Thursday, September 29, 2011

My First Ever Giveaway Win

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I've been retweeting information about Andrea Hurst's AUTHORONOMICS summer contest. It ended on the 23rd, and lo and behold, I won one of their prizes. :D

I'm really excited about the prize, which is the book, The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long. It has really good reviews, and looking through its contents, I think it's just the advice I'm looking for. So grateful! (I also got Robert McKee's Story out from the library, but Blackdog* is taking up all my reading time right now.) I'll be sure to review it once it's up in my queue.

Going Halloween-shop trolling with my friend Sara, hoping I can find some good zombie stuff/decapitated heads/free-floating spines. Zombies aren't original, but hopefully if I get gross enough I can still win a prize at my work party...

*I am a very, very slow reader. I also have a crush on Holla-Sayan.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today I Learned What a Cantilever Is.

I recently rewrote a scene in my story that details an enormous tower jutting up from the city. I have diagrams of this tower, its specs, and a clear image in my mind of what it looks like, but whilst writing I discovered that I have no idea what its varying parts were called.

Stall everything. What does one call this arm-thingy that juts out from the body? A buttress? What is a buttress,* anyway? And what are the chances of an architect reading this and seeing the flaws in my terminology?

Honestly, I don't think I've ever written a story, long or short, that didn't require me to look up some architectural term or another. But let the goose chase end. I discovered this site today. It took me in, comforted me, and said, "Charlie, dear, it's a cantilever. Everything is going to be okay."

Now, it's not the most extensive dictionary of architecture out there, but when I ctrl+found "beam," it gave me six options, and I found precisely what I was looking for.
A cantilever from AMC Industries.

Anything in particular you use for architectural terms in your writing?

*The word "buttress" makes me think of a certain scene from Lost in Austen, which is of the comical sort. That whole mini-series is amazing. If you haven't seen it, I demand you do so (though if you're unfamiliar with the workings of Pride and Prejudice, it won't be nearly as grand.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is My Novel Right Now

Image from

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writers of the Future with Brad R. Torgersen

When I began thinking of what posts fit into the SHINEonline spectrum—what would really be interesting for this blog—Brad R. Torgersen’s name sprang to mind. Brad won the Writers of the Future contest fall 2009, and his career has rocketed from there. He’s very gracious, and especially helpful to new writers. I was thrilled when he agreed to talk about his experience with Writers of the Future on this blog.

Ladies and gents, I give you Brad R. Torgersen.

Q: When did you decide to try your hand at the Writers of the Future contest?

A: Prior to 2006, I didn't pay attention to writing contests. But when Dean Wesley Smith (who is a Contest judge now, for Writers of the Future) announced that Pocketbooks would be discontinuing its Strange New Worlds anthologies, he simultaneously encouraged those of us who'd been submitting stories to Strange New Worlds to begin entering Writers of the Future instead. It's where Dean himself had gotten his start, and it's where a heap load of other professionals also got their start too. So, I went to the Web site, read through the rules, and submitted my first story to the Contest in the fall of 2007.

Q: How many times did you enter, and how did you fair?

A: If memory serves, I got three successive Honorable Mention certificates, then my first Finalist (which did not win), followed by a fourth Honorable Mention, then my second Finalist, "Exanastasis," which is the story that won me a spot in Writers of the Future XXVI. I entered for the first time in the Fall of 2007, and found out I'd won in the Fall of 2009, so it was a two-year effort. All of my Honorable Mention stories were stories I'd previously written and sent around to different markets, and which I just happened to send to the Contest because it's what I had on hand at the time. My two Finalists? Both of them were written specifically with the Contest in mind—having purchased and read a handful of the Contest anthologies, to get a better feel for what worked with the judges. My non-winner, "Outbound," went on to be published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, eventually winning that magazine's Readers' Choice Award for the category of novelette, so you might say that *both* stories won! Just in different places.

Q: How did you react when you found out you had finally won?

