Looking back and charging forward

Every January I make a To-Do list of all my major works in progress and figure out which ones I want to prioritize. Here’s the 2017 edition.

Looking back over last year, I’m super proud of all the work I’ve done. So many short stories got finished up, published, and I’m hoping that more get picked up soon. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I published this year.

  • January 2016 – A Slippery Customer
    • Hit top 10 on Amazon’s Horror anthology list multiple times
  • February 2016 – Tiny Necks
    • Almost entirely 5-star reviews and more keep rolling in
  • May 2016 – Curse of Beauty
    • Received several excellent reviews!  ❤
  • October 2016 – Dead Man’s Hill
    • A Halloween tale with a dash of dark humor

However I did notice that I hadn’t made much progress on my novels. Outside of Beyond the Treehouse, I didn’t do that much work on the WIP novels I had. There’s a good reason for that actually.

At the beginning of the year I got a publication offer from a small publishing company, one that I had worked with before. Their communications were a little sporadic, but I was excited to get my book published. However the contract they sent me gave me major concerns. It took me a bit to find some legal advice, but once I did I felt like I had a grounded ability to negotiate and listed out my requests. Unfortunately a big request on my list was not available to negotiate, and I had to reject the offer. A few months later I found out that the publisher was closing shop after being in the business since 2012.

I was upset to hear what had happened to them, and to the amazing authors who worked with them. It was also hard for me to get back into working on my books after that. Short stories I could dive into easily, but books were harder. Books take a lot of commitment, and after having plans fall through like that, it’s been hard to get motivated again.

I’m hoping to change that in 2017. This year I’m planning on focusing a lot more on my novels, and hopefully knock out book 2 for one of my series on the list. I also have a standalone horror novel that I’ve been itching to start too. Here’s my list of WIP novels and short stories for 2017. Look at how complete that short story listing is too!  ❤

If you want to see my 2016 WIP to-do list, check out my post:

Hooray for To-Do Lists!

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To my PitchWars Mentors…

So far this has been a year of firsts for me. I went to Texas for the first time back in May to visit my Aunt. I went down to visit Savannah for the first time a few weeks back, and just last week I went to my first concert.

gwenStefani

Now I can add submitting to PitchWars to that list as well!

Yesterday I took the plunge and submitted Beyond the Treehouse to a few of my mentor picks. (The submissions are open through August 6th if you’re planning on doing the same!) Part of the process is creating a relationship with your mentor hopefuls, so here’s a little about me. (You can read more over here.)

Back in 2010 I decided to give NaNoWriMo a chance and it renewed my love of writing. Before then I was a very active fanfiction writer, but that was the first time I had ever written something so long and entirely original. Since then I’ve gotten a number of short stories published and worked on several books. I’ve bounced around various writing forums like Absolute Write and Scribophile, but found it difficult to stay active in them while keeping up with my writing and holding down a full time programming job. I try to do at least one NaNo event each year, but sometimes squeeze in two or three. Last summer I went to the World Horror Convention in Atlanta and got so inspired. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo that summer and churned out four horror short stories, one of which got accepted to a market that qualified me for the Horror Writers’ Association membership.

Beyond the Treehouse is a book that’s near to my heart. I’ve been working on it for two years. I had to scrap it completely at one point and rewrote it. I cut out characters, added new ones, and carefully pieced it all together. It’s YA Fantasy, but it definitely dabbles in the weird at times, and I have a hard time keeping my love of horror from seeping in along the edges.

Outside of writing, I’ve really gotten into cosplay over the past year. A few months back our Black Butler squad even got an award at the AWA Summer Blockbuster Event!

AWA_Summer2016When I get into fandom, I tend to dive deep. Next month me and two of my cosplayer friends will be delivering two panels on Black Butler at DragonCon, and two more panels at AWA (Anime Weekend Atlanta). I’m working on a vary large prop at home in preparation for it (Deathscythe, anyone?) and we’re even planning a trip to Japan next year to see the animated movie in theaters.

In short, it’s been a hell of a year, and my blog hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves at times. My writing is still going strong though, and isn’t that the important part?

A Look Back at 2015

Now that the ball has dropped for the new year and all the confetti has fallen, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year. 2015 was filled with a bunch of amazing new experiences, new friends, and new stories. Here are a few life-changing events from last year, some good, some bad, everything memorable.

