Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Year In Writing

     I've discovered a wonderful thing: if I talk about 2016 in terms of my writing endeavors, it's a pretty good year. Yippee!

     2016 didn't totally suck. It's been a rough year, personally and globally, but there've been good things. I've had good times and I have good people in my life. Thank goodness, or I'd probably go insane. I've also made lots of good writing accomplishments.

     First, I made good headway in what will be the final (or next to final) draft of New Year's Revolution, my vampire novel. Yeah, it seems like I'm always working on that one, but I finally discovered what it actually needs, how to do it, and how to make it reasonably lengthed. Yes, lengthed is a word (I also invented a word in 2016). Ironically, NYR is currently on hold, but I don't feel nervous about it being on hold because I know where I'm going with it. When I pick it up again next year, I'll know what to do. Also, it's on hold because I'm working on other projects, not because I'm not writing. That's important to note.

     My second big writing accomplishment of 2016 is City of Secrets, formerly known as Caribou Canyon. The serial version is well underway and a few people I'm not related to are even reading it! The serial version is essentially a polished 2nd draft, but I'm really excited about it. It's nice to have something out there, and I really like where I'm going with the story. If I keep going the way I am, it'll be another year+ before it's finished, but that's okay. I kind of like the idea of keeping something going while I work on my other stuff, none of which I plan to serialize. Once it's finished, I plan to polish it up again, then release it in about six or so little books in kindle format. That's the plan anyway. I might also change the name back to Caribou Canyon, but we'll see.

     Most recently, the endeavor I'm most excited about is the 2nd draft of Pieces. Pieces is the literary mystery with magical realism (say that 10 times fast) that I did for NaNo 2015. The big news is that I finally thought of a name: Pieces. I'm really happy with the title, I think it's going to stick. I just started the 2nd draft in November, but I've been researching it all year. This is the biggest project I've worked on to date. I've read a good 10 or so books to prepare (war memoirs, PTSD books, and a couple other subjects that are top secret), and I may have to do still more reading. I feel like draft 2 is going well so far, and I'm confident-ish that I can finish this in 3 drafts (fingers crossed.) I'm hoping to have it completed sometime mid-2017 (or even Spring) but that might be over-zealous, considering that I'm working on CoS and may be having surgery in a month or so (that's a subject for another time). The point is, I'm really excited. I feel like this might be the best thing I've done so far.

     Sprinkled in between the work I've done on my three big projects, I've written some poetry which I'm fairly happy with, and some blog posts on subjects that I think need tackling. So, yay me. This blog has been slightly neglected as of late, but I'd like to try and remedy that, but we'll see. I love blogging, but the major projects are of most importance.

     So, 2016 has not been a bust, at least not in the writing world. Yay! I look forward to continuing my stories, actually finishing some things, and learning and growing as a writer and a person. Yay.

     If you haven't checked out City of Secrets yet, you totally should:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

White People--If You're Feeling Awful--Good. Remember That Feeling And Keep It With You

     Not the most uplifting title, is it? You're probably thinking, "Becky, why do you want me to keep feeling awful? I don't want to feel awful." Well, I don't want to feel awful either; no one does. In truth, this post is meant to be more uplifting than the title might let on.

     First, I need to clarify. The awful feelings I'm referring to are in regards to the results of the Presidential election. If you're feeling awful about something else: I'm sorry to hear that, and I hope you feel better soon. Now, back to the results of the election. If you're not satisfied with the results and are feeling awful, or maybe horrified, sickened, sad, devastated, disgusted, disillusioned, terrified, or some brand new emotion that this election brought forth, then please read on.

     This post is mainly for those who did not vote for Donald Trump or did not support him as a candidate but were unable to vote. It's for those who are unhappy with the results. It's for those who are feeling like America is not the country we thought it was. It's also aimed at white people/people of privilege, because what I want to say applies to those folks more than others. All of that being said, anyone is welcome to read, as always. Comments are welcome. If you don't agree with me, that's totally cool, feel free to say so, but keep your comments constructive and civilized. Thanks.

     So, it's been a little over a week since Donald Trump became the President Elect of the United States (not sure if I'm capitalizing the words I'm supposed to). Many people are unhappy (understatement) with this result. Many are scared about what it means for the future of Muslims, Black people, the LGBTQ+ community, women, Latinx, people with disabilities, minorities I didn't mention, the planet, healthcare, free speech and the media, America's relationship with other countries, and so on. That's a scarily long list, and I think I may have left some things out (eek).

     What's great is that a lot of people have been coming forward and contributing--be it donating, buying newspapers, wearing safety pins, patronizing business' that have been targets of hate crimes, and etc. This is all really awesome. It's wonderful to see people coming together and cooperating. It's great to see people thinking of the bigger picture and their own lives. I hope people continue to find positive ways to help make the world a better, safer place.

    A sentiment I've heard echoed--mainly by white people--is, "Wow, America isn't what I thought it was. I can't believe we're really this racist. Things are getting so much worse," or something along those lines. I was thinking something similar. On social media, I noticed a different sentiment from a few Black people, "America was always this racist. Things have always been bad for Black people and other minorities, it's just that white people were too privileged to notice." I'm starting to realize that the latter sentiment is probably closer to reality. That's when it occurred to me that maybe something good can come out of this. Maybe white people/people of privilege will finally have theirs eyes opened to the truth. I know mine are. I want to keep them open. I want to keep seeing the country/world as it really is. If I do this, then maybe I can help fix things. If I can start looking beyond my own privilege, if I can learn to do better, then maybe other people can too. We can't fix a problem if we don't see that problem. The tactics Donald Trump used to get elected President (capitalization?) have opened so many eyes. As horrible as it is that it had to happen this way, something good can still come out of it. We just have to make it happen. We know the truth, and we have work to do.

     This is what leads me to my main message. I don't know about anyone else, but feeling this way sucks. I hate it. I hate being afraid. I hate knowing that the world is so much worse than I thought it was. I'm sure most people hate feeling this way. I very much want this feeling to go away. But here's the thing--I can't let it. I have to feel this way. This isn't me being negative. If I keep this awful feeling inside, then it will serve as a reminder that things need to be done. The time of sitting back in my privilege is over. It would be very, very easy for white people to say, "Hey, I really didn't want a Trump Presidency, but I'm white and straight and a lot of these policies I'm afraid of may not affect me." I'm not saying that the people out there protesting and donating and calling lawmakers are suddenly going to stop, but they might. It might not be next week, or a month from now, or even six months from now, but I fear that white people will stop fighting. Why? Because four years (maybe more) is a long time to fight, and because we can stop. We (white people) have the privilege of letting it go. Black people, Muslims, Latinx, and many other minority groups do not have that privilege. They can't choose to take off their safety pins, or keep their opinions to themselves. They're a target simply because of what they look like. Think about that. Just imagine what that would be like. All I can do is imagine, but the thought is horrifying.

     So, if you're someone who's currently fighting against the negativity, hate, bigotry, racism, and other crappy things--keep fighting. Remember how you feel right now. If you need a reminder, think back to how you felt on Nov. 8th. It might be a long four years, but we're not alone, and we can act. We can help others, and we can help ourselves.

     Most importantly, no matter what else you do, please vote in future elections. Vote in every election you can, not just in the presidential election. The president is one man. One very important man, yes, but still just one man. He isn't the only lawmaker. Many of these other lawmakers are voted  for during non-presidential elections. This is when we need to make our voices heard. If this election showed anything, it showed what happens when one group votes and the other doesn't. So, let's get out there and vote! And remember to keep feeling awful!

