How 2021 fared, resolutions for 2022

Yikes, it’s already the 3rd, and I haven’t written my yearly resolutions post yet!

First, a look at last year’s post.

My goals were to publish Mercurion in the early part of the year, and to buy a house. Mercurion wound up needing a rewrite that took most of the year, and it got launched in the fall. And we bought a house! We absolutely had to move in June when our rent was up, and everything worked out perfectly. God’s hand was totally in it all. We live in the country now, and after 15 years in apartments, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. Here’s one of my posts about the wildflowers out here in the desert.

Flowers on jumping cholla cactus

My goals for 2022 are pretty loose. I want to get our overgrown property whipped into shape, I want to get the kids playing outside more, and I want to write the last After Atlantis book.

After Atlantis has been building to a huge war between the supers and the Exiled Atlanteans, who want to come home and plan to drive everyone out of the islands. I had a lot of scattered ideas of books that could take place during the war, then it dawned on me that I could do all of them in one book. And what an awesome book it would be. My husband is over here hyping about it, and I’m like, dude, I just barely started planning it. 😀

I want to get back to doing a weekly art post on my blog, here. I kind of forgot about updating it, between my deviantart, my other deviantart, my tumblr, my other tumblr, and my instagram, where I’m the most active. Poor blog.

Anyway, that is my very short New Years resolution post. I want to write 1 book and work out in the yard. And … that’s pretty much it. But man, if you could see the ragged state of this property, you’d agree that it’s going to take a whole year.

2020 creativity recap (and 2021 resolutions!)

2020 was quite a ride, wasn’t it? At the beginning of the year, I decided to take the Publishing 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. I had a baby due in June, so I figured that I would be doing really well to publish 6 books. I wound up publishing 5 books and a novel-length fanfic, so I figured that counted. Here are the books:

They’re all the same series. I have to figure out how to have the Vid:ilantes series labeled as happening inside the After Atlantis series. You’ll notice that Guardian’s Vow is book 2. I redid the cover for book 1 when I launched the paperback:

Once I had the baby, my writing mojo went out the window, of course. I wrote a few very short fanfics because fanfics are easy. I also drafted all of the next Vid:ilantes book, where the HeroTubers meet up with the characters from the After Atlantis trilogy. It’s still in edits, and I’m hoping to launch it late January or early February.

My goals for 2021 are to write one more book. And one more. And one more. I don’t have a set number. But I’m halfway through writing the book after the next book, so that’s at least two books for 2021 already. Maybe this year I can actually get some advertising traction so folks will hear that this series exists. It’s superheroes who film their own exploits and put them on HeroTube for those sweet ad clicks. And everybody’s powers come from Atlantis, which sank and is a modern-day island chain visited by tourists and cruise ships. It’s terrific fun, and I can’t wait to write more.

As for resolutions, my only resolution is to write and improve my writing, and to continue to improve my artwork by studying fundamentals. We’re hoping to move sometime in 2021, so I’m not planning anything beyond that. Moving is a brain-suck, just as much as having a baby. I’m going to keep on posting my weekly art blogs, with the occasional opinion piece here and there.

Speaking of art, here is a Destiny Christmas art, which I finished on New Year’s Eve:

A warlock takes his daughter to the City to see the decorations.

And that’s my very simple goals for next year. Let’s make it a good one!

On fanfiction and publishing

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books on writing lately that are changing my perspective a bit.

It started with Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You. This book was eye-opening for me. But it also gave me resolve to go on writing the sort of entertainment I’ve been writing. You know, fun, fantastical escapes. People need that more than ever.

Then I picked up The Pulp Mindset, which explores how pulp writers of past decades wrote fun, entertaining books that sold like hotcakes. James Bond, Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage, and other heroes are from this era. With the advent of ebooks, we’re back in the era of cheap, fun entertainment for the masses.

I finished the first draft of Mercurion on Saturday, and immediately started writing a couple of fanfics I’ve had waiting in the wings. As I did, I got to thinking about those books I’d just read. Fanfic is just another form of publishing. People read them by the truckload. Here’s some of my stats from May, which is the last time I published a story:

Stats for May, when I published a new fanfic

That is a lot of hits. That is a significant amount of people reading my stories. We’re talking over a thousand unique visitors who came back every day or two to read the new chapter. Some reread the old chapters while they waited for new ones.

Fanfiction is the unsung pulp fiction of today. It makes no money, but people read it for the same reason they read anything–for escape, for entertainment, to have an experience.

It made me sit up and realize that if I write for this hungry audience, they deserve the best content I can produce, the same as my paying readers. I don’t know why I never thought of it that way before. I guess I don’t think of fanfiction as “real” writing because it doesn’t go through a publisher. For me, fanfic is play or practice, kind of like the sketches I’m always posting on this blog. But those are serious readers. A lot of them. So I’m going to work on giving them what they want. And I’m going to try very hard not to do what other writers have done to me and drive off my own readers by chasing the almighty buck.

Why don’t publishers hire ghostwriters for the books they want written?

It’s summertime, and writer’s conferences are in full swing across all my social media. My writing groups are full of people writing proposals and summaries, trying to catch the eye of various publishers or agents. It’s a busy time full of hopes and dreams.

I’m sitting in my corner, doing revisions on my own work, and watching this go on. I’m watching my friends get rejected, watching publishers with really weird requirements. And a question has arisen in my mind that I’d love to ask publishers:

Why do you accept submissions at all when you already know what kind of books you want? Why don’t the publishers write proposals and summaries, and hire writers to write those books?

Publishers don’t want authors who write random books. They want particular books: romance, mystery, or whatever. They want particular formulas in those books. They want particular writing styles. Authors who don’t fit those requirements get rejected, no matter how good their book is.

So … why don’t publishers just hire ghostwriters? Any writer worth their salt can write according to somebody else’s rules. Heaven knows that enough authors have to rewrite their books according to what an editor or agent thinks will sell. Why not go all the way and just write a book from scratch that the publisher has ordered? Authors of licensed fiction do it all the time for Star Trek and other properties.

I think my author friends could avoid a lot of heartache by self-publishing their books and picking up ghostwriting gigs from publishers. I mean, there are indies like Bella Forest who are just a pen name for a jillion ghost writers churning out series books. It’s a thing. I just don’t know why publishers continue to use the old model in the modern era. It’s nonsensical.

Nothing to show off–yet

Well, didn’t complete any artwork this past week. I have a landscape in progress, but all art is on the back burner as I work on my 12 Books Publishing Challenge.

My new year’s resolution this year was to do Dean Wesley Smith’s publishing challenge, which is to publish 1 book a month. You don’t have to write the books. This is just a way to kick those books out the door that are written, but just need revisions and a cover. I have three books just sitting here, staring at me. So out they go!

I’ve been working on the second After Atlantis book, and also updating the first book to bring it more in line with the worldbuilding in Vid:ilantes (due to be published in March, if all goes well). This is a light superhero fantasy series–hero teams having conflicts, mustache-twirling villains, robots, and superweapons. I wrote it a few years ago just for fun, and I’m just now emerging from my Destiny fugue and deciding to, you know, actually publish some stuff.

I was looking at my vast collection of Destiny fanfics and realizing that they’re all earning ad revenue for the sites hosting them. Alllllll those fanfics and alllllll those chapters … ads upon ads, day in and day out. And they get hundreds of hits a month.

This kind of burns me.

So I’m looking at just writing and publishing my own stuff steadily, the way I did my fanfics. I know how to do developmental editing, and I have a couple of very good copy editors lined up. I can also make my own covers. There’s literally nothing holding me back from writing and publishing as many books as I want. I’m not super concerned about making a ton of money as much as I am about making my stories accessible. Even my fanfics are only available on two websites. My books can be available on dozens and dozens of bookstores.