Plenty of Trips

We were fortunate last year to have the World Horror Convention be hosted in Atlanta, GA. It was the first time it had been there since the early 1990s when it was first getting started. I had never been to a writing convention before, let alone one dedicated specifically to horror, so this was a very new experience for me. It had a huge impact on my writing. For the first time I felt more comfortable in the genres that I work in and with how difficult my writing can sometimes be to categorize. [May 2015]

In June I went on a family trip down to the beach, introducing them to a quiet little island I love to visit near the border of Florida known as Amelia Island. I got to see my nephew, who wasn’t quite a year old at the time, get to see sand and the ocean for the first time. It was really hard to get him out of the water! Even though the temperatures were unusually high (over 100ºF every day), everyone had a blast. [June 2015]

September was quite a busy month for us. We decided to go to DragonCon for a single day last year since we couldn’t book a room for the whole weekend. (Every major hotel sells out typically in a matter of minutes each year.) Still I love going, and this time I even tried doing a cosplay. We took Marta up, which saved us the headache of trying to find parking, but we did end up standing in line for over an hour to get tickets. Atlanta is damn hot in September, so I did somewhat regret my Victorian gown, but it was still lots of fun. We also found a new friend and then got asked to pose for *so many photos*. The rest of our evening was put on hold because we found ourselves getting interviewed by a news group and then had to pry ourselves away from fans to grab some food. I think that was when I started to love cosplay. We’ve already booked rooms and bought tickets for next year by the way, and we may even be putting together a panel. [early September 2015]

Later that month, our awesome new friend convinced us to go to AWACon, just north of Atlanta. We were dubious at first, because the only fan convention we had been to was DragonCon, and this one was much lower key. However we had worked on our cosplays a bit more by then, and even attended some group photography sessions while we were there. That was so much fun, that we’re already planning to go next year as well with even more updated cosplays. [late September 2015]

The following month, we were off again on another family trip, this time down to Disney World to enjoy the Halloween event. We had never been during Halloween before, but this was such a surprisingly good time that again, we’re planning to go next year as well. Their musical number this year featured the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus (they change it up each year), and it was such a blast!

They had a special parade and fireworks displays and we even got pictures with Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. On top of that, we ran into some friends completely by accident. They had to move across the country a few years back. We ended up spending a whole day with them in Magic Kingdom. Obviously that trip was meant to be. [October 2015]

New Stories

I was so inspired after going to the World Horror Convention in May, that I went into Camp NaNoWriMo with an attack plan. I outlined 4 weird horror stories and then set about writing them. I finished them all. Three of them I got edited and shipped out to publishers, and one of them was picked up almost immediately (“Tiny Necks” due out in February). Another horror story, one I had almost given up on, also got picked up too (“A Slippery Customer” due out in January). Both of these stories made it so I could get membership into the Horror Writer’s Association as an Affiliate. Honestly, it’s all been going so well, I’m still rather shocked. I also finished up a fantasy story recently that had some very high praise from several critters on Scribophile. If you’ve been on that site much, you know that positive feedback must be earned haha.

On top of these shorts, I also finished up a very dark YA werewolf novella that I’ve been struggling with for years and started shipping that around. I also finished up the final draft for Beyond the Treehouse (aka. Madam Cloom’s Garden) which has been a work in progress for at least two years. It too has started making the rounds, and I’m pleased with how far it’s come.

Friends Lost and New Ones Made

SalemFluffy

Salem 9/29/2009 – 12/4/2015

Last year wasn’t all cheerful though. I had made a post back in September about my sweet kitty Salem’s declining health and how worried we were about him. We thought he would get better, but that didn’t happen. His health only went downhill, and throughout several of our trips he had some worrisome issues.

I got a call from the vet while standing outside of Pirates of the Carribean with my friends who I hadn’t seen in ages. In a corner beside plastic swords and jolly rogers plaques, I talked with a vet about whether it was time to put him down or not. Thank goodness I was in the Happiest Place on Earth, otherwise I probably would have broken down into tears that moment. While my friends went to go ride on a roller coaster, I watched a parade pass by and had some time to do some thinking. Sometimes being away from home helps you analyze what needs to be done.

Salem had gotten to the point where he couldn’t even jump up on the couch without stopping to breathe hard for a long time. His lungs just couldn’t take in oxygen easily, and you could tell he was suffering. On December 4th, we made an appointment to euthanize him. That was such a difficult decision. Our parents were there, surprising us as we were about to walk out the door, and their presence really helped us get through it. Our kind vet, who helped us from the very beginning, said that at least we can choose to end his suffering. That was a long and difficult two weeks afterwards for us while work wound down and the Christmas holidays approached.