     This positive message was brought to you by Becky Munyon's brain and sentiments I've read on the internet and heard on TV.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Victims Don't Report--Because for some reason people still do not get it

     I'm seeing all over TV and social media that there is still a lot of confusion regarding why victims don't report sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and rape. Despite that many victims have stated their (legitimate) reasons publicly; last week's trending hashtag #whywomendontreport, which listed several (valid) explanations; and--quite frankly--common freaking sense (if one would only take a few seconds to think about it logically); victims are still being questioned for why they don't report right away, or at all. There are too many ignorant people in the world who just do not get it. In my opinion, this subject will not be closed until people do get it.

     For this post, I am going to use the word victim, to account for the fact that both women and men are victims. I am going to use the word perpetrator, to account for the fact that both women and men can be perpetrators.

     In my last post, I recounted a situation I was in at the part-time job I held in high school. My male supervisor continuously sexually harassed me, and at least one other female co-worker. I'm not going to get too into that (because I already did), but one of the reasons I never reported him was fear. Among other things, I was afraid of not being believed, and what would happen to me and my job if I reported. 

     Fear plays a huge role in why people don't report. I'd say it's the motivating factor behind the myriad of reasons people stay silent. I think that people who've been fortunate enough to not have experienced a situation in which they were made a victim, don't understand this fear and how strong it is. In order to achieve universal understanding, we need to dig deeper. We need to understand what victims are going through and what they may be thinking.

     As someone who has been the victim of more than one type of harassment and assault, holds a psychology degree and continues to research trauma and its effects, and has worked professionally with victims of abuse, I feel that I can say with a fair degree of confidence that something victims want most (or at least near the top of the list) is to move on. They want the situation to be over. They want to be safe. They want to escape the person/situation that victimized them and move on and retake their lives. Not reporting is one way to accomplish this. As many people know from watching the news and social media, when a victim reports, they are not left alone for a very long time. They are judged again and again by friends, family, and acquaintances and also by perfect strangers who have no business judging them. They are forced to relive the trauma of what happened over and over and over again. They are not made to feel safe and protected. They face the fear of not knowing how long the judgment will go on, and the fear of wondering what the full repercussions will be. Not reporting is a way of letting go, moving on, and being safe. 

     I would like to specifically address sexual assault and harassment. Imagine a victim in a situation (possibly in a public place) where they are touched or grabbed inappropriately. This can happen more easily than one might think. A perpetrator could be hugging a victim and slide a hand to an intimate place, or even give the victim a non-consensual kiss on the lips. In these cases, the assault may only last a few seconds. The victim is most likely in pure shock for several seconds or even minutes or hours. The victim may be thinking something along the lines of: "Did that really happen?" By the time the victim has processed what has just occurred, the situation is likely over. The victim may then be thinking : "Why say something? It's over. I'm safe now." Fear also plays a factor in these situations. Inappropriate touches can easily be explained by things like, "it was an accident" or "that's just how I greet people." Statements/explanations like that are not okay, but unfortunately are made. Why would a victim, who is already feeling shame, fear, confusion, and violation want to risk causing a scene? What they really want is to move on and be safe. Staying silent is a way to ensure that safety. 

     I feel it's necessary to address this trend: after one or two victims come forward, more and more victims (often of the same perpetrator) start coming out of the woodwork. Many people are baffled by this, wondering why these victims had stayed silent and how/why there are so many suddenly speaking up. Critics also question the legitimacy of these claims. I admit that it does seem strange, but that's only if one doesn't understand trauma and what it's like to be a victim. Victims feel more comfortable when they know they are not alone. When victims realize that others have had similar experiences, some of the shame and self-blame goes away. They think: "If this happened to those others, then maybe it wasn't my fault after all. How can all of these people be at fault?"

      One effective form of trauma therapy is group therapy in which the group members have all shared similar traumas, like groups for war veterans, battered wives, victims of childhood sexual abuse, etc. If you've never been a victim, all you need to do to understand this is to think about how you feel when you meet someone and realize they share your love of mountain climbing, or French cuisine, or stamp collecting or whatever. Knowing we have something in common with someone automatically makes us feel closer to them. It's human nature. So of course victims are going to be encouraged to come forward when they've learned that others who shared their experiences had. They see the bravery in their fellow victims, and feel brave themselves. 

     I said it in my last post, and I'll say it again: things need to change. We need to stop blaming and shaming and ridiculing victims. We need to stop living in the ignorant bliss of pretending that bad things do not happen, that abuse, assault, and rape do not happen. We need to support victims and make them feel comfortable reporting, not immediately scorn them. It's the 21st century for crying out loud. It's time to get our acts together. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

We Need to End the Silence

     When I was seventeen I had a part-time job at Burger King. I have a number of entertaining stories about the joys of fast food, like the constant smell of french fries, the customers who think "fast" means instantaneous (even when there's a long line), and the co-worker I had a crush on who introduced me to the yummy goodness of french fries dipped in mayonnaise, which most people think is disgusting. It's not. It's wonderful.

     Instead of talking about all those wonderful things, I'm going to talk about something less wonderful. I'm going to talk about the reprehensible behavior one of my supervisors, who I'm going to call Ned (not his real name). Ned was in his forties. When Ned talked to me, he liked to stand close. Very close. So close that we no longer had our own personal bubbles, but he was sharing mine. So close that our toes were practically touching. Close enough that I could smell his breath and feel it on my face when he talked.

     What did he talk about while standing so close to me? Anything and everything. Work-related and non-work-related. He talked about the proper way to fill the fry boxes, work skills of mine that needed improving, how I still wore nail polish to work, how my day was going, how his day was going, etc. But let me tell you about Ned's favorite subject, his girlfriend. Yep. Ned liked to talk about his girlfriend, and how they weren't getting along. Guess who reminded him of his girlfriend? Yep, that's right. I did. Ned felt the need to tell me this many, many times. I reminded him of his girlfriend because we were both quiet and petite. He would smile while pointing out my similarities to her.

     What did I say in response to this? Not much. Many times I think I just nodded or said, "Oh" or "yeah." I didn't know what else to say or do. I believe my strategy was to just be a good employee, and not do anything to encourage his creepy behavior. I moved farther away from him when possible, but sometimes he'd come talk to me when I was already up near a wall or counter, so that it was harder for me to create more space between us. What was I supposed to say or do? I was a teenager, he was a forty-something year old man, who was also my boss. Besides, he was just making conversation. That's what I told myself, anyway. I had to repeat it many, many times, because he creeped me out. He never got the hint when I moved farther away.

     One day when Ned wasn't around, I was talking to a female co-worker, we'll call her Jill, who was roughly the same age as I was. Somehow, we got on the subject of Ned, and discovered that we both had the same problem. Ned also liked to stand in Jill's personal space and breathe all over her while talking. Ned also liked to talk about his girlfriend. Jill and I discovered an amazing coincidence: we both reminded Ned of his girlfriend! Crazy, right? Especially considering that Jill and I looked nothing alike, other than being teenage girls who also happened to be Ned's subordinates. We both were creeped out by him and bothered by his behavior. I felt a little better knowing I wasn't alone. Jill and I never reported his behavior. Neither of us even mentioned the idea.

     Why didn't I report Ned? Well, that was nearly twenty years ago, so it's hard to remember exactly what I was thinking, but I can say that the main reason was that he had power over me in two ways: he was my boss, and he was an adult. Let me reiterate that: he had the power. I didn't.

