On the Query Trenches

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I checked in, and things have been busy!

Last year, I revised Finley’s Fabulous Fun Park, my horror novel set in a world of monsters and centered on a theme park. I’ve been querying it since the fall, which is not as exciting as it sounds. Finley’s is the first novel I’ve ever gotten to this stage, and I’m very confident in its quality, and that makes querying all the more daunting. Here’s this story I’ve poured my heart and soul into, but what if it isn’t good enough? What if despite the rounds of editing and the numerous critique partners and beta readers, it’s not up to snuff?

So far, I’ve gotten several rejections and one full request. That one full request was a lifesaver, a glimmer of hope at the end of this long, long tunnel. Even if nothing comes of it in the end, I can rest assured that my novel is the right fit for someone out there.

I also have new projects underway. Currently, I’m about two thirds of the way through a queer romance novel. This is a fairly new genre to me, as most things I write have some sort of fantasy element and a romantic subplot, rather than being a straightforward romance. But I’m having a great time telling these stories and exploring these characters, and I’m drawing a lot more on things I know with this book. You can check out more information about this book on my Works in Progress page.

On the horizon, I’m drawing up plans for a haunted house book I plan to write over the summer. I never thought I’d enjoy writing horror so much, but it’s such a fun genre. I don’t have a solid outline yet; it’s still in the brewing stage, where I just try to feel out the characters that inhabit this story and general tone and direction of the plot.

On the professional editing side, I had the chance to work on several wonderful projects last year! Check out these releases, currently available: Fury & Flame by H.R. Camarillo and How NOT to Kill Dragons by R. Joy.

I’m looking forward to a great year of reading and writing and editing!

What I wrote this week: Zoo Story: A Romance, August chapters.

What I read this week: Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire; Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid; Joyland by Stephen King; Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel; Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

On Good News

Hello friends!

It’s been a hot second–what can I say? Life got busy. But I wanted to take a moment to announce three pieces of good news.

One: As of this week, I have finished the first draft of Finley’s Fabulous Fun Park. For those of you keeping track, FFFP is a novel set in a world of monsters, and it traces the journeys of Alice Montgomery, who negotiates with a monster for a living, and Gabi Huerta, who is abducted by a monster as a child. As this is a first draft, it’s still pretty rough, but after a quick edit this month, it’s going to my critique groups for further feedback. I’m excited for what’s in store!

Two: Also as of this week, I have begun a new writing project. This is a dark Christmas-themed collaboration, with my dear friend and longtime writing buddy. We came up with the idea, partially as a joke, last December, and this year, we’re making it a reality. It’s shaping up to be a tale of carnivorous reindeer, oppressed elves, and the nature of evil itself.

Three: Dreamers Creative Writing, a wonderful magazine based in Ontario, Canada, is featuring my short story “Post-Mortem” on the cover of their current issue! In their words, this is “a tale of love found, lost, found and lost again. This is a story of survival in a wild world.” I’m so honored to be featured with them! Please check them out, subscribe to their magazine, and order a copy today!

In the meantime, check out this gorgeous cover!

What I wrote this week: “Gabi Avenged;” “Alice Down the Rabbit Hole;” “Alice Makes Her Fate.” Fear the Sleigh Bells, chapter one.

What I read this week: The Mountaintop by Katori Hall; The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk; The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.

On Cats

Hello friends!

A writer’s best companion is not their reader or editor. No, it is their cat.

Hear me out.

Many writers famously had or have feline companions. Some writers, like N.K. Jemisin, thank their cats in the acknowledgements. I thanked my lone cat (at the time) in my master’s thesis. 

So, why cats?

Perhaps surprisingly, cats are the second most popular pet in the United States, as of 2020. Unlike dogs, though, cats require less training and maintenance. I’ve always felt like cats are the introverts of the pet world, especially next to the dog’s extrovert. Because of this, I’ve preferred cats throughout my life, because they match my energy. 

Princesa, sleeping on a kitchen counter in her old age.

I have had four cats in my life. When I was in kindergarten, my family adopted a kitten we named Princesa. She lived with my parents until she was 18, at which point she died peacefully. She was a brat and terrorized every pet my parents tried to have after her. Still, I loved her dearly.

Mimi, tolerating some dress-up.

When I was 11, we got a second cat, my cat, Mimi. She was a feisty little demon who liked to sleep by my feet and would attack me if I ever kicked her by mistake. She unfortunately ran away when I was away at an arts program in high school.

