Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Insecure Writers Support Group!

I'm not back from my blogging hiatus yet, but things are, interesting.

I taught a workshop on brainstorming ideas for stories at my local library (it was awesome). I have had a couple of unplanned book signings, which is always fun. I've been doing the very VERY writerly things, but all the things that make a person feel like a really real writer, you can't talk about. So, I'm knee deep in secrecy, but I have really been enjoying the #secondcivilwarletters. Those have been absolutely golden.

I promise I am well and content will return soon (ish, for some definitions of the word soon).

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Hiatus style

Hey everyone!

Looks like I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging for a little bit.

I have some news, but it's sort of all over the place, so for the moment go with this: if you wanted to order my most recent book in paperback, that's now an option! Click here and order a copy!!

Also, that book is gorgeous, and you'll love having a beautiful copy on your shelf (it looks perfect next to my other books, just sayin'!!)

Other than that, I'm afraid I've got something up my sleeve, and if I stay here for too long, it won't work out. So see you all soon, hopefully with news of one sort or another!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Moving the Posts and something about green

I almost missed Insecure Writer’s support Group!

I’ve been steady on for a long time, and I’m starting to have that feel you get when it doesn’t happen for you. When I started trying to get published and find an agent, I couldn’t have imagined what being where I am now would be like. I’m sitting here with three published novels, news I have to keep quiet about, and things are looking…

Ah, but that’s the problem with goals and the feeling of having arrived: You Always Want More.

I know it gets hard to imagine, but the goal posts in your life are always moving. Sometimes this is subconscious, but sometimes it’s planned. In publishing, it’s a list of steps that we’re told is “The Way” (yes, the scare quotes are necessary there). The steps are: Write the book, Revise the Book into Awesomeness, Query dream agent, SIGN with DREAM agent, SELL BOOK AT AUCTION!!!!! *confetti flies into the air and the words PUBLISHED AUTHOR are permanently displayed above your head so everyone will know you are amazing*

As you might have guessed, this isn’t going to work for most people. I always longed for the day when I would sign with an agent. I watched while trying to control my jealousy as friends got agents. I fumed when books were signed that were similar to mine (quietly and away from the internet), and then I’ve started to see more of something else. More of my friends have parted ways with their agents, or books that had been sold are orphaned as an imprint folds. Great books sit on shelves, not moving. Mediocre books sell like hot cakes (also really great books sell like hot cakes), but there’s no reason to it. There is a solid element of luck in all of this. I love my fairytale version of publishing, but it just isn’t reality. And when one of the things on the fairytale list is one of your goal posts, it gets hard to keep taking yourself and your career seriously (yes, I can totally hear some of you saying “what career, Rena?”) when you don’t hit all the markers (or don’t hit them in the right order).

I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I do know it helps to remind ourselves that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence.

And don't forget to check out the IWSG link and visit Ninja Captain Alex, and this month's co-hosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Like a Machine: an Insecure Writer’s Support Group

This is an IWSG post, and you know the drill: visit Ninja Captain Alex, then jump on the linky.  Be sure to visit this month's cohosts: Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Lately, I’ve been taxed past my normal operating parameters. I sound like a machine because I’ve been working myself into exhaustion and dealing with crap WAY above my maturity level. We pulled up the floor in my house and low and behold, there was a leak…from under the tub. Yeah, a leak at the drain. So we had to rip out the tub, the walls, the sink (which started it all!), and we’ve been furiously working to replace everything.

But wait, there’s more.

Everyone in my house has been through some sort of flu and/or cold.

Yeah, nothing like being sick when the only functioning bathroom no longer contains a working shower (going to the gym for those) or a sink (gotta wash your hands in the kitchen).

And this wasn’t a planned construction project, so it’s not like we saved up.

Also all the adults in my house work full time jobs (mine has 10 hour shifts, joy), and we’re doing all the construction in our off hours.

We hit a design flaw, add two weeks of showering at the gym.

So there I am at the grocery store, shopping the sales hard because I just bought a couple bags of cement and some sheetrock and I hadn’t budgeted a construction project in my post Christmas austerity period, when the stupid card processing pad loses its mind and stops working. A line of frustrated and annoyed grocery shoppers behind me all glaring at me and my malfunction, and someone says “Stupid machines! One spec of dust and they die!”