     There was a part of me that believed it was my problem his behavior bothered me. Why? Because I told myself things like: "he's not actually doing anything." He never touched me, he never made a move on me, never threatened my job if I didn't do one thing or another. Those were the definitions of sexual harassment in the workplace that I'd been taught. I believed that because he wasn't violating any of those rules, that it was my problem that he bothered me, that he technically wasn't doing anything wrong.  I thought that I would be looked at as "overreacting" if I reported him for standing close to me and telling me that I reminded him of his girlfriend.

     I also never told him to stop, or that he made me uncomfortable. Why? Like I said, he was my boss. I was a teenager and he was an adult. He had the authority. I didn't. He was a snippy, grumpy boss at times. I didn't want to make him mad. I didn't want to lose my job. I thought it would be less of a hassle if I just continued moving away from him whenever possible and giving little attention to his "you remind me of my girlfriend" remarks.

     Now that I'm an adult I can look back on this experience with greater insight. Just because he never actually made a move or threatened my job, doesn't mean he wasn't doing anything wrong. He was. He made me uncomfortable, and no employee should have to feel uncomfortable at their place of work. He violated my personal space. As an adult, I now fully realize how vastly inappropriate it is for a forty-year-old man to be continuously telling a seventeen-year-old that she reminds him of his girlfriend.  Even if nothing had come of it, I wish that Jill and I had reported him to another supervisor, because at the very least his behavior would've been on record. I know that now, and wish I'd said something, but I'm not angry at my past self. I don't blame myself for having been afraid, because that's the world we live in. That's how insidious rape culture is.

     This is the world we've lived in for so many decades. Victims were/are shamed, ridiculed, and taunted for coming forward. Many victims were taken advantage of by people who wielded some power over them--such as Ned did with me--making it even harder to come forward. Things like this are still going on today, despite the gains made over the decades. It needs to stop. People shouldn't have to be afraid to come forward about harassment, abuse, or rape. People shouldn't be told that their feelings aren't valid, that their situation was all in their mind, or that they caused it, or any of the other insane, ridiculous things that victims are told.

     Over the past week I've been seeing on Facebook many women coming forward with accounts of incidents like the ones I described above, and incidents of assault. These brave people give me encouragement. It's time to end the silence. The more women (and any victims) talk about their experiences, the less afraid others will be to do the same. That is my hope. People aren't going to like the things they learn about the world, but that doesn't mean the problems aren't there.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Way too much . . .

     Well, I've neglected my blog again. As is customary after neglecting my blog comes the post explaining why I neglected it and how I'm going to get back on track again. For some reason, I can't get back into blogging until I write this post. I guess it's like hitting the reset button.

     Wow. So, my last post was early September, which may be a new record for me as far as neglecting my blog goes. I'm sorry, loyal readers!

     Since July, I changed my writing "system", for lack of a better word. I began publishing my serial "City of Secrets" weekly, and while trying to keep up with that, I was also working on "New Year's Revolution." All while trying to keep up on my blog, which I was actually managing for a while. Also, I was spending a lot of time looking for freelance writing jobs which took up about an hour a day, though I'm setting this venture aside for now. All while reading research books for my literary mystery (the novel I wrote for NANO last year) which may be titled Broken Minds. Still not sure on this though. I have about titles four I like.

     Then came my first major writer's conference in early September. That was awesome, and there will be more about that in a later post. The conference took up a lot of time and energy. I'm also dealing with my ongoing injury/worker's comp case, which has been stressful and time consuming. Along with various other things, my stress level has been through the roof. Something had to give. Which meant the blog got pushed to the back burner.

     Things have calmed down a little, so I'm trying to balance my many writing ventures again, though with a few changes. Unfortunately, choosing to publish my serial weekly might have been biting off more than I can chew, but for the time being I'd like to see if I can make it work, while still working on my other novels. I really don't want to switch to a bi-weekly schedule, because the story is so long that it will never finish if I do it that way, but we'll see. I'm hoping that maybe now that I actually know how much work is involved, I'll be able to balance it better. Fingers crossed.

     Anyway, I'm back! You can look forward to more posts soon. Promise!

     If you haven't checked out my YA Paranormal Mystery "City of Secrets" yet, you totally should. It's free to read, and my friends tell me it's really good. ;-) Here's a convenient link for you. :-)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Clicking, Commenting, and Creating Celebrities

"City of Secrets" has been up on JukePop serials for about six weeks now. It's going pretty good so far. Unfortunately, it hasn't gone viral. The entire world is not talking about it. I haven't been hit up by agents and movie people and television guys or whatever. It's not the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Is that really the greatest thing, by the way? Why aren't cars, or airplanes, or modern medicine the greatest thing? Are we really so lazy about slicing bread that we have an entire saying about how great sliced bread is?) Not that I was really expecting any of these things to happen. But everyone dreams big. You have to, right?

My friends and family have been great. First, my wonderful writer's group who devoured and critiqued the monster first draft are happily devouring the web version (which will also be a monster) and giving me plus votes. Thanks guys. I've got some Facebook friends reading it, and my boyfriend (who for some reason doesn't read fiction) is reading it. Thanks, honey. I've even got aunts and uncles who hardly understand the Internet checking it out. Thanks. 

The greatest problem has been advertising it. It's been really hard to get traffic to my story. I've been on Twitter for over a year and have 2000+ followers, so this shouldn't be that big of a problem, yet it is. There are various sites designed to specifically advertise web fiction for free, which I've been using, but I don't think I've gotten a lot of readers from them. Most of my readers came from real life word-of-mouth and from interacting with other authors on JukePop. 

I've been bothered by the realization that few people on Twitter and Facebook click on external links. I think I already knew this to some extent since I've been sharing my blog, but I really figured it out once I started advertising my story. I get lots of retweets, which are great and I appreciate them, but they aren't enough. I think only a couple of people actually click on the links to blogs and stories.

I've been trying to figure out why this is. I haven't done extensive research or anything, so I'm just going to toss out a few of the thoughts I've come up with. 

I've only been using Twitter for a little over a year, and Facebook as an author platform for a few months, so I don't know if they used to work better for advertising, but I have a feeling that they might have. I'm thinking that maybe when Twitter first got going it was a great way to advertise, but then so many people started doing it, that people just got sick of it. I get that. I'm a little sick of certain kinds of advertising too. 

An obvious reason is that some people are very aggressive in their efforts, and are very insincere about it. I ignore those people too. Advertising is all they do. You follow them, and they tell you to like their FB page without even saying hi. No. That's not cool. You have to interact with people. You have to assist them in their advertising efforts as much as your own. I talk to a lot of people, and I'm not aggressive or excessive in my efforts. Yet I get only retweets. (Again, not complaining. Retweets are great, but they only go so far.)

Okay, so is it because when people are on Twitter they want to stay on Twitter? When on FB they want to stay on FB? Maybe they don't want to click on a link to be redirected to a blog or a story. Part of me says yes, another part of me says no. People hop on social media to read articles all the time, so this doesn't completely add up. Are they only reading professional articles, and not personal blogs/stories? Or are they clicking on blogs and just not commenting? My blog tracks how many views I get, so there might be some truth to that. 

The lack of comments is another thing that bothers me. I get views on my blog, but very few comments. Sometimes I'll get comments on the FB or Twitter link, but not the blog page. It would help me a lot more if they were on the blog post itself. If people see comments, the more likely they are to comment. That's just how we work. I'm guessing part of the reason people don't comment is that you have to put in your email, and not everyone wants to do that. It's the reason why I don't always comment on other people's blogs. But then I thought, does it really matter at this point? I've got a FB, Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, a bunch of emails, and random other accounts. Really, does one more matter? 