A: It had already been 17 years of seemingly fruitless effort, when Contest Administrator Joni Labaqui called me in November 2009 with the news. I'd already had one Finalist fail, so when I got word that I had another Finalist in the running for the same volume, I was prepared for the worst. Only, surprisingly, the worst didn't come. I won! Externally, I was fairly calm. I happened to take the call while in the drive-through lane at a Carl's Jr. restaurant, so I was talking to Joni and ordering food at the same time. If I was a bit disappointed by placement—third place—that feeling lasted for a fraction of a second. Then I realized that I was FINALLY going to be published professionally. Oh. My. Heck. It had been my dream, since I was 18 years old, to become a professionally published author, and after 138 rejections and roughly 870,000 unpublished words, I was finally going to have my day in the proverbial sun. Returning to my desk at work, I let my burger and onion rings cool while I blitz-mailed everyone in the universe about the news. I literally couldn't believe it! Wow! The excitement and satisfaction was still strong in my heart almost a year later when I went to the Contest workshop and gala in 2010. It was THAT big of a deal for me.

A: What opportunities has winning this contest opened up to you?

Q: It's almost easier to ask, what opportunity HASN'T the Contest opened up for me? My two Finalists together have netted me thousands of dollars, two awards, a secure spot as a regular in one of the top three science fiction magazines in the English language, and the attention of and cordial relationships with many different professional writers who are all judges with the Contest. I have collaborated several times with Hugo and Nebula award winner (and Contest judge) Mike Resnick, and I've also been published in Orson Scott Card's online magazine, Intergalactic Medicine Show. I've managed to attract the interest of a top agent, and one of the top science fiction book publishers to boot. All of this in the two years since winning. Not every Contest winner can have that kind of success right out of the gate. In hindsight, I was already laying the groundwork by writing as much as I was and submitting it to the various short fiction market editors before I won. Getting the win just knocked me up above the horizon, and suddenly very good things began to happen for me in the business, very quickly. I took the ball, and I ran with it.

Q: Tell us about your winning story, “Exanastasis.”

A: Put simply, "Exanastasis," which is Greek for "resurrection," is about a man who has literally lost everything, and suddenly gets to have back the one thing he wanted most of all. Only, that thing is broken. More elaborately, it's a story about a husband and wife, estranged by millennia and the terrible events that have transpired, who are then forced to re-learn the trick of living with and loving each other all over again. It's a story about the end of the world. It's a story about finding out that maybe you're not who you always thought you were. It's a story about starting over. And, it's a story about artificial intelligences ruling and defending Earth, all from their secret redoubt on the Moon. And if that's not enough to whet your interest... well, there's eleven other very, very good stories in Writers of the Future XXVI that probably will!

Q: What plans do you have for your future career in writing?

A: More stories in Analog, if editor Stan Schmidt will let me. I have the cover story for the December 2011 issue, with a Bob Eggleton painting no less(!!) More stories in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, too. And novels. Definitely novels. I have a very open door with one novel house in particular, and if I can turn in a quality manuscript in the next few months, I believe my chances are pretty good of having a book or book(s) coming out within a year or two. Ultimately, I want to make writing my full-time job. But I'm not prepared to plunge my family into poverty. So, I'm learning how to write a lot while also carrying on with both my civilian job and my U.S. Army job. It doesn't leave me a lot of spare time. I've had to sacrifice certain things to make room for the word count. I think in a few years, when the house is paid off and I have some serious money in the bank, it might be time to talk about becoming a full-time freelancer. But not yet. Oh no, not yet. I'm at Step C. I have a long way to go to get to Step Z.

Q: Any advice, tips, or tricks you can offer other aspiring writers, especially those hoping to win Writers of the Future themselves?

A: I am a broken record about this, but the best possible “homework” anyone can do, if they're trying to win Writers of the Future, is buy recent copies of the Contest anthology. Read the books, cover to cover. Pick out the two or three stories you really, really like. You won't like them all. You may not even like half of them. Disregard which stories placed where. Only pay attention to the ones that you really, truly enjoyed. That made you say, gosh, that was a good story, I liked that one! Focus, when you sit down to write your own stories, on how those two or three extraordinary stories made you feel. And why. And how can you try to bring some of that to your own work. Was it the amazing or rich setting? The characters and the journey they take? Was it the wrenching dilemmas they faced? Something else? Only you will know. These will be your keys to giving your own fiction the "oomph" that can get you over the top, and make you a winner. And this will be true at other markets and with other editors, too. Pay attention to what you like, when you like it, and why, and bring that to your own work. Beyond that, just make sure to write often, try to write new work more than re-writing something endlessly, and do try to remember that this is supposed to be fun, too?

Full-time nerd by day, part-time soldier by weekend, and fictioneer by night. Read more about Brad R. Torgersen here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Guest Blogger (And the Importance of Candles)

I am very excited for Monday.

