2016 Goals Update

We’re now through 33% of the year, so it’s time to check in with the goals I set at the start of the year:

These are the goals with which I started the year. Items in green are accomplished.

1. Finish the revision of Changers.
2. Find an agent or publisher for Changers.
3. With my co-writer, finish the Hard Reset script.
4. Write and release at least one more Sherlock Holmes story.
5. Attend at least one writing conference and/or do at least one reading or signing.
6. Find a home for “Aptera.”

So far so good. I finished the Changers revision and signed a contract for it. I’m registered for two writing conferences, and at one of them I’ll be presenting and will also have an author table.

Meanwhile, I continue to send “Aptera” to potential sites, literary journals, and publishers. I’d love to see it find a home.

And I’ve started writing another Sherlock Holmes story, though it has since been back-burnered in favor of the Changers sequel and my Regency romance novel.

As for Hard Reset, well, my co-writer’s partner is pregnant, so that’s slowed everything down as his priorities have necessarily changed a bit. (Congrats, though!)

I’m pleased with how 2016 is playing out anyway. I had one book published in January, and if all goes well Changers will also be out later this year. And I’ve managed to achieve three of my six goals, so I feel accomplished. But! I can’t rest on my laurels. Must continue to plow forward.


My Writing History

I find the question I most get as a writer is not, “Where do you get your ideas?” but “What does the M stand for?” And then, after that one, they ask, “When did you start writing?”

And that’s a difficult thing to answer. (The M thing is answered on my FAQ page linked at the top of the blog, btw.) Because I’ve been a writer a long time, but I get the sense that people want to know something more specific but aren’t sure how to ask.

This morning, for instance, my kids asked me when I learned to write. I told them, “I learned to read and write when I was three.” This is true. But I wasn’t, at age three, thinking of becoming a writer. Even when at age six or seven I was making a neighborhood “magazine” for other kids, I hadn’t considered writing as a goal or career. I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be like Steven Spielberg, who was the only name in movies I actually knew. No idea what he did, mind, but I wanted to do it, whatever it was.

So when people ask me “when” I started writing, I don’t think they mean all this. That’s dabbling. I think they’re asking about intent really.

Around age 10 or 11, I started to write stories. Really write them. I wrote them for my best friend, and I used favorite characters from books and movies and television. I didn’t know what fan fiction was; I didn’t learn about that until I was in college. I just liked weaving together incredibly complex stories that explored the characters more. And somewhere in there I became aware that screenwriting was a thing, that people wrote movies and TV shows. This was amazing to me. Two of my very favorite things in one! So when I went to college, I got a film degree and focused on screenwriting. And at the same time I discovered the wider fan community and became a fan fiction author. I got invited to conventions as a guest, and they were always amazed when they met me because I was 17 and apparently most fanfic writers were middle-aged women. It was fun, though. So much fun.

At the same time, I was interning on film sets and writing my final project, which was a spec for The X-Files. But while they taught me the mechanics of screenwriting, no one taught me the process of getting scripts to people, or networking, or all the other things that you really need to succeed. No one thought to tell me that, when the producer invited me to go to L.A., I should have done it. Instead, I had one more year of college and I stayed and finished. Only later would I realize I’d wasted a huge opportunity.

So when did I become a writer? In middle school, when I figured out that was what I wanted to do? In college, when I actually started trying? Or does it only count once I started getting published?

The school newspaper and literary magazine notwithstanding, I count my “first publication” as 2004. That year I had poems accepted in two literary journals and a short story published in Future’s Mysterious Anthology Magazine. I thought at the time I’d finally made it!

I wouldn’t have anything else published for four years, and that would be a self-pubbed anthology. Then, in 2012, I self-published my first Sherlock Holmes story. I count that as the true sparking of my career. (2012 was also the year I had my first play produced.) So when people ask, is that what I should say?

In truth, I began being able to focus on my writing again after I had children. Because I was home. Before that, I was working in publishing, making other people’s books happen and not doing any writing of my own (aside from blogging). But after I had my first baby, I opted to stay home. And rediscovered my love of writing.

And I started again with fan fiction. It was well received, and that encouraged me. I went back to the Sherlock Holmes story I’d written in 1999 (for grad school) and decided to put it on Amazon. It did well. I was further encouraged. And everything else flowed from there.

So. When did I start writing? A long time ago. When did I really devote myself to writing? Around 2009 or 2010 when I started writing fanfic again. I needed to scrape the rust off my skills, and that was a good way to do it. So that when it came time to turn my efforts to my original work, I was oiled up and ready to go.

And here I am. Chugging alone. It’s not always a smooth ride, but I’m enjoying most of the scenery.


What Inspired Changers

I’m so excited that Changers: Manifesting Destiny is going to be published, quite possibly this summer, and I wanted to share some of where the story came from. It’s a confluence of a couple things, actually. First of all, it began as a flash fiction piece titled “Secret Admirer”:

“Who’s it from?” Cee asked. She held the delicate silver chain in her splayed fingers, the key pendant dangling in front of her nose. The diamond at its center flashed hypnotically.

Marcus shrugged and took a seat across the table. “A lot of people like you.”

“Yeah, but not a lot of them could buy me something like this.” Cee returned the necklace to the cotton bedding of the little red box. “And why did you have it?”

“Because no one would dare try to get into your locker.” A corner of Marcus’s mouth twitched in humor. “Even with as nice a key as that one.”

Cee was forced to acknowledge his point; her locker was known for booby traps both physical and magical. She eyed Marcus suspiciously. “It wasn’t you?”

He held up his hands as if to surrender. “You know me well enough to tell when I’m lying.” He opened his eyes wide for her to read them, but Cee didn’t really have to. Marcus was her best friend, and sweet, a poet at heart—and not at all interested in girls. Though Cee wouldn’t have put it past him to buy her a Valentine’s gift, if only to keep from having to listen to her whine if she didn’t get any.

Of course, now Marcus was going to have to listen to her fuss over who had given her this one.

“It was in your locker?” Cee asked him, all business now, ready to cull the facts.

Marcus nodded as he picked at his salad.

“What kind of charms do you keep on it?”

And now Marcus laughed. “None. If someone wants my school books, they’re welcome to them.”

“I need to see the scene of the crime.”

Marcus looked up from his lunch. “What, now?”

But Cee was already on her feet, taking her tray to the trash bin.

***

“There’s nothing,” Cee marveled. She ran her hands over the locker a fifth time. There had to be something, some little thing she was missing . . .

“Are you going to wear it?” Marcus asked suddenly.

“Not until I know who it’s from.” Cee’s hands paused in their search, hovering over the combination lock. “What . . .?”

Marcus leaned in to look. “Not magic.”

“Why?” Cee asked. “Why physically break into a locker if you could just . . .” Her eyes met Marcus’s.

“Justin?” he suggested. Justin was one of the slower students, not terribly gifted at magic. It would have been like Justin to force a locker rather than charm it open.

But Cee kept staring into Marcus’s eyes.

“Not Justin?” he said at length.

“Marcus,” Cee breathed, “have you morphed yet?”

Marcus flinched at the deeply personal question. “No one morphs at our age.”

“Are you sure?” Cee pressed.

“Of course I’m sure. That’s really rude, Cee. I know we’re friends, but—”

“Don’t panic, Marcus,” Cee said gently, leaning in for a closer look. “But someone else is in there.”

This was a tossed-off Valentine’s Day piece from a few years ago, but I always suspected there was more to these characters and this story. And though the characters have changed quite a bit, I think this scenario may have existed in their past—that is, in the time before Changers begins.

Cee I always clearly envisioned as having a blonde bob. Marcus is loosely based on Nicholas Rowe circa Young Sherlock Holmes (regular readers of mine will know that’s been my favorite movie since childhood).

The novel was also sparked by something my three kids have decided: that I am a dragon disguised as a human. And that they might also be dragons, too! I’ll leave it to you to read the book and see how that plays in, but I can say Livian (my dragon) has been a lot of fun to write. I’m currently working on the second book in the trilogy, Changers: The Great Divide.


How Star Trek: The Next Generation Coincided with Major Events in My Life

That’s a long title, but accurate.