So, I don't know how to help myself. (Actually, I do have an idea, but I'm super, crazy busy right now, so I won't be putting this idea into action for about a month.) So, while I don't know how to get people to click my links, comment on my stuff, and like my Facebook page, I do know how to do this for other people, so that's what I've started to do. If I can't help myself, I might as well help other aspiring authors. Readers, you should start liking author FB pages, clicking a web serial or blog link from time to time, and even leaving a comment. Let's help each other out. 

And, speaking of, (yeah, of course this post was going to end with a link to my story), you should check out my web serial, "City of Secrets." It's free to read, and new chapters come out weekly (for the most part) on Tuesdays.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Our Pets Are Our Children

Raise your hand if your pet is like your child (my hand is up). Raise your hand if you know someone whose pet is like their child (my other hand is up). Okay, good. Lots of hands. Now that I have your attention, you can put them down.

While my cat is my buddy and I go a little crazy over him sometimes, I'm not here to talk about my cat. I want to talk about my good friend's cat, Merlin (that's the cat's name, not my friend's name. That would be weird).

I met Merlin several years ago when I became roommates with his owner. I got along with Merlin great. It took my cat a little bit longer to warm to him, though they eventually accepted one another--sort of. Merlin is a big fluff ball. He's one of those cats you go to pet, and you're like, "Where's the cat? All I feel is fur." Merlin is quiet and sweet and likes everyone. He does that thing that a few cats do where they sit with their tongue out; it's very cute. Merlin spent a lot of time in my room, which was slightly weird because of his relationship with my cat. Because Merlin is a fluff ball, he sheds a lot. When my roommate moved out, there were tufts of Merlin fur everywhere. I joked that maybe Merlin was a species of alien cat that was trying to take over the world via fur, and the little balls of fur would turn into tiny Merlins.

Sadly, this is not the case. The balls of fur were just regular balls of fur, and Merlin is a regular Earth kitty with no alien super powers. This means that when Merlin has health problems, he needs Earth veterinarians to help him. Earth veterinarians need money. You've probably guessed by now that this is going to a sad place.

Merlin has a serious condition, and may need a serious operation to fix it. I'm not going to go into details here, because I don't want to make anyone do redundant reading. Merlin's owner/Mom has set up a gofundme to try and raise money to help him. There you will find all the details about his condition. If there's anything you can do to help, that would be really, really awesome. If you can't donate, please share and help get the word out. Thanks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Picking the Marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms

Because come on, don't try and tell me you didn't pick out the marshmallows. Those are the best part. Sometimes I just wanted to have a bowl of nothing but marshmallows. I mean, what was even the point of those, those--what were those other things anyway? Were they even healthy? Probably not.

The second best thing about the cereal was of course digging through the box for the toy. Even better, when you had to get out a big mixing bowl to dump the cereal in just so you could get the toy. And then your mom would come and get all mad about it. My boyfriend bought a box of Cheerios a couple weeks ago that had a toy from "The Secret Life of Pets" and I started reminiscing about this very topic. He informed me that he'd never done this. I was appalled, and insisted that we do it right then and there, but he refused.

Some people.

I just don't even know.

Anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm writing a blog to talk about breakfast cereal, and actually, I'm not. I intended to talk about a serial. Not serial killers. I mean, sure, there's plenty of interesting stuff to talk about along those lines, but I'm in a pretty good mood after thinking about that bowl full of nothing but marshmallows, and I don't want to ruin it. So instead I'm going to talk about web serials. Books. The reading kind. Books books wonderful wonderful books.

In case you haven't heard me mention it once or twice or eight hundred times, my YA paranormal "City of Secrets" is being released chapter by chapter on JukePop serials. In all of my excitement in getting it ready and hyping it up and promoting it, I'm not entirely sure if I fully explained exactly what a serial is. My boyfriend pointed this fact out to me. I was like, "Oops."

Serial fiction is not a new thing. Charles Dickens and his contemporaries made it popular. (I feel like I got smarter just by composing that sentence.) It sparked up again recently as sort of a cross between reading and social media. Some of the most popular sites are Wattpad and Jukepop. It's free to readers, and while most authors get to choose when they release their chapters, readers have the luxury of just reading one chapter at a time. So, it totally fits the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century.

Mine's been up for almost three weeks (chapter 3 goes up tomorrow--hint, hint). It's going fairly well so far. I'm still looking into the best ways to advertise. I started out with the standard Twitter, Facebook, and blog, which I'm learning aren't the best. I think when people are on Twitter or Facebook that's where they want to be at the moment. They don't want to click a link to read a book. Or maybe they don't understand that it's free, or that they don't have to commit to reading an entire novel. I'm not completely sure, but those are my best guesses. So, I'm looking into advertising on more reading/book oriented sites. But it's a lot of work, in addition to the eight million things I'm already doing. But it's been fun so far, and I've started reading some of the other stories up on JukePop, and I've found some good ones.

I will definitely share more of what I've learned from this in the future, so you will all know what to do and what not to do in case you are thinking of following in my footsteps.

But definitely, have a bowl of marshmallows.

And also, read the first 2 chapters of "City of Secrets." You know you want to.  Oh look, the link just happens to be right here for your convenience.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's starting to get like the DMV up here...only much more awesome

Way, way more awesome.

Where is up here, you ask? Well, that would be the inside of my brain, of course. Beckyland. The place where ideas and daydreams are born. It's the place where my characters live while they are awaiting for me to finish their stories. . . . hmm . . . does that mean it's like purgatory? And if it is, what does that say about what happens to the characters when their story is finished? On no! They're not dead after that, are they?

No . . . wait . . . it's the opposite of purgatory. It's the before. It's like the womb. So, when their story is finished, they've been born, and they are out in the world.

Phew. That was scary.

Okay, none of that was actually the point of this post. The point is that my brain is getting to be like the DMV (only much cleaner, prettier--lots of purple--,more things to do while waiting, etc.). A while ago I wrote a post about how I was afraid that my first novel was just a fluke and I'd never have another story idea, but then suddenly the ideas started coming. Last night at 2:00 AM (almost on the nose; it's the magic time), another novel idea came to me. Thankfully, it's a standalone. The idea I had a few months ago was for a trilogy (or maybe a longer series, that has yet to be determined). And this new idea is for a romance novel, which is really weird because I don't do romance as the main genre, but I'm going to write it, because it's a good idea.

Where does the DMV thing come in? Well, while I'm no longer opposed to working on multiple projects, I am not going to start any new projects until at least one of the three I am currently working on is finished. And by that I mean, I am going to try very hard not to start a new project until at least one of the three I'm currently working on is finished. So that means these new ideas have to take a number. Right now, since I'm new to this publishing thing and don't have a lot of money, I just have one of those cheap little machines where the ideas pull a paper number out and a new slip moves forward. In the future, I'd like to upgrade to a fancy computer system where the ideas will see a touch screen and they can type in what kind of idea they are: what genre, memoir, stand-alone, series, novella, short story, etc. That way, they may get a different place in line depending on what kind of attention they need. But that may not need to happen until the ideas start getting backed up into the two-digits.

I don't know how some writers churn out twenty or thirty books. I suppose you get faster over time, but I'm still waiting for that to happen. At least I know the idea train is functioning.

Psst . . . Have you checked out Chapter 1 of my serial, City of Secrets, yet? You totally should:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Updates and Rambling and Stuff

Partially because I feel like I should blog, because it's been a week and I can't neglect the blog. I've been busy writing (or trying to write), to get as many chapters of City of Secrets possible ready before the big release date. July 19th in case you forgot. One week! Yay!