Why, you ask?

Because Brad R. Torgersen, winner of Writers of the Future who publishes in magazines like Analog and Intergalactic Medicine Show, agreed to do a guest post on my blog. He has great advice for anyone trying to break in through Writers of the Future. And if you haven't tested the WotF waters . . . well, get on it!

In personal news, I watched most of the A&E Pride and Prejudice last night for the purpose of paying attention to the setting--research for the "Untitled" book you see yonder in my sidebar. (Granted, it was hard to pay attention to setting since the characters and story are just so good. And distracting.)

But one thing I have learned is this: there are lots of candles. Candles on the table, candles on the wall, candles hanging from the chandelier. Lots of candles, and lots of people lighting candles. And putting out candles. Candles are important.

Note taken.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Revisions and the Letter "G"

Revisions are going slow and surely. I successfully managed to overcome work-brain and rewrite a scene (with pen and paper, no less) last night. Now I just have to type it up!

This Saturday I'm sitting in on a new writing group, so we'll see how that goes. Woe is me, I have to wake up so early...

In other news, I found this video on Facebook and it made my day. Since writing involves words, and words are made of letters, I consider it relevant to this post.

Behold, I give you the letter G.*

*If you don't watch Glee, this will not be nearly as entertaining.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nothing Says "Charity" Like Running from Zombies

Want to know how YOU can benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute? Run for your life from the snarling undead through the Salt Lake Fair Grounds. :)

My husband and I are attending the Night of the Running Dead, a 5k race where participants can sign up as either "human" or "zombie," and dress accordingly. The humans get to start two minutes before the zombies, therefore creating 3.1 miles of zombies-chasing-humans for the joy of all spectators.

Fake Person: Gee whiz Charlie, I didn't know you were a runner!
Charlie: I'm not! :D

Yep. I can only run about one mile before crapping out like the pathetic athletic* I am. I think I jogged two miles once, but that was when I was in clogging and actually had routine cardio in my life.** So I'm going to the gym and the local track trying to improve by October 15th. (Yesterday I could only run for about five minutes because I had just eaten pasta and chocolate chips for dinner. Yeah, I'm smart.)

BUT, I figure having a hoard of undead chasing me will encourage me to keep going. If all else fails, there's also a one mile creep n' crawl (for the wusses).

Any Utah readers should consider signing up! The money goes to a good cause, and you'd only have three weeks to train, which means I at least won't be the most pathetic runner there. C'mon . . . help a girl out. ;)

*Rhyme intended.
**BTW, running is SO BORING. I don't know how people do it for miles on end...

Monday, September 19, 2011

S.H.I.N.E. Online

Yesterday I decided to join Julie Isaac's S.H.I.N.E Online challenge, which will hopefully help me create better content for this blog.

Because you're all so curious, the "SHINE" stands for,

Stand out

There's a newsletter that goes with the challenge--I'm eager to read the first one and pick Julie's brain. To be honest, she's an author I'm not entirely familiar with.

In other news, I'm three chapters into Blackdog and really liking it thus far (this is one of those books that makes me hate my prose). I think I'm already developing a crush on one of the characters, and I'm pretty sure he's going to die, so . . . yeah.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where's Waldo, Revisions, and Christina Grimmie

First, everyone is required to watch this (because it is hilarious):

I plan to start my revisions today, so gots to update my sidebar. I've color-coded which revisions come first, second, third, and so on. It will kill me putting prose off until the end! (But why revise a sentence you may be chopping later?)

Also crackin' open Blackdog today. Wooo~

And if you haven't heard of Christina Grimmie, I've had this song stuck in my head all day:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Working with an Editor: Guest Post by Kristy Stewart of Looseleaf Editorial & Production

I am very pleased to know Kristy Stewart of Looseleaf Editorial & Production--she knows what she's talking about, and has helped me with editing manuscripts and creating pitches in the past. So when she agreed to do a guest post on my little blog, I was rather happy about it.

Take it away, Kristy.

Working with an Editor

Several writers I’ve spoken to have presented the author–editor relationship in combative terms: the author as the champion of creativity and progress and the editor as the stumbling-block adversary that is necessary, but not at all welcome. That isn’t to say this is an entirely dominant viewpoint, but I’ve heard it enough that I believe it’s useful to tell writers what an editor is for and how to work with one.