Dobby with his canine friend, Bambina

Five years ago, I met Dobby, and I fell in love. My friend, who cared for him at the time, was looking to rehome him, and after negotiating with my partner, I finally adopted Dobby. To this day, he is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever had, and I spoil him like crazy. He is my handsome boy.

Earlier this year, I adopted Mayday from a rescue, and while she’s still warming up to me, she is Dobby’s best friend. The two of them romp all night, and May will actively cry for Dobby if he’s ignoring her. Shortly after she came home with us, she had to get all of her teeth pulled, so now she’s out sweet, toothless senior kitty.

Madame Mayday, when she still had a couple of teeth.

All-in-all, I’ve had cats in my life for more than 20 years now, and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without them. If you’re a writer looking for an independent furry companion, I highly recommend.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets the Girl;” “Gabi Believes.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

On New Beginnings

Hello friends!

A couple of months ago, I decided I wanted to change career paths. For the last few years, I’ve been a bookkeeper, which is a comfy enough office job and was stable enough to get me through the pandemic without any lapse in pay. However, after finishing my MFA last year, I realized I wanted to really try pursuing something else. I’m still young, so I have lots of time to really figure out what the right career path might or might not be.

Anyway, in the spirit of trying new things, I’ve decided to try my hand at freelance editing. I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy this more than bookkeeping, and that this change will give me more time to work on my own writing. In the meantime, you can find me on Fiverr or shoot me an email through the contact tab to get a quote on editing services. 

I’m excited for this new journey!

What I wrote this week: “Gabi Meets a Monster;” “Alice, Strike One.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter.

On Revision…Again

Hello friends!

Vacation is over, and I’m back to writing. Way back in June, I’d resolved to take a break from working on Kita’s story, and that worked for a bit. However, I’ve taken on a new critique partner and the only thing in good enough condition to send her way is, of course, Scion of Victory. Rather than send her the exact draft I’ve already gotten feedback on from my writing buddy, I decided to do a quick revision of the beginning…again.

Beginnings are tough. You want to pull your reader in and adequately set up your world, too. You want people to get a clear picture of your world (especially in SFF writing) but also not info-dump and bore them. For Scion’s beginning, I’ve tried at least half a dozen different starts. Each time, I’ve thought I’m on the right track, only for my critique partners or beta readers to come back and say it’s not working yet. So I’ve returned to the drawing board again and again. I want Scion to be in the best shape possible, so I’m willing to do the work, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t get damn annoying after a while. Hence the break back in June.

But now, I’m hoping with a few more tweaks this will be the beginning that sticks. I’ve incorporated targeted feedback from my incomparable writing buddy, who’s read this whole manuscript like three times and understands what I need to get across, and my local writing group, who have valuable knowledge on what engages a reader. Now, having a reader with fresh eyes will let me know if I’m really getting there with this beginning. I cannot express how much I hope I don’t have to come up with an entirely new beginning again.

Revising is important, as are the first impressions we get from a book’s beginning. But I am super over rewriting this beginning.

What I wrote this week: Scion of Victory, beginning 4.2; “Alice Underground.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis.

On Breaks

Hello friends!

It’s been far too long since I’ve had a break from life in general, so for the last two weeks I traveled to see some friends and have some fun. I didn’t intend to write very much, but I actually ended up working through awesome blocks and wrote more than I intended to.

Anyway, now I’m back and doubling down. Finley’s story will be incredible.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets an Upgrade,” “Alice Underground.”

What I read this week: Malice by Heather Walter; Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis.

On Joy

Hello friends!

I have the unfortunate tendency to read books that have a more serious (read: tragic) tone. I like to joke with my writing buddy that I don’t do “fun” books, but sometimes I need a break from that doom and gloom. Sometimes I just need to read something light and joyful.

I was in one of these moods recently, and thankfully I found the perfect book to provide that: Jonny Garza Villa’s debut novel Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun. While it had its more serious moments, overall the book filled me with pure joy. I smiled so much, I cried some, I texted my friend about how damn cute it was. I sped through the book, too, and I predict rereads in the future. Reading it honestly made me happier than a book has in a while (which is probably my own fault considering my usual reading choices). 

Sometimes life just needs a bit more joy, and it’s nice to know that there are books out there with the potential to create that joy.

What I wrote this week: “Alice Gets an Upgrade.”

What I read this week: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi.

On Discovery Writing

Hello friends!

