and I’m kind of wondering how to make her even likable. I read an article the other day that mentioned something like this, but emphasized that (in the beginning of a story at least) you need to make your characters interesting before likable, worry about likability later. That, I’m pretty sure I can do.

One of my editors suggestions for clarifying my giant world for readers while still keeping mystery for my characters was to write from another point of view. I struggled with this for a little while because this is really Fairian’s story, and I have a weird complex with keeping things mysterious and throwing questions around like confetti. But, I found a happy medium. Inter-spliced between chapters from Fairian’s perspective are reports from … basically this world’s version of the magical CIA.

So in essence, I get to write Incident Reports and Correspondence of global magical clandestine operations in an alternate reality.

Just reading that I get excited.

(Now just to make sure they end up being exciting as they sound, ha!)

Camp NaNoWriMo hit just in time to help complete this thing. It’s going to be a novella (I think anyway…) so less words to write, but unfortunately I’m being so nitpicky about the craft and details it’s getting in the way of getting words down. I’m re-remembering to just get the words down and worry about editing later. Thus, Camp NaNoWriMo is helpful as the kick in the pants I need. I want to have this thing done by the end of April. I’ve written 50k in NaNoWriMo several times before; getting out 30k more should be just fine as long as I stay focused.

Speaking of focused. I need to turn my attention to writing all those words! This whole weekend ended up being “manual labor weekend” with barn cleaning and house building, and before that I was flat on my back as a migraine reminded me I’ve been messing with my sleep schedule a little too much (excuses, excuses). I need to get back at it. I still don’t feel fully recovered, but maybe the fuzzy-headedness will help just get the words out and not have a complex over all the details…

Thanks for reading, friends! Stay tuned for April’s update in a few weeks; this post ended up being a little late for a variety of reasons, next time’s should be on time. Let me know what you think, share experiences, feel free to commiserate …

Happy writing!


My Winter – as told by goats

All right, so we’re going to stray from the usual writing topic for this post. Partially because I’m not sure what to write about here, and partially because I want to.

As many people around North America are experiencing, spring time is here. (Except not in Oregon apparently, because we got freaking SNOW just earlier this month.) I thought I’d display my winter, as according to goat pictures… You’re going to be subjected to many pictures of goats. Goats in the winter. Goats in snow. Baby goats. Goat noses. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive the torture.

If you follow me on Instagram, many of these pictures many be familiar — but never in a fun story and all together like this!

Let’s start with a moment from Fall.

Three of my goats traveled to my parent’s house during the summer to clear some of their brush. As the weather turned, they came home. And it was a little comical. First, we had Phe and Duchess, who wanted to drive.

And then there was their expressions when they arrived…

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What… where have we been taken to!?

Phe and Blackberry immediately got into a fight, as they were herd bosses in their respective herds, and they had to work out who was herd boss of the overall herd now.

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They eventually figured out there differences and everyone loved each other again.

Now let’s talk about the holidays. Thanksgiving I ended up spoiling them. Look at this masterpiece of edibles I created for them. Apples, two kinds of grain, vitamins sprinkled on top…

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The boys were a little lost on how to eat the apples, but everyone else pretty much thought they’d died and gone to goat heaven.

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When Christmas came around, we (the humans) were a bit more selfish. We decided to drag all the goats out to my parent’s house Christmas Eve, so we could spend the night and not worry about having to run back home to feed them. I have many sides of the family, so the holidays become pretty hectic bouncing from house to house. Moving the goats made it so we didn’t have to run back to our house as well.

(Goat Brains: torn between eating the food
— and staring at the world as it sped by them)

They weren’t too happy about their small temporary enclosure, but they sure did like the walks that the whole family took them on for the days we were there. Things to eat EVERYWHERE. My parents definitely enjoyed their company, and my extended family was eager to meet the ladies I talk about so much…

(Sari is very concerned I’m leaving in the loud metal machine)

Not long after that, the first snow hit. I’m pretty sure that the goats have never seen snow before… or at the very least, never seen that much snow, where it actually stuck around. It’s too bad WordPress doesn’t support video files; I have a fantastic video of them racing back and forth with me once they figured out it didn’t hurt them.

No one wanted to leave the barn, but I kicked a few goat butts outside one day to make them get exercise. Needless to say, they weren’t really happy with me (Sari stood there pathetically while trying to only stand on two feet at the time).

And they had NO idea what to do with all the white cold stuff at their feet…

(Goat brain: Do we eat it??)

A month or so later, Beltane and Inanna became old enough to need to establish their hierarchy in the herd with each other, so that was a big day. (Note mom in the background making sure it doesn’t go too far.) I’m still not entirely sure who won. I think Beltane (the black one) did. Again — I also have a very funny video of Beltane playing king of the hill and refusing to let her sister get up on the brick mountain with her…

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And now that we’re halfway through MARCH, the sun occasionally does come out to grant us with it’s presence. The goats won’t step outside if there’s a hint of rain, so it’s a pretty big deal when the sky is clear.

It’s pretty great to go outside with them and read, too.

My summers are peppered with memories of napping out in the sun with the goats (who will lay with/on me and nap too), so besides the obvious I’M SICK OF THE RAIN, I’m pretty excited for summer to get here. I also can get a decent amount of writing done when I go outside with a laptop and watch them graze. They are fairly distracting when they try to jump on me and the computer of course… but that’s another story.

And don’t worry, I won’t blog TOO much about goats. Though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to post something when Sari and Blackberry kid (early May!), so look forward to pictures of brand new babies in not too long here…

Until then, toodles! I hope this was fun and entertaining for you all. Feel free to comment and share!