My end goal is to entertain people. People have hard lives, and a book can help them forget that hard life for a few hours. I want to write more books for my cozy mysteries, for my superhero series, and heck, maybe some short stories. I also want to mess with science fiction, the kind of space opera stuff that Destiny and Star Wars are, that I love so much.

So hopefully a new book will be coming along in the next week or so. Guardian’s Vow is in the second round of revisions, just polishing and deepening a few scenes. Have to do a cover for it and update the cover on book 1, and off we go.

A look back and a look forward

Welp, it’s 2020. I checked my resolution for 2019 to see how I did … I’d resolved to read all the unread books on my Kindle.

Welp. Failed that one. In fact, I now have more unread books than I did in 2019. Bad llama. According to Goodreads, I only read 15 books in 2019, and half of them were school books I read aloud to the kids. But hey, that counts, right? I’ve been in survival mode with a crawling baby, so that’s my excuse.

Over the course of last year, I wrote 12 more fanfics, most of which were novel-length, including two trilogies I’m very proud of. Now, if I could do that in 2020, only with original books, I’d be golden.

Speaking of which, Dean Wesley Smith is running a class challenge where everybody is supposed to publish 12 books in 2020. That’s 1 book a month. You don’t have to write them, only publish stuff that’s been sitting around, languishing and collecting dust. I think I could do 6 books, since I have three sitting around, waiting for revisions, and I could write a few novellas before June. I have another baby due in June, so after that I can’t commit to any work-related stuffs. That’ll be my sort-of resolution for 2020, is to try to do that challenge and see how I do.

I did start picking up art commissions in the end of 2019, so that was fun to get back into. I think it was Butch Hartman who said something like, “Go out there and do the thing. Eventually people will see you doing the thing, and they will come to you and ask you to do the thing.” And that’s what I’m seeing happen.

Here’s a big one I did and couldn’t post until after Christmas, because it was a Christmas present for the client’s boyfriend.

This pic took about three weeks of back and forth with the client and with critiques from an artist group. It came out all right, but I was kind of overwhelmed by the end.

So we’ll see how the year goes. I don’t really have a word for this year, since I really have no idea what will happen. Each year has been so drastically different from the one before, I’m hesitant to make any real plans. I have a couple of easily achievable goals, and I think that will suffice.

A tale of two communities

I’ve had this weird, Twilight Zone experience. It’s living on the fence between two similar yet completely different communities.

On one hand, I have my professional writer groups on Facebook. This is a group of hard-working writers. We give critiques. We discuss pricing and marketing. We band together to promote each other’s work. Sometimes we even read each other’s books.

We’re all writing speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), but the details wildly vary. Some people are writing dystopian civilizations. Some people are writing high fantasy with elves and dragons. Other people are writing urban fantasy, where the elves and dragons live in Los Angeles.

highwayman_centaur_by_coldevey-dajm868
Highwayman Centaur by Coldevey. I thought this was the coolest idea I’d ever seen.

On the other hand, I have my Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction and art community. This is a group of laid-back young people who are doing this for fun. We write, but there’s no drive to sell anything. We read each other’s work because it’s fun. We draw pics, not for money, but because we like to draw.

And the fun thing is, we’re all writing and drawing the same characters. We might place the characters in space, or in a jungle, or in a city, but it’s the same characters every time. It makes every single story or artwork instantly accessible to everyone in the community.

As I flip back and forth between the driven, hardcore people and the relaxed people having fun, I’m really noticing the difference. And I keep asking myself, why? Why is it this way? Is it because the professionals are trying to create a product to sell?

I haven’t cracked this yet, although I’m definitely thinking about it. Participating in a fandom is like having a book series that you can write additional novels for. You’re welcome to it, and there’s lots of people who will read what you write and tell you what they think of it. You’ll never make any money off it, but it’s sure fun.

When you’re a professional, out there creating new products, you’re on your own. Nobody else knows these characters except you. Nobody else cares about the world except you. The only way you’ll ever get to the wide, warm community stage is to write long series over many years. Collect readers like a snowball rolling downhill. Eventually, people will read and interact with your world. But in the beginning, when your world is only one or two books, there’s nothing there yet.

I think a lot of writers burn out early on. They want the big warm community, and they’re not going to get it by only having a few books. They’ve got to craft a world (something speculative fiction authors excel at!), and it’s going to take years. Maybe people don’t realize this when they start out. Everybody wants to be To Kill a Mockingbird. But not everybody is Harper Lee and will hit it out of the park on their first book.

So, I guess the difference between the fanfic community and the professional community is that the fanfic is focused on one intellectual property. And the professional community, EVERYBODY has a small, unpopular IP that they’re trying to build. It’s a much tougher world over there. But the people who stick it out and write a ton of books (GOOD books) are the snowballs who roll the farthest and grow the biggest.

Audiobooks are hard to do

Audiobooks are exploding right now. There’s lots of articles talking about how everybody likes to listen to books on their phones, like this one. Listening to books on your commute is another one. I’m constantly seeing cozy mystery readers who are frustrated that their favorite series aren’t available on audiobook yet (especially people whose eyesight isn’t so good.)

I’ve been tossing around the idea of narrating my own books, for example, my cozy dragon mysteries. They have a female protagonist, and I think it would be a good fit. But I need to practice. So when somebody asked me if I planned to turn my fanfics into audiobooks, I thought, why not?

The fun thing about fanfics is I don’t have to mess with Audible. I can drop them on Youtube without worrying about Audible’s strict sound quality requirements. I can flounder around and make production mistakes and have volume issues and nobody cares because, hey, fanfic.

thunderhead_and_pirate_ship_by_ebineyland-d6ff3yz
Thunderhead and pirate ship by Ebineyland

My hubby gets up at 4:30 AM most mornings for work. I get up with him, and after he leaves, I have about an hour before the kids wake up. Beautiful, beautiful silence. So that’s when I sit and record a chapter, which usually takes about ten minutes. My hubby has a very nice microphone that I commandeer.

I still had a bit of echo after my first few attempts, so I scoured the internet for workarounds. A lot of people record in their closets, where the hanging clothes muffle the sound. My closet is about eighteen inches deep and filled with junk, so that’s not an option. Then I found a podcasting tips website. This podcast is more like a radio drama. They recommended recording with a duvet draped over you and the mic. I tried it, and my background echo vanished. People are so brilliant.

Over the course of several weeks, I recorded all fourteen chapters of a fanfic. I learned to repeat a phrase if I stuttered or coughed or something, which made clipping it out during editing so much easier. I used an old, free version of Adobe Audition. I had used it years ago, when it was Cool Edit Pro, before Adobe acquired it. I know how to use the program well enough to remove background noise and things like that.

Then I actually listened to my recording. Egads, I thought. I’m BORING. I read like a robot. I enunciate very carefully, and I do the voices decently, but the straight narration! It’s so dull! How do professional audiobook narrators pull it off?

Well, the best ones are all actors, for one thing. You’re giving a performance.

I went ahead and posted my boring performance–it’s just a fanfic and it’s good practice–and now I’m starting on a second one. This time I’m trying to be more expressive and really perform. It’s quite a bit harder than just reading!

I thought I’d put this out there for other authors who are considering narrating their own audiobooks. Practice first! What sounds good as you read it may sound pretty dull when you’re playing it back.

Can Christian writers get traditionally published?

Recently a lot of writers in my circles have been evaluating their success (or lack thereof) with publishing. Becky Minor, of the Realm Makers Conference, articulated the question this way:


Many of us have the goal of writing stories with Godly underpinnings, even if the Christian values or themes are not overt. We’d love for our stories to reach beyond “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.

What I wonder is this: do such stories actually have a chance of being traditionally published? Or are they more likely to collect rejections for “lacking freshness” (because the story contains moral absolutes), committing cultural appropriation/exploitation (because an author opted to write outside of the typical American churchgoing experience), being misogynistic (a hierarchy of authority might be headed by male members of a society) , or land on the wrong side of any of a number of hot button thou-shalt-nots?

As you ruminate on the strictures of the both the CBA and the ABA worlds, what is really true about the publishing prospects of Judeo-Christian-leaning speculative fiction?


This launched a discussion with all kinds of opinions. One science fiction writer talked about being told that Anne McCaffery is no longer relevant to the genre:


I think they’re likely to collect rejections, and unfortunately it’s not a failing of quality stories or even a measure of what people will buy or read, but a failing of traditional publishing. They’re so committed to secular humanism and the politics that follow with it that there’s no room for heroes anymore. Their sensitivity readers will wash it all out.

The good news is they keep pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable and tolerable to them into a smaller and smaller box. Just last night I had the trad pub crowd on a fake news site railing on me while I was defending Anne McCaffrey, as they called her a “problematic writer”. No joke. There may not be a traditional publishing in 10 years time if they tell most of the reading population that they’re not wanted.

pern-cover
Dragonriders of Pern, while it does have dragons, is actually science fiction


Another person remarked,


The general market is very open to all of the above as long as the story isn’t clearly “message driven” or “preachy”. It’s all about a good story. I just look at all the great LDS authors like Brandon Sanderson who have theology and/or moral underpinnings in their works. Readers in the general market love it. The authors don’t preach, but their worldview is infused in their stories.

banner-wayofkings-680x310
Cover art for The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson


And then comes the mic drop.



I think too often these musings are just another layer of excuse. I’m certainly not saying that was Becky’s intent here, but it’s something I do see a lot, particularly in culturally/politically like-minded groups. “This story probably won’t sell because the market blah blah blah it’s out of my hands.” And note that the “other side” is wringing their hands over the identical issue. “I can’t sell my story about my black lesbian abortion doctor because it’s too marginal/controversial.” They have the same experiences of rejection which seem to support that view. Neither end of the bell curve can see the other, only the bump in the middle which appears to be the opposite end. We all think we’re being shut out, when in fact there’s an enormous bump in the middle.

But really, it’s very much in your hands. No, you don’t get to make the final buying decision, that’s all on the editor 🙂 but you are 100% responsible for the submission package you send. And most of the time, that’s about your story, not about you.

And in my observation, it’s not as limiting as described above. The limitations are OURS. If a writer can’t write the difference between a male authority character and misogyny, that’s the problem, rather than a cultural conspiracy. Likewise while there are a few cultural appropriation landmines to avoid, the majority of the market is pretty fair and accessible (I’m super-white, and my last traditional short story did not have a single white character and was set in a country I’ve never visited).

I think much of the time, this is the same emotional response I see in myself to the CBA. It’s not what I know and am comfortable with, so I think it’s constrictive, I find it unwelcoming, and I might call it names. 😉 If we look around this group and are very honest with ourselves, we’ll see we are predominantly white, predominantly Republican, predominantly homeschool, etc. But those tribes have NOTHING to do with Christianity, if we really think about it. To say “I can’t sell because I’m a Christian” is a false oversimplification at very best, while to say “I can’t sell my climate-change-is-a-global-conspiracy story to a hard science mag” may be a more accurate assessment.

We don’t have to “sneak” our worldview in. If it’s really our worldview, it’s already in, wholly permeating our story. But we have to keep in mind what our ultimate message is, too. Is our ultimate theme to convert people to a political view or a change in habits? (Hey, that’s a longstanding literary thing, go right ahead, just don’t pretend it’s your *faith* which is holding you back from publishing success.) Or is our ultimate theme a message of love and hope and spiritual redemption? Because that should carry through regardless of male or female characters, cultural setting, politics, etc.

TL;DR: Don’t confuse politics and faith, don’t assume a lack of sales is relevant to faith, consider Occam’s Razor when guessing at cause of rejection (if 95% of secular stories are rejected, yours might be just rejected too rather than the rejection being a specific anti-Christian response).

(Note: somebody is probably going to read this and interpret that I’m recommending a personal sellout to get sales. That’s absolutely not my point at all. That is in fact the opposite of my point.)


After that, the discussion was pretty much over. I thought it was fascinating–the idea that maybe the problem isn’t publishing. Maybe the problem is us.

It made me really evaluate my own writing. I have a faith-based element in the Malevolent books, and their sales are mediocre. It could also be that the YA paranormal romance genre is a hard sell right now. My cozy dragon mystery, which has no religion at all, but lots of nice people being nice to each other, is selling really well. That “permeating worldview” seems to speak more powerfully than writing a sermon.

(All quotes have had the names removed to protect identities. If you would like your message here removed, drop me a line.)

Three years of publishing mistakes

My second-youngest turned three last month. I published my first book while I was in labor with her. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long!

That first book (YA contemporary fantasy) now has three more books in its series. I’ve also written three clean werewolf romance novellas, some short stories, and the first book of a YA paranormal romance. I’ve made a ton of mistakes and learned even more. Here’s some of it:

Spacetime mistakes:

Lousy description: Nobody will read your book if you can’t describe what it’s about. Or if you can’t point out other books or movies similar to yours. I’ve made this mistake multiple times. Fortunately, Amazon made things easier by sticking it in Chosen One Multiversal Adventure.

Muddy genre: The Spacetime books could be urban fantasy–if I had any idea what urban fantasy WAS when I started writing them. I hit a few genre tropes in a scattershot way and pulled in way too many other elements. Alien robots? Werewolves? Ghostly energy beings? Alchemy? Fast cars? Time and space magic? Yeah, the elements are there–I just couldn’t seem to pull it off.

Regency Shifters Romance mistakes:

Genre mistakes: Same deal with the clean werewolf romance. Notice the “clean” part? Yeah, nobody wants that in this genre. They also don’t want historical, and these books are slow. Like, Jane Eyre with werewolves. They’re also too short–fifty to sixty pages each. I love them all, but nobody else does. Ah well, live and learn!

Malevolent mistakes

I started to make progress with Malevolent, the YA paranormal romance. I wanted a creature that had the characteristics of a vampire but wasn’t a vampire. So Mal is a lich who manipulates the energy of life and death itself.

Botched release date: This book was intended to be a trilogy that released over the course of a year. The book hit its intended market and sold pretty well. The trouble was, I had a baby right in the middle. So books 2 and 3 were written–I just couldn’t touch them for most of the following year.

Now both books are revised and awaiting editing. They’re set to launch in spring of 2017. And oh man, are they GOOD. I hope they’re a fresh addition to a vampire-saturated genre.

Malevolent is available on Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the first time! It’s like a new release, and I’m super excited. The cover even got some new bells and whistles–see?

malevolent-cover4

I intended to publish three books this year, but only managed two–Outfoxing the Wolf and Magic Weaver. Malcontent never quite made it, although it’s going through edits right now. It was close! I currently have three finished books waiting for edits: Malcontent and Malicious (books 2 and 3), and a cozy mystery about dragons and ice cream tentatively called Takes the Drake. Coming to a bookstore near you in 2017!

So that’s been my publishing journey. I’ve worked with lots of fantastic editors, artists, and wordsmiths. It’s been such an honor to rub shoulders with people I respect to the point of reverence: Chris Fox and Rachel Aaron and Elizabeth Spann Craig and Joanna Penn. None of them know I exist, but they’ve taught me so much.