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a plotter, and I’m convinced this is the right way to approach novels.

But short stories are an entirely different beast.

When I write a short story, I typically start with an image or a line, and I write from there (or towards there). I don’t outline; I just sit down and write.

I’ve done several short stories this way. Three years ago, I had the image of two women and a girl in a car, driving through the desert and running from something, so I wrote about what they were running from and towards. I wrote and discovered why they had to run.

Another short began with wanting to do a study on setting, and I chose an abandoned mall. I made it the focus of the piece and the backdrop, and I hoped to imbue the setting with a richness I too often forget in my work.

Most recently, a first line popped into my head: “They were shipwrecked on the front lawn. This hadn’t been the plan, of course.” I jotted this down in my phone and let it stew. It sounded like it had to be about children, and I don’t often write about children. But what would happen from the shipwreck? How would children resolve the problems that arose from such a situation?

And that’s how I accidentally wrote a short story on Thursday. It has a more carefree and whimsical feel than most of my work, which is a nice break. It’s also a more omniscient point of view than I like to use, which was a fun challenge. I went in with a line and discovered the story as I wrote, coming up with motivations and character qualities that suited my needs. 

Of course, I’ll need to go back through and do some edits to smooth out the beginning now that I understand the end, but that’s for later. It was simply fun to take a couple of hours and play.

Because if writing doesn’t let you play and have fun, then why do it?

What I wrote this week: “Shipwreck;” “Gabi, Filled with Wonder;” “Alice Gets an Upgrade.”

What I read this week: American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell; The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi; The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi.

On the Evolution of Character

Hello friends!

One of my favorite things about writing is the potential every character has to become so much more.

By this, I mean that I often begin with one sense of a character, and as I continue working on them, they transform into something else. As with a lot of my work, the best example I have of this is in Kita’s story, in Scion of Victory.

The earliest scraps I wrote for this book were all very vague. I was still figuring out my world and the people populating it. The character who’s undergone the most change would have to be Ramint.

In early versions, Ramint acted as a sort of filler character. I needed someone around to react to a thing? Ramint. An orphaned line of dialogue? To Ramint. A task needed to be done? Ramint. Originally, I pictured her as an impressionable young boy, eager to prove himself. As I fleshed out the story more, I realized I needed more female characters, and I wanted a moral compass for the other characters. Ramint filled that need well. In the book’s current iteration, she’s a full-fledged narrator with her own motives, past, and arc. She provides a great contrast to Fahvitt, who is jaded like her but bitter and spiteful. She’s respected by the other characters for her outlook on the world and general optimism. She’s evolved into one of my favorite characters, and fleshing her out more fully has only made her more useful to the story as a whole.

My first full draft of Scion featured Ramint as a side character, and then I realized I needed to make her a narrator in order to better explore her motivations. Once I made that choice, I was able to build her relationships more powerfully, especially her friendship with Fahvitt. I wanted them to have a strong relationship from the start, and their bond only grows over the course of the novel. This benefited both of them individually and as a pair.

Ramint and Fahvitt both have significant arcs in book one now, and those arcs are very different from each other. Where Fahvitt becomes more trusting as he falls in love with Kita, Ramint faces betrayal and hardens herself. However, in exploring their characters more and allowing them the development they deserve, both rise from their tragic situations and become much more than they ever thought.

And to think, at the start I might have denied them that.

What I wrote this week: “Gabi, Filled with Wonder.”

What I read this week: American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell; The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi.

On Plotting and Outlining

Hello friends!

I am, undoubtedly and unabashedly, a plotter when it comes to writing. Outlines are my friend. Names and places are the right way to go. While there’s a time and a place for discovery writing or pantsing, I don’t believe you want to be doing that when it comes to drafting. 

This is why, for the entire month of June, I held off on writing. I pivoted to a new project, but I didn’t write a single chapter. However, I outlined. Like a lot. And planned. And created characters to populate my world. And gave that world quirks and depths and hidden shames.

In the last month, I have outlined a full novel by character arcs (beat sheets!) and by chapter. I’ve titled thirty-something chapters. I’ve named almost seventy characters, most of whom will have little bearing on the story. And I’ve had a blast doing it.

Now, going into July, I’m ready to write this novel over the next couple of months. 

What I wrote this week: Finley plotting and outlining; “Gabi, Filled with Wonder.”

What I read this week: Dreadnought by April Daniels; Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa; American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell.