Open Calls for Submission in April

April 15th

Transulunar Traveler’s Lounge: 5,000 words “A fun story, at its core, is one that works on the premise that things aren’t all bad; that ultimately, good wins out. ” pays $.03 a word

April 30th

Kyanite Publishing “Visions and Darkness”: 7,500-20,000 words dark fantasy pays royalties

Soteira Press “A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories”: 500-7,500 words “We’re looking for horror stories about bedtime, dreams, sleep, and nighttime in general! ” pays royalties

Pole to Pole Publishing “Twenty Thousand Leagues Remembered“: 3,000-5,000 words pays $.02 a word

Critique partner vs beta reader

  • Both will provide feedback on a manuscript 
  • A beta reader doesn’t have to be a writer. They evaluate a manuscript strictly from a reader’s perspective.  They may earmark an area of concern (like a critique partner) but they may lack the toolkit to help suggest corrections.  It’s best to give a beta a middle draft or final draft for evaluation, since this will be closest to the product readers consume and they provide an early view of how a larger group of readers will react. 
  • Critique partners, as fellow writers, are available to help trouble shoot during more phases of a writing process and are able to better evaluate what the concern areas might be along with solutions.

Alternating Perspective

I think most writers believe if they plan to head hop, it should happen every other chapter.  And I think that’s a soothing concept.  People like patterns.  The problem comes in when as a writer you have multiple scenes that don’t lend themselves to alternating equally.  

Like in the beginning of the book, a writer might want to set up the protagonist and his or her normal life.  That could be 2-7 chapters (or more, it’s a random number) of scenes all from his or her perspective.  And yes, you can flash to unrelated nefarious scenes from the antagonist, but I think this may open its own well of problems.  Do you want readers to know “all is not well” or even what that something is so early into your work?  Does knowing something the main character doesn’t create tension or does it create frustration?  Is the jump between two different tones too jarring?  Has the author established why she should care about both narratives?  What happens if your antagonist isn’t active yet?  Like if the big bad is a construction mogul, I don’t want to hear about the details of their business stuff (even if it is shady) until they try to buy the main character’s farm—because that other stuff doesn’t matter to the story the writer is telling (maybe), it’s just filler they’re giving me so they can write in a pattern with how the perspectives changes between the two characters.  If I’m working my way through the main character’s struggle to keep their farm relevant, a bunch of legal back-and-forth claims of land or bad building practices is jarring and may tell me way too much about the second act.  

And there’s a case for my problem in the Numia series.  Did the pressure for an alternating perspective drive Holmberg to share Rone’s view?  Would those books be better without his perspective?  There’s no way to know.  

, I finished the series “The Kingmakers War” by Kate Avery Ellison.  The first three books are written in a limited third person perspective where we follow Briand.  Book 4 sets up a far broader continent sweeping story and we get a lot of chapters on palace intrigue and on “enemies” movements/perceptions.  And I discovered I might be one of those readers you can’t please because I didn’t like how she changed the focus from mostly Briand to a more “Game of Thrones” style story.  While the expansion of the narrative was a little jarring, I found I didn’t care about the head hopping because often the characters were involved in stories I didn’t care about OR their story was too much about Briand but from a different perspective.  Briand telling her own story and discovering these differing view points on her own would have made a better (in my opinion) story.

I felt significant pressure to make my novel alternate perspective every other chapter.  It halted my creative flow on the second draft for a good eight months.  And I can give you a million reasons why the perspectives don’t alternate following a set pattern but my conclusion is from a story telling vantage, alternating perspectives every other chapter would give Roxi’s take and then Gerry’s take on the same event, but it would become monotonous.  Sometimes not telling a reader how or why characters do things is better.  It leaves interpretation open.  

I think the age of your audience matters.  Both Ellison and Holmberg are working in a young adult audience.  Their works may NEED to spell out certain elements more definitively because teens need that little extra push towards reflection.  As a teen, I read the “Animorphs” series and it’s told from an alternating first person perspective.  As a teen, I loved that gimmick, and I loved rehashing each and every single detail from someone else’s perspective.  As an adult reader, I still enjoy different takes on the same story, but the perspective has to be distinct and have a larger purpose in the narrative.  I think it’s just an evolution and refinement of the parts I enjoyed in close narratives.  So my “complaints” in how Ellison and Holmberg share their stories may be perfect introductory primers for teen readers.

I hope in my own writing I’ve first actually made more space for readers to speculate, but second that readers of my books enjoy that instead of looking for a more definitive answer.  Personally, I think it’s part of differentiating between young adult and new adult literature.  Less is spelled out for rehashed.  But I don’t know for sure and won’t know until some reviews roll in on my book.  

What do you think about head hopping?  Do you like to relive the same scene from different perspectives?  Do you prefer a pattern to how perspectives jump or do you just want to vary perspectives when the story calls for it?

Head Hopping

Chris is writing a novel in the first person perspective and he realized while working on it, that he could not tell his story only from the main character’s viewpoint because there are scenes happening a reader needs to see but that his main character isn’t present for.  

I wrote a book with close third-person narration from the perspective of my protagonist, Roxi, and antagonist, Gerry.  I struggled to alternate perspectives in a way I hope fulfills a reader.  

This past year I read  The Numia Series where Charlie N. Holmberg uses first-person split perspectives to tell her story.  In the first book I found it annoying and unwanted because I didn’t care about or like Rone.  He was not compelling, and his chapters didn’t seem necessary.  In the third book, Rone had his own story, and I thought to myself “have I been reading his junky perspective this whole time because I’d need it in this part of the story?”

So yes, I want to talk about split perspectives.  How does a writer divide time?  How much do you need so a perspective change doesn’t feel random or lazy but thought out?  Do you need to follow a pattern like every other chapter or every other scene?  Is it hard to follow split perspectives or a good shake up? 

Some basic “rules”:

  1. Use chapters to change perspectives, the pause can help to alert readers to a change.  
  2. If one needs to change perspective mid-break use ***** or a similar line break to alert readers when they are switching perspectives aka “head hopping.”
  3. Make the two characters feel like separate people.  They have opposing views of what’s happening.  Don’t just head hop for a better angle on the action, make it a whole different take on what’s happening.  Maybe the characters are so different they don’t even agree on what’s going down in the scene.  

Now onto the tricky things: 

  1. Is it lazy to head hop?  I mean, should writers use a single voice to tell a story instead of “cheating” and using an otherwise unused perspective to give the reader information the main character doesn’t have.
  2. How often does a writer have to head hop?  Can I tell a 30 chapter story and have all the chapters be from a single perspective except for one?  
  3. Does every chapter have to change perspective?
  4. Can I change perspectives mid-series?  Using the Numia and Kingmakers’ War series here.  Could Holmberg have cut Rone’s perspectives from the first two books and only introduced it in the third book when it was relevant?

None of these questions have one simple answer, but I’d like to explore some thoughts in further posts.  Meanwhile, share your opinions.  Do you like a single or multiple perspective?  What voice(s) do you write in and does it line up with your taste in reading?

Four Letter Words

Is it ok to swear in one’s writing?  Opinions vary but my general thought: fuck yes you can swear in your prose.  I can’t speak for all people in the world but the people around me swear.  Some swear often, others less so.  Interesting people (in my personal experience) swear.  It shows a depth of emotion and a certain set of experiences that at least in fiction, lead to interesting stories. 

Are there interesting people who don’t swear?.  Lots of people I’ve met who don’t swear refrain from religious zealotry.  I love cults and cult stories.  I can imagine writing a clean cut shiny Jesus-eque cult piece full of characters who never swear. 

Does swearing in books turn people away from that fiction?  Maybe?  Children shouldn’t read a book full of cussing.  But did writers create a book that’s child appropriate excluding those darn swears?

There are adults who are offended by foul language.  They’re a more realistic loss of an audience.  Again though, I’ve got to ask if they would read the book if only it weren’t for all the f-bombs.  I don’t know because I don’t know specifically what people find distasteful. 

A common anti-cussing in books argument is that it stifles creativity.  To me, that sounds like, “if you make that face long enough it will stay that way.”  Which we all know isn’t true, your mom our your grandma or whoever just wanted you to quit making funny faces.  Doesn’t making faces strengthen your facial muscles and help you create new expressions?  Why can’t the same be true of swearing?  I’ve heard some funny, creative, and expressive swears in my time.  Cussing well is a talent.

It’s your manuscript and you have to be happy with it.  Do whatever supports your creative vision and worry about other people’s stomach for foul language afterward.

2019 Planning and How I Got to 2020

There was a lot I wanted to accomplish in my 2019 writing practice AND there was a lot going on in my job.  To balance work/personal/writing life, I turned to a planner.  Well, I went through several planners to get to my current system.

Why a paper planner when I’ve used Jorte for years?

2018 was very stressful for me and there was a lot I was tracking.  My Jorte calendar was too cluttered.  Looking at it created my anxiety than it alleviated. And nothing is as satisfying as checking, crossing out, or highlighting a task or series of tasks.  Paper and pen is a comfort for me in times of high anxiety.

My Organizational Journey

I started with a huge monthly desk calendar.  BUT in the first week it became clear that there was TOO much for even the largest monthly wall calendar.  I needed a monthly and weekly glance.

Next purchase was a Simplified Planner.  It had a hard cover with gold edges and bright cheery colors within.  The weekly view let me carve out the time I worked vs my “free time” and it gave me a heads up regarding what was pending.  It’s major drawback was combining the Saturday/Sunday in the weekly view.  As a retail person I need the most detail on my Saturday/Sunday either when I work or when I have it off.  Most things in my life happen on these days.

So I moved on to an Inner Guide Planner and a paper journaling system in July.   The Inner Guide gave me more than a full 7 day a week spread, it also helped me make monthly goals in different categories like the professional, creative, family, fun, etc.  This helped me figure out what I was spending time on and if it was what I wanted to spend time on.  This planner helped crystallized the need to change day jobs, and it helped refocus me on my novel publication countless times.  I think most people would find the Inner Guide Planner of immense value, especially for its price point.  It was $32 and even using it only from July-Dec, I got that value back.

A blank journal gave me freedom and space to write whatever whenever.  Lists, complaints/venting, future plans, progress reports, research, etc.  It also gave me unlimited space, and I’m long winded.

However, I wanted more.  I wanted a space to write my plans and goals and another space to record actual progress on those goals.  There wasn’t enough space in a weekly planner for that so I did some research and purchased a She Plans Daily Planner.

I love this planner.  It’s a quarterly softbound sewn book I carry with me and make notes regarding the way I spend my time.  At a glance I can see how much time I spend working, blogging, on social media, or “wasting time” gaming/watching YouTube by color blocking my day off using the half hour 6-8:30 pm marks provided in they system.  There’s an untimed space for “to do” where I make notes on ideas/shopping needs/tasks as they come to me and review them each week to prioritize what I need or should plan out.  There’s a space for inspiration I fill out with a writing quote every day.  Tracking my time helps me clarify what I want and what I’m willing to do to get it done.

And all this lead me to 2020 organizational routine.  For 2020 I have a desk full of plans to keep me on track with my writing, health, and work.  I will share the current 2020 system in my next post and talk about moving forward.  I hope this post helped offer some tools you could use to help you achieve your goals.  Are you a planner or a seat of the pants type writer?  Do you have goals and what do you do if you meet them?  What do you do when you don’t reach your goals?  Do you have a favorite tool: what is it and why?

Writing Prompts for Fors Fortuna

Queen of Hearts public domain via publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History: 

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of fortune (both good and ill).  Her name translates to “she who brings.”  The common people and the slaves found her cult appealing because she offered an escape from poverty.  They offered small works of bronze to her in hopes she would “change their fate.”  Her popularity extended to the Middle Ages where Saint Augustine wrote “How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to bother the good and to the bad?…It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune…let the bad worship her…this supposed deity.” (except from City of God).  

Her popularity preserved her image.  They depict her with a ship’s rudder, a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fate) and a cornucopia.  In ancient times they sometimes represented her as veiled or blindfolded, but these associations where handed over to Justice in the modern era.

Very little lore or worship knowledge remains of Fortuna’s holidays.  I suspect that the popularity of the commoners, that kept her imagery and idea in circulation long after the fall of Roman aristocracy but we’ve lost her rituals and lore somewhere in their oral traditions. 

Fortuna’s rein included Roman leaders.  One of her aspects was the Fortunat Publica (the official good luck of the Roman People).  On April 5th this term meant “everyman’s luck” and how each man has his own access to his fate (male idea).  But it had reaching impact on Roman leaders.  Fortuna in this guise became chance events tied to the virtus (strength of character), so public officials who lacked this virtue invited ill fortune on themselves and all of Rome.  

On June 24th (or perhaps Midsummer), a celebration on the anniversary of her temples’ completion took place.  Followers would float downstream on decorated boats and barges (or walk along the river) from the city to Fortuna’s temple.  When at the temple they would drink, play games of chance and place bets.  Scholars believe this was a holiday filled with mirth and joy.  

As the day closed, followers would row back home drunk and adorned in garlands.  Some speculate that Fors Fortuna was sacred to gardeners and florists.  They would go into market on this day with songs and prayers for Fors Fortuna and those celebrating her day would buy the flowers to decorate themselves, the boats, and her temple.  Minimally, it seems a lucrative time for gardeners and florists.  

Sources: 

Wikipedia org

Britanica.com

thaliatook.com

latinata.com

Writing Prompts

1. We all have lucky habits or superstions that bring good/bad luck to us.  Write a story that incorporates these newer superstions with the older practices of Fortuna.  

2. Luck is an ambiguous term.  Some people believe it’s the capricious nature of life and others believe one “makes their own luck”.  Which way do your characters lean?  Write an event that changes their minds.  

3. What would a character look like with maxed out luck stats?  Would that mean they had good or bad luck?  Would their life be full of extremes?  Would they have a relationship with Fortuna or another luck goddess?  Write an origin.  

4. Are casinos and gambling spaces modern shrines to Fortuna?  Would a day playing poker or roulette mirror the joviality said to happen on the 24th?  And if a casino is Fortuna’s temple and “the house always wins” what does this say about Fortuna and her relationship to her worshipers? 

5. How would Fortuna judge a modern leader’s virtus?  Or any leader’s virtus throughout history?  Does she have a hand in the rise and fall of empires or has she slacked on her duties? 

6.Fortuna’s name means “she who brings,” it’s an evocative start to any story.  What has she brought you or your character?

7. St Augustine makes an interesting implication in his writing regarding Fortuna.  He implies to be a god one must be “good” or at least to be a god worthy of worship one must be “good”.  But Fortuna, like God is capable of good and ill.  She has a code where the ill she offers men comes from their own weakness, much like the God Augustine worships.  Explore this dissonance further in a fictional story.  

8.  In her time, Fortuna was a lesser known, less powerful goddess, yet her name recognition today is stronger than many of the more common gods of the time. “Wheel of fate” is still a common expression.  What themes transcend time and space?  Write a story set in the future, the present, or the past and connect it to far-flung time relatives.  OR connect a theme across species.

9. What happened at the temple on June 24th?  Write “A Day in the Life” story regarding the celebration or worship. 

10. Did Fortuna ever change someone’s fate?  Write a “rags to riches “story.

Enjoy these prompts and looking for more try my post with prompts for Midsummer or Matralia

Churn and Burn

Prismatic gears from Public Domain

My fellow writer Zach Stanfield wrote “Addicted to Torment” where he discusses his struggles to produce a cohesive story.  It’s an interesting glimpse into one writer’s journey and I recommend looking at his personal struggle to get words on the page.  

Like him, I plan to confess my “writer’s flaw”.  

I am the Johnny-types-a-lot of our NAWG group.  If you measure success in words on a page alone, I am the rapid pace rabbit you’ll hound.  I churn and burn words like a binge drinker pounds back shots.  And like all those party people, I care about the quality of the words on the page about as much as they care about the brand of vodka in their drinks.  

So when we come to writers’ group and go around the circle asking “have you written anything?”  

I can say “Yeah I sat down for three hours and pushed out five thousand words, I’m a thousand words away from resolution.” or “I sat down this weekend and wrote ten thousand new words on my novel.”

The looks I get—the surprise alone—I feel like I will turn into Kanye West.  “I am a creative genius and there is no other way to word it.” 


Lol.  I do not want to debate Kanye West’s claim, but I will say my claim to creative genius carries minimal weight.  More words means I have more editing to do than my peers do.  Over half of what I write is scrapped in the second draft. 


Take my efforts in Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  I wrote an 80,000 word first draft.  The second draft is 73,000 words and about half of those words are brand new words I designed for the second draft.  Of  the original 80,000 words, readers may see what 30,000 of them (and those also needed intense edits)?  


This doesn’t count story boarding or deleted scenes. To get that 80,000 word first draft, I have about 30,000 words in scenes no one but me ever read.  I needed to write those scenes, but as the manuscript evolved, I realized they couldn’t serve the story.


I can hear some people saying “You still came out of that with a novel.”  and yes, that’s true, but I would not say the volume of words I string together are why I have the novel.  My determination, my grit, my commitment.  These are things you need to have a complete manuscript.  A willingness to try something, anything, if the manuscript isn’t working.  Looking at elements you thought your manuscript would center on and culling them when it turns out those beliefs are wrong.  You need to endure painful change for the sake of creating the best work you can.  Mass producing a million words to a page will not bring a writer closer to the glorified novel.  


I’ll go further.  Writing in quantity forces me to spend a significant portion of time reading and editing my work.  This is time I could have written other things.  Most of my writers’ group has published a short story and I have not.  One reason for this is my obsession with my novel and my inability to write the right words the first time.  Maybe if I stopped and thought more, looked at the cursor blinking on the page as Zach does, I would realize on the first draft “my novel isn‘t going in this direction and these scenes are superfluous.”  