An Editor’s Purpose

Editors do not exist to impose outdated and ridiculous rules upon the language of writers. (I’ll admit, sometimes I do this, but it is only when someone asks me to.) A good editor doesn’t exist to tell you that you used a word incorrectly, though that is often something he or she will do. An editor who has their head in the right place doesn’t value correctness more than creativity.

Good editors exist to improve clarity, credibility, and communication. They’re people who have to see your book in two ways: from the creator’s side and the consumer’s side. Editors need to understand and share writers’ visions while still sitting in the place of the reader and noting when things don’t make sense, fail to communicate, or seem botched and unprofessional. Many times that means encouraging an author to follow certain conventions of language and story. (But definitely not always.)

Working with an Editor

With an editor’s purpose in mind, you can come up with a few ways to better prepare yourself to work with one, and I’ve listed four recommendations below.

1. Know your audience. Since editors need to see your work from writerly and readerly perspectives, it helps them to know who your audience is. Depending on the editor, you may not need to communicate this to them. For example, if you write YA and submit your work to an editor at a YA publishing house or imprint, you can pretty much guarantee they’ll assume the correct audience. If you’re hiring a freelancer, you need to communicate that goal. That way the editor can start out with the right perspective.

2. Have a vision. Any editor you work with needs to understand your vision of the book. Otherwise they’re going to be a pretty awful collaborator (that’s what an editor is—not a combatant, a collaborator). That’s why you want to talk to an editor before you sign with them at a publishing house: so you can ensure you both have the same vision for your book. It’s also something you need to communicate to any freelancer you work with. That makes it easier for them to suggest changes that are in line with your vision or tweaks that further your goals. Editing is not just about finding problems; it’s also about finding opportunities for authors to expand their work.

3. Listen. Any editor worth their salt will give you final say when it comes to your work. It is, after all, your work. Your ideas, your vision, your work, your name on the cover—why wouldn’t you have final say? That doesn’t mean they won’t say things you might not want to hear—they wouldn’t be earning their keep if they didn’t. Having the final say also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. If your editor is saying something, he or she has a darn good reason, and it isn’t spite.

Allow me to share an anecdote from Brandon Sanderson and his editor, Moshe Feder. (I’ve heard this story from both of them.) Once upon a time Moshe told Brandon that his humor wasn’t working. That’s a really crummy thing to hear. He and Brandon went back and forth trying to figure out why it was broken. Finally Moshe was able to figure out that Brandon’s jokes weren’t funny because they weren’t native to the worlds Brandon was writing in, so they pulled a reader out of the story. Brandon made appropriate revisions, and hey presto! Humor fixed.

Moshe said Brandon’s jokes were broken. That was incredibly kind of him. Brandon listened. That was incredibly smart of him. Brandon’s books are better for it, readers are happier for it, and no one is crying because Brandon made his jokes better.

4. Don’t ingest everything. In a counterpoint to the last bit of advice I’d like to tell you not to take everything an editor says and ingest it wholesale into your work. Just because an editor said it doesn’t mean it’s right. As an editor, I have often pointed out “broken” aspects of a story or opportunities for a strong addition. Most times when I do this I will give an example change to clarify my point, but I know that my examples are rarely the best idea for the book. Ideas to fill those gaps and seize those opportunities need to come natively from the author. So listen when the editor makes a recommendation, but then make the change your own.

A good editor will cheer for that kind of behavior. Those changes are almost inevitably better for the work, which serves the editor’s two constituents: writers and readers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stuff About Dictionaries That Is Far More Interesting to Me Than It Is To You, I'm Sure

Given that my vocabulary isn't as big as I'd like it to be, I signed up for's Word of the Day some time ago. I save the words I think I'll actually use, and I've recently gotten into the habit of sticking one on an electronic post-it note on my computer so I'll actually see it and learn it.

One of my all-time favorite words has been willowwacks, which Microsoft Word doesn't recognize... but I slipped it into TDSF anyway. It just sounds cool. I also recommend bumptious, incommodious, dandle, and just plain signing up for's Word of the Day (it's on the left). Today's word is "fey."*

*A word which, if I see on a back cover, will immediately cause me to put a book back on the shelf. That, and "elf."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The First Time I'm Tempted to Destroy My Kindle Is Whilst Reading My Own Book

I'm 25% through reading TDSF, and wow, was I surprised. My pacing for the first five or six chapters is horrendous. So fast! And I keep seeing small inconsistencies or ghastly metaphors, and all I want to do is open my computer and CHANGE IT.