But I thought machines were the preferred mode. When I’m getting a lot of work done, people say “Wow, you’re like a machine,” but it wasn’t until I was standing in that line that I realized how ridiculous that saying is. Like a machine, implying that machines have some sort of better ability. Admittedly, a machine performing it’s only function will have some great longevity, but only sort of.

Take that stupid card reading machine. My grocery store put the new ones in about 9 months ago. That store is open from 5 am to midnight, and they break the shifts into four hour blocks, so about five four hour blocks a day. Most people work two four hour blocks. So the machines that are already breaking have, for the last 9 months or so, have been working 5 four hour blocks a day, the equivalent of 2.5 full time employees. But they’re breaking at 9 months. So they’re dying after the equivalent of 23 months of full time work. Two years. (Coincidentally, this is how long I budget for my laptops to last because I’m rough on electronics). And those machines didn’t have to go home and deal with all the crap that comes up in the real world. They never have to push through a shift when all they want to do is go home and read a book, or curl up under a blanket and pretend that North Korea isn’t ready to blow up the world. The machines never have to come in to work when their kid is sick. And the machine only does ONE JOB.

The second things aren’t perfect for a machine, it ceases to function. No limping it off, it just dies (well, I guess Opportunity limps, but that’s a super machine with an AI, but even that is pretty limited).

So the next time someone is implying that you’re almost as good as a machine, feel free to remind them of these handy dandy facts:

“I don’t freeze up when a little dust falls on me.”
“I can fix my breakfast then go for a walk.”
“I can work through the drowning emotional pain of loss; my NES froze up any time I played it for more than three hours in a row.”
“My computer won’t turn on if it’s 40 degrees F in the room or colder.”

The only real caveat to this is the Boston company and their freaky door handle opening robots. Those are freaky, but they still have the falling over problem (but, the Boston company is pretty much skynet, so there’s that!).

In short, you’re better than a machine. Now go write like it!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Worried my Best just isn’t Good Enough

I don’t think it’s any secret, I just finished a revision on a project. No one asked for it. No one said “Hey, Rena, you know what would make this better?” I decided to do this thing on my own. I poured myself out into a novel that was probably too broken to receive that level of revision. I probably should have left this book behind.

But I didn’t. Inexplicably, I chose to pour months of work into a novel I thought was broken. I chose to put in more work on the novel that had already received more full requests than any manuscript before. And so I did. I changed characters, I added scenes, I deleted whole chapters. This great bit didn’t work? GONE. This character too unlikeable? Change it. No chemistry? CUT!

I was ruthless. I did my absolute best by this novel in that revision. All I have to do now is proof the new chapters and send it on. It is the very best I can do with that novel at this time.

If I lived in an 80s movie, I’d have a contract, an agent, and someone hounding after the movie rights by the end of my 90 minutes, but alas, this isn’t a movie. In reality, it doesn’t really matter unless that one person falls in love. In short, my very best, may not be good enough.

Ah, the cruelties of reality. I have seen people get agents with books that they thought were cast offs and only sent out query letters because, why not? I’ve seen people toil for years and years, then not have anything to show for it when their book is considered not good enough, new enough, romancy enough. And these are my fears.

But whenever I get to the part where I’m staring down the possibility of retiring yet another project, I look back and ask myself what have I learned from this? Was this all a waste of time?

What I learned is that I have a stubborn streak that will serve me well. I’ve learned that I am capable of things I didn’t think I could do. I didn’t think I could push through. I wanted to quit, but I kept finding the place to do the work. I remembered how to write for me because the idea of leaving my character in a substandard novel when I knew a way to fix it, bugged me. So I fixed it. 

I learned that my other projects will wait. They are beautiful shiny things, but I’m giving this one a shot.

So there it is, three months of editing a novel and it’s within 500 words of the length of the previous version, but I’ve cut and changed ~30,000 words. I really hope it’s good enough, but it’s already making the next book better.

As always, check out Mr. Linky at the Ninja Captain’sHideOut. Say hello and thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Inefficient at being insecure

Like most things I’m insecure about, it turns out that there’s a numb place. At some point, being insecure about everything sort of wears off. I like to think of it more like polishing a piece of wood. The first pass with sandpaper is very rough, lots of grit, and it removes a lot of the bits and pieces we create of ourselves, the things we let go when we’re under ridiculous stress. The next time that stressor comes through, we’ve either built those pieces up again or abandoned them completely, but either way, when the sandpaper comes for us again, there’s a lot less of us that’s sticking out.