Unfortunately, I won't have nearly as many ready as I thought, but that's always the case with anything involving a self-imposed deadline. I should know this by now. I'm still recovering spoons from the move. That's the thing about not having enough spoons to start with. It takes you much, much longer to get them back. Every time I get a couple back, I use them all up again because I still have so much stuff to do. My apartment's still not fully set up. I have a new desk which is sitting in a box on my office (I feel important saying office) floor. I don't know when it's getting put together, because last week I put together a small cabinet, and it kicked my butt.

But all in all I'm very excited and nervous and neurotic about City of Secrets. I'm not sure this is the right thing to do for my story. I'm putting a glorified second draft (2nd and a half draft?) online. I know that's sort of the point (it gets reviewed/critiqued online, then I self-publish it), but now I'm getting all nervous about it. I could wait until it's done-done, but now I've bought a cover and gotten all excited about it. Sure, there's really no right or wrong way to publish, because there are so many ways, and I would freak out no matter what way I chose because it's what I do.

All right. I've vented. Freak out over. I'm sticking with the current plan.

It's so not over. It's just over on my blog. But I'm still sticking with the current plan, freak out or no.

Funny story time. I had this thing with names going for my first draft. There are a lot of characters in this story, and for some reason I decided to be old-fashioned or clever or I don't even know what, and have every male have the same name as his father. Sure, that stuff happens in real life. But in your novel, if both father and son are going to be in your story, you really shouldn't do that. I'm all for being realistic, but not when it's confusing as hell. Even I was confused. When the author is confused, that's a bad thing. So, I needed to change lots of names for the second draft, and not just father/son names. I also started lots of names with the same later and that got a bit confusing too, in certain contexts.

I had to do a lot of find and replaces. In case you don't know, find and replace is very sensitive. You have to make sure to put in spaces where spaces are needed. I know this. I just forgot. I was replacing all the Toms with Henry, and forgot to put a space after the "m" in Tom. So, word replaced every instance of "tom" with "henry". Think about it. Lots of words have "tom" in it. Tomorrow. Stomach. Bottom. The character whose name I was keeping, Tommy. It was a mess. Picture it: Henryorrow. SHenryomach. BotHenry (which is somehow not getting flagged as a misspelled word). Henrymy. After I figured out what happened, cried (not really, but almost), it actually wasn't that hard to figure out what the words were supposed to be and do a spellcheck and fix it. It wasted a good half an hour though. Now that I fixed it, I can laugh about it. The reason I'm sharing it is so you guys can laugh at me too. Because it's funny.

Luckily, that's done, and I have almost six chapters ready. My super-secret thing is ready, and I just have a couple more non-writing things to do. So, one more week. Don't forget. Teasers are coming in the next day or two. Also, like my Facebook page! Pretty please!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I'm Back!

No, I didn't actually go anywhere, but I had to take a two week break from writing due to moving (not even to a different state--thank goodness). Packing boxes and then unpacking them is a lot of work, especially when you have chronic pain. It's also a terrible realization to find that you can't do nearly half the things you used to be able to do. I had to take a lot more breaks then I'd planned, and I was a lot more exhausted then I have been after previous moves. 

And then there's the part where I had to take a writing break. I hate not writing. I don't even like to take writing breaks when I'm doing something fun, let alone something that isn't fun. I was starting to go insane. Seriously. Writers are insane when we're writing. When we're not writing--well, let's just say that it isn't good. I was missing my stories so much that I couldn't stop thinking about them. Okay, I'm pretty much like that anyway, but if felt way more obsessive. I was starting to lose sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about them. More sleep than usual. 

My new apartment finally looks like an apartment, my cat is starting to calm down and get over the fact that he spent an entire day in a carrier (actually, it was only about 4 hours), the dining room table is no longer on the balcony, and I'm ready to start writing again. City of Secrets will be released on JukePop serials sometime in mid-July. I will have an exact date very soon. I just need to figure out all the little things I still need to get together and get some more chapters ready before I start putting them up. I did make a Facebook author page, which happened about a month ago, I just didn't make an official blog announcement about it yet. If you could hop on over there and like it, that would be really awesome. There's not a whole lot on it yet, but it will get more interesting once City of Secrets is out, because I'll have lots of fun extras to share. 

So, now that I live in a different city I have a big project ahead of me. A year and a half ago, I lost my job due to no longer being able to perform it due to an injury. I needed to get out of the house, so when I was feeling up to it, I started vetting all the Boulder coffee shops. There are about 30 of them, not including Starbucks (I only go to Starbucks under extreme circumstances, like "Hey, Becky, I'll give you a million bucks if you go to Starbucks!"). No, 30 is not an exaggeration. I actually may have low-balled it. Not only does Boulder have this many coffee shops, but they are all always busy, all the time. So, I checked out nearly all these places, determining which ones had the best WiFi, prices, coffee quality, seating, interesting customers (yes, really--for inspirational purposes, not to actually talk to them), nicest baristas, best bathrooms, cool signs about vampires (yes, really), and anything else positive or negative. So, I've got my work cut out for me. 

Right now I'm at a locally owned place (+ points) that has neat lighting in round glass globes (+). The coffee is excellent (+), but expensive (-). The seats aren't great (-), but the wifi is free and you don't have to ask for a password (+), it's a nuisance to have to ask for the password. Plus, the color scheme is cool (+). Hmm, the coffee might be worth the price. Oh, and they have neat-shaped mugs (+). 

So, I'm back! More news about City of Secrets coming soon!

Don't forget to like my Facebook page! Pretty please! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

All The Other Things . . .

. . .  And there are a lot of them. Sometimes I stop and think, "Wow, I'm really doing a lot."

The majority of my recent posts have been related to my novel, City of Secrets, which will be released on JukePop Serials in early July, in case I haven't mentioned that. It's a bit of a big deal, so of course that's what I've been talking about, but there's been a lot of other non-writing stuff going on, most of it stressful, that I figured I'd get off my chest.

First, I'll be moving in two weeks. This is really nothing new for me. I've moved a lot over my adult life, but mostly in the same general area, so that's nice. I've only been living in my current apartment for a year and a half.

My rent is being increased by $300 a month. Yeah. That's the price, literally, of living in Boulder, or Colorado, really. It just keeps getting more and more expensive. It's insane. Studio apartments go for about $1100. It upsets me, because not only am I a Colorado native, but I'm a Boulder native. I'm here because this is my home. I'm not here because an article told me to come here, or I want to buy into some fad, or pretend that I'm outdoorsy by driving into the mountains five times a year.

All right, I'm risking going off on a rant, so I'll stop now. The point is, I have a move coming up. Good news: I'm moving closer to my family and a number of my friends. Bad news: I will soon be doing lots of packing, though not any of the actual moving. We're hiring people for that. My cat is already just as stressed about it as I am. He can sense it. But at least the moving part is temporary and once it's over it will be over. Until the next move.

And of course (I hate that I have to even write "of course") there's my ongoing worker's comp injury that started in July of 2014. I've mentioned this before, though not often or recently because I don't really like to talk about it. I fell and hurt my ankle at work and got a diagnosis of a minor ankle sprain. When it didn't get better after two weeks I was sent to an orthopedist and diagnosed with a high ankle sprain (which is more severe) and given physical therapy. When this didn't work I had surgery in October of 2014 to repair a torn ligament and a torn tendon.

After one month in a cast I went back to physical therapy and was put in a walking boot. After about three months I was regaining strength and starting to do better when the pain and swelling returned. I was sent to a podiatrist and had another MRI. It was discovered that one of the tendons had had a bad reaction to the internal suture from the surgery and that another tendon was torn. So I had surgery again in June of 2015.