What I’m trying to get at: all writing styles have pros and cons. Inundating myself and others with heaps of words may look impressive, but it’s more bluster than you may imagine.  


Talk to me.  What’s your writing style?  What are your writing goals?  Give me a writing confession! I would love to hear more about others’ process or their current manuscript goals.

When you Love Too Much

by jxj! the total bastard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  sourced from CreativeCommons.org

About a month ago, a man robbed my friend and I.  He wanted our valuables, the only problem was, among my valuables was my laptop with draft components of my manuscript Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  


Jessica, a man had a gun in your face!  He was close enough you could have reached out and touched the blasted thing.   What the fuck is wrong with you that your first thought isn’t for your life, or your friend, it’s for your book,” I imagine some of you may be saying. 


Valid point.  Once I confirmed my friend was unharmed, it was the first thing I thought too.


All my training failed me.  As a kid, my parents drilled me to throw my purse at a robber, run, and scream “Fire.”  As a college student my “Self Defense for Women” course STILL recommended the “throw your purse” step, but they followed it up with a karate chop to the neck.


I never wondered “what would I do?”  I knew I would throw my purse and run.  It’s a joke among my friends, how they would defend me and I’ve always said:

“No I’m running.”

 
“You‘d abandon me,” they tease.


“No, you‘re welcome to run with me.”


Que laughter, Jess is a self-proclaimed coward and not in the least ashamed.


It was a shock to learn that the running part held true, but my primitive brain would not relinquish my manuscript.


What does that mean? Who cares about anything that’s not alive so much they will risk their own safety for it?


I guess I have to add vanity to my list of sins.  I love my book.  I’ve said: “I love it more than life, more than loved ones, more than breathing.”  and believed it was hyperbole, but now I have to face whether this is a core truth about me.  Am I so conceited that what I create means more than life?  What responsibilities do I hold if this is true?  


First, I can’t keep drafts without back ups anymore.  If I can’t trust myself to be sane, then I’ll photograph my handwritten notes, same my written copies to the cloud.  Whatever it takes to secure both my manuscript and my friends.


Second, my laptop will have to stay home or I will review my entrance and exit into public space with it.  Yes, cloud backups are fine, but my laptop is an expensive key piece of equipment in my pursuit of publication.  


Third, can I learn to care less?  I know I can’t control how my brain responds to an emergency.  But the correct answer to “Give me all your money!” is NOT “No, and I will leave now.”  That’s not possible. 


The experience leaves me wondering: what does it mean to love writing or my finished writing more than life?  Do I love it too much?  Is there some program for people who are too passionate about their work I should enter?

So talk to me.  Have you been in a life-threatening situation?  How did you react?  Did your reaction times surprise you?  What did you do after?  Do you ever wonder if you love your creative work too much?  Do you consider it a vanity or conceit to hold the work in such high esteem?  What steps do you take to protect your work?

Addicted to Torment


    How many times have I heard someone gushing over their own prose? It’s vomit inducing and leaves me self conscious for most of my day.

I’m not talking about jealousy of another writer’s work, no, I am talking about the real envy that comes when someone seems to enjoy writing. I always took a small measure of comfort in the belief that all writers are masochists.

Setting aside personal time, staring at the blank screen then counting the number of blinks the cursor makes before you type in the next vowel felt necessary.

Then, all of a sudden, I’m confronted with johnny types-a-lot whose sparkling grin,stretched ear to ear, becomes the ultimate slap to all my masochistic endeavors. This wasn’t a tormented soul that gets up every morning, resurrected, to hoist themselves on that black and white cross.

Confronting that early in life sort of gave me the writing jitters. I clammed up at the keyboard, wondering if my pursuits were flawed, or if I was working against something that was innate in others.

Could I be doing this all for the wrong reason? Was I addicted to an aesthetic, a lifestyle of the sagacious old writer in twill concentrated on each pen stroke?

I hate twill, however, I love to be “tormented.” I sought that tortured artist motif and used it as a crutch to avoid my responsibility as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am unfettered from the struggle of writing, but at least I identified the thing that keeps me from producing. It is so easy to give in to the thrill of production and a day or nights work with actual atrocity. I could be alone in this, but if by some chance you feel this way, I’d advise taking a stronger look at the way you approach coming to the keyboard.

Can mitigating martyrdom help eak out a few more paragraphs? I have been approaching the whole thing in measures. I always want to get a certain number of words for each sitting. If I go over or under, then that is not a loss of my time. The real loss is when I sit on my hands and bemoan my own tortured time plugging away at my latest edition of “Zach, tortured auteur.” Now, I use a simple mantra, “find my time, find my place, find my mindset then write.