I keep reminding myself that the revisions will happen, and that I can fix everything and make it shiny and new, all in due time. I must read the whole book first. Then fix and cut scenes. Prose comes at the end.


I dedicated a good chunk of time to reading yesterday, but I didn't make it to the end because my MS and I were in such a tiff I had to leave the room. Serious frustration, there. I almost don't want to pick it up again, but I know I must if I'm to get anywhere with this story.

Sigh. My life is SO hard. /sarcasm

Anyway, outside of my wallowing, does anyone know any good review blogs for epic fantasy novels? I started following a few, only to discover the majority of them did nearly all YA. (Not that I didn't like The Hunger Games, but I want to read what I write, and the last YA book I picked up I hated.)

So, suggestions muchos welcome. :D

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for Blackdog to ship to my local library...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Itching to Revise

Drove to Provo yesterday to attend my writing group in person--Derek was nice enough to host dinner at his place beforehand. My writing group spent an hour and a half going over The Day the Sky Fell with me, and I have seven pages of revision notes to help me better the story. I'm itching to start making the changes now, but I need to read through the book before I do anything. (It's killing me!)

I read chapter 1 and took a few notes. The prose needs major refining (which won't be done for a while), and the pacing is too fast. But it's fixable.

I think I'll give myself a December 1st deadline to finish revisions. Two and a half months. If I stay on top of things, I should be able to make it--maybe before. I want my first run of queries out by New Year's! (Wish me luck!)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells

So today during lunch I finished A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells, which is the first book I've ever actually purchased on the Kindle. AKA I actually spent money on it, but I'm glad I did.

Outside of a frequent mortuary setting, this book is very different from Wells's I Am NOT a Serial Killer series (which I enjoyed immensely). It's much more humorous . . . a sort of comedy-horror-fantasy-historical mish-mash that takes rather absurd and entertaining turns in its plot. I started reading because Mr. Wells handed me a business card at WorldCon advertising it. I believe it's his first self-published novel.

I admit that, at first, I was leery about the book. The prose read differently than I had expected, and I don't generally pick up comic-fantasy-fiction in my leisure time. But once my brain adjusted to the quick pace of the story, I rather liked it. As in yes, I actually LOLed in several areas and have developed a very strange twitterpation towards John Keats. This book is very A Series of Unfortunate Events-esque, but it all ties in rather well, and, well, it's a fun read. I would definitely recommend it.

There were a few grammar mistakes here and there, and I think the title doesn't really reflect the story, but other than that, two thumbs up. I'll give it either four or five stars on GoodReads . . . I'll follow what my heart tells me when I get around to posting a review there. ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writers of the Future, Take 2

Well, it's official--my second entry for Writers of the Future has been sent and swallowed, which also means Piscis is officially DONE. I actually liked this story quite a bit in the end, even if it was sci-fi. :D

As for a third entry... I have no idea what I would do. I guess I'll have to read WotF anthologies until something new pops into my head. Short stories are not my forte. (In case you forgot.)

But with Piscis out of the way and Weirs currently shoved into Kristy's lap, I have some time to focus on brainstorming this novel that may-or-may-not-involve-teeth. Sunday I get full writing-group-feedback on the draft of TDSF, but hopefully I can restrain myself from revising it for a little longer...

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Story Which-May-Or-May-Not-Involve-Teeth*

Piscis is getting very near completion. I finished rewriting it (in first-person present tense . . . oh dear) yesterday and took it home to read it out loud. Gathering a few comments from beta readers. First person isn't my forte, but I can pull it off. How well I do so is left to be seen.

Still planning out my next story which-may-or-may-not-involve-teeth, and once again I'm reminded of how hard it can be to create a novel from scratch. A few pages into the notebook and I realize how many threads I have to tackle and weave into a story, and it's a little daunting. So I made a bubble diagram. It's somewhat comforting. (And I'm so glad I have a "Names I Like" sheet that saves me from toiling over names for hours as I'm wont to do.)

Tonight I am playing frisbee and buying my sister a birthday present. Hurray!

*Grammar will tell you not to capitalize the second word in a hyphenated phrase, but what about the third/fourth/fifth/sixth?