Again I was in a cast for a month. Again I went back to physical therapy. After several months, I regained much of my strength and range of motion, but my pain was much more several than it should've been, and it was constant. So I was sent to a pain specialist. I was starting to develop nerve pain, which is rare but can happen after surgery. I may have a condition call Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) which is nerve pain in a limb. This nerve pain can spread to the entire limb and even to the other limb, which is called mirror pain. This is what has happened to me, and it really is awful. I'm in pain all the time, and it's horrible, hot, burning, smashing pain that's down in my foot and up my leg and into my good leg. It's sensitive to touch, which means it's often difficult to find a comfortable position to lie in. It also hurts to wear socks, leggings, and tight jeans. Thank goodness it's summer.

Nerve pain needs a good balance of rest and walking. I started doing more around the house and getting out of the house, which really felt good--physically and mentally. I gradually started walking more, by slowly increasing my amount each day and doing more chores. Unfortunately, I slowly realized that I was feeling more pain in my left ankle: the site of my original injury. It's possible that because I started walking more, I may have torn another tendon or ligament--it's very common to re-injure soft tissue. Right now, I'm just trying to scale back the walking--which makes the nerve pain worse. So, it's quite a conundrum. The solution to one issue is the opposite solution to the other.

So, throughout all of this ongoing pain I'm trying to prepare for the move, continue to get CoS ready for release, work on my blog, deal with my doctors, and probably do some other things that I can't quite think of right now. Oh yeah, by the end of June I have to write an essay so I can apply to go to a writer's conference in September. There's a lot to do. Hopefully I won't implode.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Research for one novel turned into research for another

     Today was a strange day. It didn't quite go as planned, but ended up being productive all the same. In a previous post--Seeing Things as a Writer--I talked about my trip up to Nederland, (a long, tedious, 30 minute drive), a small mountain town in Colorado. I'd been up there several times but wanted to take a look at it as a writer so I could get a better feel for small mountain towns and what Caribou Canyon--the setting in City of Secrets--is like. Not that I didn't already have an idea of what Caribou Canyon is like, I just wanted to further solidify the setting for the next draft. I definitely plan to paint a picture for readers, but I want to find that fine line between describing the setting and not describing it. I want readers to get their own sense of the town based on their experiences. From the comments I got on that post, that's what was already happening.

For the sake of ambience, I want to do some of the writing in the mountains, and visit a few more towns that are around the same size (population wise) of Caribou Canyon. Today I decided it was time to visit Idaho Springs, another small town that's a bit further up, but still a reasonable driving distance. I've actually only been there once before, because really, there isn't a whole lot to do there, other than the fact that it's the site of the original Beau Jo's pizza. Now, that's pretty cool, but it's not really worth a drive up to the mountains for, considering that there's a Beau Jo's here in Boulder.

Beau Jo's is authentic mountain style pizza, meaning it has a huge thick crust (I think someone just decided that's what constitutes mountain pizza) and lots of grease (of course). So, if you're a die hard lover of New York style pizza you will not be happy, but I think it's pretty good. I don't discriminate against my pizza. Actually, the point of Idaho Springs is to have a place to stop to go to the bathroom and maybe have lunch (at Beau Jo's) on your way up to Caribou Canyon, I mean Aspen.

I just realized that last paragraph sounded a lot like a brochure. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean for it to.

So, back to my trip. The first thing I did was stop at the visitor's center and get a map. It's now tucked away next to my map of Nederland. I also bought a little book about Colorado wildflowers, which is going to be extremely helpful for my next draft. "Can't you just look those up on the Internet," you ask? I could, but that didn't go so well when I tried it for the first draft. Those who read it might remember, and might be laughing right now. By the end of that draft I was just typing "that stupid trail of flowers." I now possess the tools to solve the problem. I also grabbed a brochure about living with bears, because for some reason I just grabbed it. I hope there isn't a bear in my future.

Unfortunately, since my legs and foot hurt, I couldn't walk around too much, so I had to drive. Idaho Springs did not give me the Caribou Canyon vibe that Nederland did. I'm not sure why, it just didn't. I won't be going back up there, at least not for CoS related things.

My next plan was to stop at a coffee shop and write, but all of the coffee shops were on main street, I mean Miner Street. Miner Street was packed with people and there was absolutely nowhere to park, close or far.

I was not thwarted. I came up with a new plan. Guess what cities are not too far from Idaho Springs? Central City and Black Hawk. Guess who needed to do some research for an entirely different novel in one or both of those cities? That's right. Me.

I pushed City of Secrets to the back of my mind and called New Year's Revolution to the forefront again. First thing I needed to know was just how close to Idaho Springs Central City is. Yes, a map could answer this for me, but I needed to know if a nightly walk or bike ride would be conceivable. The answer: it's possible, but why put my MC through the torture, considering what I'm already putting her through? So the cabin outside Idaho Springs will have to be relocated.

More importantly, I needed to check out the hotel/casinos in Central City and Black Hawk to find one that would be suitable for my characters to claim. Sure, I could make one up, but I want to use a real one. I already had one in mind, the Ameristar, but the only reason I had it in mind was because it's the only one I've stayed at several times. I didn't want to pick it just because I've been there. I knew a research trip was necessary, and soon, because I'm almost to that part of the book. So, it's weird that today worked out the way it did.

Central City and Black Hawk are technically two separate cities, but they practically aren't. They're very small and one basically just runs right into the other. Surrounding them is nothing but mountains and trees and creek, and then, boom: casino town, and boom: another casino town. Whichever one you hit first depends on which direction you're coming from. I wanted to pick a hotel and casino that would be big enough to hold a lot of people (it's post apocalypse) and one with enough floors so they could get a view of the streets at night for  surveillance (so they can stay inside, safe from the vampires).

I hit Central City first, and there was nothing even close to big enough for my needs, so I headed toward Black Hawk. As I was driving, I saw one building towering over all the others, and I thought, "That's it! That's the one I want!" I get into Black Hawk, and guess which casino the building is? It's the Ameristar, the one I had in mind all along! I hadn't recognized it at first because I'm usually coming from the opposite direction. So, I didn't even need to go inside and check it out, since I already knew what it looked like.

So, I didn't get done the writing I'd wanted to get done today, but I managed to do research for two different books, and I now know which casino I'll be using. I feel accomplished and excited about both City of Secrets and New Year's Revolution.

Remember, City of Secrets is coming out on Jukepop serials in early July! (I will probably remind you once or twice more before then.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Expressing my outrage over Brock Turner's joke of a sentence

     Over the past few weeks, I've been working very hard to get City of Secrets ready for release. I've been more excited than I can probably convey, and because of that, I've had a bit of a one-track mind about it. I've been buzzing like a bee working on the outline, blurb, chapters, and blog posts, and it all feels like such a big deal to me that I fell into the mindset that this story is the entire world, that what's important to me is the entire world. I'm sure this is something that we all do from time to time. We're all focused on the things that are important to us, and sometimes it's easy to forget about everything else.

     There's a lot going on in the world right now--there always is, really, but over the past couple days some things have gotten my attention that I can't get off my mind. The one I'd like to talk about right now is the case of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer convicted of several sexual assault felonies. The case has been all over the news and social media over the past several days, so it's likely that you've heard about it. If you haven't, here is an article about it: because I don't have it in me to write out the details, I just want to talk about it, or more accurately, rant about it.

     Sure, lots of people have been talking and ranting and raving about it. So, why should I? Well, because I don't think enough can be said about this, or the injustice here. We can't be silent. We need to speak up, and keep speaking up, and speaking up some more, and then some more until things like this stop happening, until rapists are properly punished, until victims are unafraid to come forward, until rape stops happening, until victims are no longer blamed because of alcohol, clothing, flirting, or whatever stupid reason someone wants to come up with to blame the victim, until white people (or anyone) who had promising futures are not given lenient sentences, until athletes (or anyone) are not given lenient sentences, until rape and sexual assault on college campuses stops, and the list goes on. And on. So, anyone who is outraged and who has a voice or a computer or a phone or a tablet to type with should say something or share something that someone else has said or let it be known in some way that this isn't right, that this is wrong and that this is not going to be stood for anymore.

     This is not going to be one of my usual eloquent posts and it is probably not going to be as shiny and polished as usual. I'm angry. I've been angry. I'm tired of being angry. Every time I see Turner's picture across social media it makes my insides twists. There's been some controversy over his mugshot. Apparently it was kept hidden for awhile, and the assumption going around was that it was to protect his pretty little white boy athlete image, and that sending that "sweet" smiling photo of him was to keep protecting that image. Well, for a lot of people that probably worked and it's just yet another load of bullshit in this whole stupid case. But for me, it didn't work. That smiling picture makes me even more sick than the one where he isn't smiling. I guess it's because I know he isn't that nice, innocent person.

     The prosecutor in the case asked for a six year sentence. The judge gave Turner six months, stating something along the lines of: Turner had a promising future and it would be a shame to further ruin that (that was not a direct quote. I took that from my memory of the articles that I'd read). Now, the judge was within his rights to assign a lesser sentence. It's his job. But to go from the six years asked to six months? That is ridiculously extreme. Yes, he was taking into account that Turner had no priors, but it was still an insane extreme and it sends a detrimental message and only serves to further promote rape culture. Thanks, Persky Great job.

     It isn't just Turner who is getting off with a slap on the wrist. Rape is a huge problem, bigger than statistics show, because many victims never report that they were raped. Rape on college campuses and at college parties is a huge problem, one that people are trying to put an end to. Men are marching around college campuses chanting "No means yes, yes means anal" and here comes this judge with an opportunity to show these men (and women) that sexual assault will not be tolerated. What does he do? He gives the guy the most lenient sentence he could've possibly given. What message does that send? That sexual assault isn't really that big a deal, and sure, you'll get in trouble, but not that much trouble.

     How else is this sentence detrimental? It tells victims that they aren't going to be taken seriously. That the pain and suffering of a trial might not get them anywhere. They've suffered enough with their assault, going through the pain of a trial would be bad enough even with the guarantee that their rapist would go punished, but not having that guarantee? Many of them might decide it isn't worth it, especially considering that just reporting the rape and going through the exam is so traumatizing it's like being raped all over again. Read it. It's in the article I linked above and it sounds horrifying.

     The letter the victim wrote to the judge is powerful and emotional. If Judge Persky had even a modicum of understanding of what she went through that night, of what she continued to go through, of what she is going through right now, and what is will continue to go through for years, he would not have handed out the sentence that he did. He just wouldn't have. She will never get over it. She will never be the same.

      The lack of punishment is absolutely disgusting and I'm outraged.

     I know that the victim is hurting, and that she's suffered, and that she continues to suffer in ways I know and in ways I don't know, in ways I can imagine and in ways I can't begin to imagine. But I want her to know that she's not alone. Many people are supporting her. I know it doesn't change anything, but I hope it's at least something. She's not at fault, she didn't do anything wrong, and even though it might not feel like it right now, it will get better.

     I want to end this on a positive note by praising Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two men who caught Turner in the act, chased him, and held him down until police arrived.

Apparently, at first it looked like two drunk people messing around. They didn't realize at first the victim was unconscious. They didn't have to check on her, but they did. They didn't have to go after Turner--he could've been dangerous--but they did. Sometimes the world just feels like a shitty place that I don't want to live in, especially with people like Brock Turner in it, and people like Judge Persky who let people like Turner get away with things. But then people like Arndt and Jonsson come along, and I'm reminded that there are good people in the world, and that's what helps me survive. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Multiple Projects

When I first started socializing with other writers online, I heard a lot of talk about people working on multiple projects. Some people even had five or six going at a time, which was like, "Wow!"

I was very against the idea myself. To each their own, but for me I didn't think I would ever be able to get one project done if I kept swapping between projects. So even when other characters and ideas starting knocking on my door--and they did--I pushed them aside and kept my focus on New Year's Revolution.

I was very happy when it came time to switch gears and finally start working on City of Secrets (then Caribou Canyon), which I'd kept locked away for about two years (In retrospect I don't know how I managed). Again, I was very disciplined while working on it. By that time, Caleb of my yet unnamed NaNo novel (I'm really going to have to give this thing a name soon) had started yelling very loudly in my head. But I kept Caleb locked away until I finished (mostly) the first draft of CoS. I finished just barely in time for November too.

Suddenly, I found myself with three stories: a rough draft, a first draft, and an infinity draft that needed yet more work. I told myself I was going to pick one to work on until it was ready to be published and/or queried and then (and only then) was I going to pick up another one. So I began rewrite, let's call it 10, of New Year's Revolution. This went smoothly for about two months, when I realized that I was going to serialize CoS--and you all know the rest from here, if you don't, my previous posts explain the exciting growth of this idea. The point is, once City of Secrets began to take form on the page it couldn't be kept down for long.

So I now find myself on a break from NYR to get CoS launched online. Once CoS is up and running, so to speak, I'll return to working on NYR, while pausing to write the occasional CoS chapter to post weekly or bi-weekly.

I'm going to be perfectly honest: this idea frightens me. Other than the fact that they are both paranormal fantasies, these are two wildly different stories. One is first person adult, and the other is third person young adult. One has multiple view points and the other has one. One takes place in a real city, and the other takes place in an isolated fictional town. Once is about vampires, and the other is about ghosts.

One of my biggest--and perhaps irrational--fears is that I would mix things up. I'm not talking about the obvious things. Clearly, I'm going to know which story I'm working on, unless I'm really tired or really drunk, in which case I probably shouldn't even be writing in the first place. I'm afraid of mixing up the voices, having my teens sound too adult and vice versa, giving my ghosts vampire qualities, and that sort of thing. But the more I "voice" these fears, the more silly they sound, so I guess that's good. I'm just someone who worries a lot, (understatement) and I don't always have a lot of trust in myself. But I'm too excited about both stories not to move forward with each of them. So I'm just going to have to trust in my abilities.

Here's the good news: as I was reading through CoS I was noticing the similarities and differences between it and NYR. By working on both stories at once, I was able to see what I need to work on as far as narrative voice (and other things) is concerned. And I'm also starting to learn what voice actually means. I honestly think it's a pretty hard concept. When I first heard people talking about voice I just sort of nodded my head. Now, I get it.

Here's the better news: the similarities between the two stories disappeared the further I got into CoS. Thank goodness. So, now I've decided that working on multiple projects might actually be a good thing. It might help expand my mind and stretch my writing muscles.

Also, I've been getting ideas for the second draft of my unnamed NaNo novel (which is even more drastically different from both of these stories), and I already know there is no way I'm going to be able to wait until I finish NYR and CoS to write it, like I'd planned. I'm thinking of doing the 2nd draft during NaNo this year. I know that's technically against the rules, but screw the rules. NaNo is about writing, not following rules. Of course, since it's a second draft, I'll have to extend my NaNo, maybe start in October and end in mid-December. But these are just thoughts. I have no idea where I'll be at in the Fall, I just know that I'm very excited about Caleb's story and won't be able to wait much longer.

I guess the lesson I've learned is that once the characters have been let out of their cages, they don't want to go back in. So why make them?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I went to a thing and learned some things!

On Saturday I attended my third writer's conference. Well, technically it was conference number two and a half. The half was a two hour talk given by a literary agent at a coffee shop, so I don't know if that counts as a conference, but I'm at a loss as to what else it would be called. Besides, three makes me sound more dedicated and cool. So, I'm going to call it three.

The other two conferences focused on publishing and the different paths available in this day and age. Saturday's conference was about the writing side of things, which was a nice change. It was titled Genre Con and focused on, you got it, genre fiction. The conference was hosted by Kristin Nelson and Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency. Kristin gave an inspiring keynote speech and Angie gave a presentation about how to start a story in the right place, and what distinguishes each genre.

This is the first conference I did not attend alone. My friend and fellow writer, Elly, came with me. I couldn't resist passing notes to her, which gave me some nostalgic high school flashbacks. When they were talking about YA and described it as the genre of firsts (first love, first death, etc.) I got really excited (because I've been worried my YA novel might be too dark/"adult" to be YA) and wrote an excited note saying "My story has those!" The hotel provided us with pens and pads of paper. What else could those have been for other than to pass notes to one another?

Kristin and Angie also provided the wonderful (and nerve-wracking) service of reading aloud and critiquing the first page of manuscripts for those who submitted them. I submitted the first page of New Year's Revolution, my vampire novel. This opening has been done to death. It has been changed, reinvented, changed back, given minor alterations, revamped entirely, and changed back again. So I figured, why not do it to death some more? Because that's what you do with a first page. And writers are masochists.

It was a bit funny when mine was read, because earlier they'd listed things agents are getting tired of seeing on the first page, and mine had two of these (waking up, and a bodily function--vomiting.) I did get some good feedback from them, though of course I was hoping for, "Wow! This is amazing! I've never in my life read anything so spectacular! My life is forever changed! Please submit this now!" Of course, I knew that wasn't actually going to happen. I'm grateful for the feedback. It is a rare opportunity to get feedback from agents. They literally (and I mean that in the actual, literal sense of the word) do not have the time. So, thank you, Kristin and Angie.

In the afternoon, we split into groups based on our individual genres. My group was led by YA author Aaron Michael Ritchey, who did a wonderful job. Thank you, Aaron. He was open, funny, and informative. He led an open discussion, rather than just talking at us. The most important thing I learned is: I am in fact writing a young adult novel. Yes! Yippee! Hooray! Yay! Woohoo! Weeeee!

I was worried my story was too dark. Well, I wasn't the only in the group worried about this, so we had a long discussion about it. Now, if your story has sex and the F word and even an abundance of shit and ass and damn you will not be loved by parents, but this is acceptable. Why? Because no matter you do, you will never be universally liked. I am a firm believer that you have to write the story you want to write. Aaron is also a firm believer of this, and left us with this message. Now, some authors (like Aaron) do like to follow the MPAA (movie) rating system as a guide to let people (parents) know what they are getting, but you don't have to.

I don't want to follow it. It's not because I want to write a bunch of gratuitous sex and violence and strong language in my story, but I want my story and characters to be real. There are some instances in which nothing other than the F word feels correct, at least in my story. (In a PG-13 rating, you are allowed one and only one F word). I want my teens to talk about sex, and maybe even have it. Am I going to write a descriptive sex scene? No, of course not. That's why I also write adult novels. But I've read a lot of YA, and some of them ignore the issue of sex to the point where the characters don't feel real, at least to me. I'm not saying that all teenagers are having sex. They aren't. But nearly all teenagers are at least thinking about it and probably talking about it. To pretend otherwise just feels fake to me, and I honestly feel like it's an insult to the target honest, and hey, guess who that target audience is? Yep. Teens. (Although the target audience issue does get complicated because many adults love YA and many teens love adult fiction.)

I'm risking a tangent here, and I'm about to move on. Before I do, I want to be clear that these are my choices. I have enjoyed a variety of YA books, many that follow MPAA guidelines and I believe there is a place for "tamer" (for lack of a better word) stories. It's just not what I want to write at this point in time. I wasn't insulting any authors, stories, or opinions.

Okay, moving on. So, if it's not lighter subject matter, lack of sex, cussing, and violence, then what does make a YA a YA? Well, first off the main character needs to be a teenager. This is usually high school age, though for some reason the magic, most popular age is 16. What's most important is the nature of the conflict. It needs to be something personal, and something that teens can relate to. Again, it's the genre of firsts. That's why romance in YA is so popular. (Me, I'm a fan of having a love story as a subplot, not the main plot.) With teenagers, everything is always amped up. Everything is the end of the world. Everything is very self-focused. This is why a lot of YA is done in first person--first person makes it more personal. (Though it doesn't have to be.) An even newer trend is first person present tense (Hunger Games, Divergent), which most people either love or hate passionately. I'm not a huge fan of it, but once I get into the book, I get used to it. I can also see why it works for YA, because it adds to that sensation of everything being in the here and now.

So, to sum it up, I enjoyed the conference and learned a lot. I also feel motivated (not that I wasn't motivated before) to get going on City of Secrets (formerly Caribou Canyon) and put it out there for the world to see. I have begun the outlining process, which means it's only about another week or two before I start revising. I've also got a rough book blurb written. I don't want to give a time frame yet on when I will start releasing chapters, but the date is definitely nearing. (Yay!)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Seeing Things as a Writer

     I am nearly finished reading through my rough draft of Caribou Canyon/City of Secrets, which means it’s almost time to start writing the revision and posting it online. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m very excited. City of Secrets takes place in a fictional Colorado mountain town called Caribou Canyon. Caribou Canyon is loosely based on an actual Colorado ghost town called Caribou.
     As far as ambience goes, my setting was pretty well formed in the first draft. As far as the actual physical/visual aspects are concerned, the setting is hardly formed at all. It’s time I fixed that. The other day, I took the first step toward doing that and drove up to Nederland, a small mountain town that’s only about 20 miles from where I live. It’s actually still in the same county. Though it’s pretty close to me, it’s very different from where I live. The population is only about 1,300 people.
     I drove around Nederland and got a feel for the town: where the houses are located and what kinds of shops, schools, and recreational activities it has. Now, since I live so close, I’ve been up to Nederland bunches of times. I even got stranded up there once. With a giant flag that I had to carry around. It wasn’t fun. But I’ve never been there as a writer, which is a completely different experience than walking around town with a flag.
     I went to the visitor’s center for some maps, which turned out to be pretty funny. The woman asked if I was from out of town, and when I told her that I was a Colorado native living just down the mountain she got a really funny look on her face until I explained that I was writing a book and wanted a map to use as a sort of model for my fictional town. After that she was very helpful.
     What’s great is that within just a few minutes of being up there I already had several ideas of things I need to add/change about Caribou Canyon. I even had a few ideas that didn’t even have anything to do with the setting. I plan to visit a number of mountain towns and get a feel for them. I’m going to collect maps, look at them, and then put together Caribou Canyon in combination with how I already see it. At least that’s the plan so far.
     I also went to a coffee shop to read some of my first draft. I plan to do some actual writing in each of these towns. I figure some of the small town ambience will bleed through in my writing. And if it doesn’t, at least I have some pretty scenery to look at.

     So, there is the latest in my venture to get City of Secrets out in the world. Stay tuned for more updates (you all better be on the edge of your seats).