I grew up in a Star Trek household, by which I mean my parents were fans of the original series (TOS) and I can remember seeing the movies with them at the cinema, at least starting with the second one. At some point I got interested enough to request that we rent the VHS tapes of the television series—Trelane made a big impact on me, and the one about the Nazis, and of course seeing Khan in the series put a lot of things in context. Still, I mostly enjoyed movies two through four, would watch them when they were on the movie channels, and we eventually recorded them so that I could watch them whenever.

But it would be The Next Generation (TNG) that would make the biggest impact, and I think it’s largely a matter of timing. I mean, I was already predisposed toward Star Trek, and my parents were somewhat excited by the idea of a new series, too, though I suspect they were also a tad wary. But I was of an age ready to embrace an updated version, something that reflected me more than my parents.

“Encounter at Farpoint” aired on 26 September 1987. I was 11 years old. Just that summer we’d moved from the town I’d more or less grown up in to an entirely new city. I’d just started at a new school. I hadn’t made friends yet. I really needed something, and ST:TNG stepped up to the plate. It aired every Sunday evening and was the way to end/begin the week.

In fact, the show became a basis for bonding. Besides the fact that my best friend “back home” (aka, in my old town) also loved it, kids at my new school liked it, too. And while it could be construed that their likening me to Data (thanks, Asperger’s!) was cruel, it never came across as such. Hey, at least we had something in common to discuss!

ST:TNG saw me through middle school and high school. It ended on 23 May 1994, just as I was graduating and getting ready to leave for university. How’s that for timing? It’s like the show knew I was ready to go and fly on my own adventures. In the meantime, it had been a constant companion, a place of solace, a way to temporarily forget my troubles. It came and went and just the right time, at least for me. And while I tried to also watch Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and much later Enterprise, none of those ever hit that sweet spot again. Maybe because none of them coincided with my transition from youth, through adolescence, and on into adulthood. ST:TNG was with me on the adventure of becoming myself, so that I incorporated it into that very process. Yes, I was the nerd girl with the Riker poster on her wall, and my favorite teddy bear was named William. I can admit it now. I’m all grown up.

Well, maybe not all grown up. Let’s hope that never happens.


Fighting Indifference

I’m learning that the worst thing that can happen when you publish a book is not that people don’t like it but that they’re indifferent to it. The sense that I’ve put so much work, time, and effort into something only to have people shrug it off and not care is very painful. If people were reading the book and disliking it, well, at least they read it! So much worse to have all those words go unread.

I don’t know how to get people to care. I’ve used social media as best I know how, but it fails to make much impact from what I can see. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Or maybe it doesn’t matter what I do. Maybe there’s nothing I can do to get people to read this book, nothing I can offer that’s incentive enough. It’s pretty demoralizing.

And I know I shouldn’t take it personally. But (let’s be honest) I do, a little. This indifference to my book feels like indifference to me, too. Like I don’t matter either.


Untitled

Sigh. I know I can’t let middling reviews of Peter depress me; I’ve got bigger fish to fry now with Changers. And I know not everyone will love Peter either. But still. Sigh.

This is my first ever blog tour, and I have to say I’m unimpressed. But others have told me they’ve done well with blog tours, so I have to think it’s (a) this tour operator, and/or (b) my book.

As far as the operator goes, this one was recommended by my publisher. It’s a big undertaking, I understand that. Setting up all these posts and such. But something about the whole thing feels lackluster. Since this is my first blog tour, I don’t know if that’s all blog tours or just this one. There are some other tour operators, though, who get great feedback from some of my fellow author friends. If I were ever to do this again—and I don’t know that I would—I’d probably try one of them instead.

But I do also think some of this is about the book. Blog tours seem to work best for genre fiction. Sci-fi/fantasy and various types of romance in particular. Those are the readers that are online and reading book blogs it seems. The audience for Peter is somewhat difficult to pin down. Readers of John Le Carré and Graham Greene, except these readers also need to be okay with a gay protagonist. And also, those readers historically prefer actual books to e-books. They’re not going online to find new stuff, certainly not hitting up book blogs. They’re browsing the library and bookstores.

Difficult as it is, I think it’s time to let Peter go. He was quite a labor, and I still love him, still think he’s wonderful. But I can’t tread water here. There’s more writing to do. And maybe one day Peter will find readers who appreciate him. It might just take a bit longer. At least books don’t expire.