Quickster_UpsideDown

Quickster — Adopted 12/19/2015

Knowing what we would have to do, and having a second kitty at home who would be very lonely without his friend, we had already been in touch with a family who needed to rehome their deaf cat. They were worried about putting her up for adoption with her disability, and we were happy to step in and help. So we now have an adorable little deaf kitty, named Quickster, running wildly around the house. It took about a week to get her and Watson used to each other, and now they play regularly. She can get rather cranky when she doesn’t get her wet food in time, but she loves to snuggle and is such a sweetie. Since she’s deaf, she tries to look at everything all at once (as you can see from the picture), which I think is a pretty smart way to do anything.

All in all, 2015 was a heck of a year with lots of ups, but some very deep lows. I’m hoping 2016 is full of even more high peaks as well. I know I’ve been absent for a while, but life’s been a little chaotic. To get back on the blogging wagon, I’ve signed up for WordPress’ Blogging 101 event this year, so you’ll likely see me posting a lot more often. Especially since I’ve got two anthologies coming out soon!

The Woes of Re-theming

I wish I could say there was nothing better to do with my Saturday other than re-theming my WordPress site, but that would be a total lie. The truth is I had the Mistylook theme for a while, and although it suited my needs at the time, this site has grown much larger since I first started this blog up, oh five years ago. The theme was an older one and didn’t support all the cool features that are available in the current themes like Featured Images or gracefully handling sticky posts. Also my menu was too large to fit without causing some nasty design issues.

It was surprisingly difficult to find a decent theme that I liked. One that would be more text-focused (because let’s be honest, my photography isn’t exactly top notch), but would also fit my simple needs. I was looking for:

  • Quirky design features. Like social media links built-in and eye-catching designs bits.
  • Two-column support. I don’t like to overwhelm visitors with ten different columns. They might confuse my site with a browser plug-in.
  • Menu support for 6-7 items. I really don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?
  • Headers would be nice, but not required.

My first attempt, I was going to go with the Quentin theme. It looks sophisticated but simple enough that I didn’t think it would be too difficult to get used to. Plus I liked the rustic quality that came with it. Of course when I activated it, my side-bar disappeared and I scrambled to recreate all the items I had on it. Luckily I screencapped them so I could create them again *just in case* everything broke on me. I was halfway through when I found a deal-breaker.

Quentin doesn’t support menus, of any kind.

That threw me for a loop. I guess I’ve just gotten used to themes automatically including them that I didn’t think to double-check before activating it. So I was scrambling again.

Here are a few themes that I almost went with:

  • Sketch – A little too image-focused for my needs, though I loved the minimalistic design.
  • Fictive – The stylistic choices were great here: the social media icons beneath the author info and the individualized post designs really stuck with me. However your menu that you include is expanded by default, and I wasn’t too keen on simplifying my menu structure down to three or four items.
  • Flounder – This one was also so tempting, but the expanded menu on the side was a big let-down. And you had limited color options which was a real bummer for me. That color scheme just didn’t allow me the flexibility to show horror & fantasy in the same arena unfortunately.
  • Writr – Another tempting one, but the blank area to the side leaves a lot of empty space on larger monitors.
  • Adelle – The structure/design was great, but the lack of customization for the pink details at the top really took away from its flexibility. Again I have to take my writing genres into account.
  • Balloons – I *love* the dynamic balloons on this page, but with very limited color options and the fact that the balloons occasionally obscure the text, it didn’t seem a right pick for me. (I think the Something Fishy theme handles this much better since the movement happens in the background. So cute!)

So I ultimately went with Reddle, which didn’t have all the features that I was looking for, but it has enough. Surely I’m not the only one who has gone through re-theming woes, either on a WordPress.com site or on a custom-built site. I can’t offer any wine to soothe the pain of redesigning, but I can offer my sympathy!

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You: Drabbles

The last few weeks my writing output has become rather slim even though I’ve been churning out a lot of edits. Even though I have a project that I’ll soon start working on for this month’s Camp NaNo, I really wanted small little writing inspirations to keep my skills up despite a full-time job and so many other big projects on the table.

So I’ve been participating in places like r/WritingPrompts and Typetrigger. They’ve been a great way to keep my motivation high and let me get some creative output without taking a whole day to put it down on paper. Since I have very little actual writing posted here on my blog, I thought I’d fix that. Every Wednesday I’ll have a new piece of writing posted. This really isn’t any different to me since they can be found online already, but you have to jump through several hoops to find them and follow them.

They’ll be short since Typetrigger has a cap of 300 words per post, but sometimes that results in juicier imagery. If you haven’t already, go follow my blog (see the sidebar) so that you can get alerted for every post. If you want to share any of it, please link back here to my blog. After the first post goes live, I’ll put up a menu link under Story Snippets to help folks find them easier.

Hope you’re enjoying the weekend as much as I am so far!