If I follow this analogy to the end then we’d have to sort of accept that life just kind of grinds us down, which isn’t exactly true, but at the same time, doing the same task that makes us insecure, eventually the sand paper goes to a finer grit. It’s less abrasive. Sure, it still grinds big chunks away, but it’s still less than before. Do that enough, and it gets less still.

So it’s not that my insecurities are less insecure, it’s that the part of me that worried so hard has been ground away a great deal. I understand the shape of me more, and that causes the loss of my extraneous bits to be, somehow, less painful. In short, for today, many of my writing based insecurities are living in the place that I label “true, but inefficient.”

It’s a nice box to have. I put my fear of public speaking there. I keep my anxiety about work there. It’s just inefficient to spend that much time worrying about some things. I’m trying to move my social media presence into that box, but I don’t think I’m going to manage that, we’ll see.

How about you, do you have a place like that? Or are you a completely awesome person without insecurities?

As always, be sure to check out the Ninja Captain Himself, Alex and his co-hosts today are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Compulsory New Year Post

I know, that title makes it sound like I’m a little bit under-enthused on the matter, and let me just clear that up right now: I am happy to leave the past in the past, but I’m suspicious of the optimism people express with the coming of a new year.

2017 was a hard year for me. It was good in many ways. It was BAD in many others.
2016 was a hard year for me. It was good in many many ways. It was horrifying in many others.
2015 was a hard year for me. It was amazing in many ways. It was terrible in many ways.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Every year has some good and some bad. Most years have a mix, and some tip one direction more than others. Sometimes the things we perceive as being terrible actually turn out to be really good for us.

2017 was hard in ways I still find difficult to talk about. I lost one of my dogs the day before the new year. I lost my other dog the day we swore in a president who has thus far shown himself to be very unconcerned for anyone who isn't male, white and rich, and I’m not very optimistic about the trajectory of our nation. Never have so few controlled so much. I am hopeful that in 2018 we will be able to express to our leaders that they do work for us, and this ridiculous destruction of our nation will not be tolerated. For this, I am cautiously optimistic.

I accomplished things in 2017 I hadn’t expected to. I finished a novel that had been giving me fits for years. I edited three other novels and published a fourth. It was a good, if slow, year for writing. I went to my first ever writer’s retreat, my first ever writer’s conference, and joined SCBWI for the first time. A lot of firsts for me.

I started to produce art projects again. I participated in my local Pastels in the Plaza. I entered paintings and drawings into the local fair.

So, on a personal level, I have persevered in the face of terrible adversity. I have tested my mettle and found it strong. I have wanted to quit all the things, but somehow, I keep going.

In 2018, I want to keep on keeping on. I am always frustrated that my art forms are not truly great (in my own opinion). I never quiet have the depth I hope for (probably because I’m always picking up totally new art forms, be it writing in new genres or deciding to sculpt Christmas gifts), and this year is the year I would like to add depth to my craft. I want to take my writing to the next level, and I want to take my art to something more (well, you know more than I think that stuff is cute, funny, or whatever). 

So, hopefully, this year will go well.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thoughts on the Last Jedi: This contains Spoilers

Okay, so I’m going to write a post below these words and it’s going to contain spoilers. However, because I am a kind and generous soul, I’m going to give you a lot of space between this intro and Spoiler land.

I feel like the saddest girl in sad town.
Luke has always been there in my mind. I loved the movie, but I wanted Luke to join the league of Badass Old Dudes, you know, with Uncle Iroh, and Sifu the sword master.
On the other hand, Yoda’s words could have been written just for me. As in, I needed to hear those words, that failure is a teacher, not an ending. Mistakes were made, and we have to move on. That’s big stuff, and it’s big stuff that I needed to hear. But at what cost??? Why do the masters always go just when they reach enlightenment? It’s like there’s no room in the mortal realm for such powerful understanding.

Okay, enough of the navel gazing, on to the good stuff:

I love me some using a spacecraft to do things it’s not supposed to, and that was brilliant. Even more brilliant for the use of sound in that moment. A+
My favorite image is the moment of Luke standing in front of the At-Ats.
I loved that they let the droid drive some things.
I appreciated that they gave Luke an opportunity to come full cycle.
I’m enjoying Kylo Ren’s ascension to darkness.
I’m pleased that Rey is like “I’m not just a badass, but I’m more of a badass than Luke was at this stage in his training.”
I love that Leia got to use some Force Stuff, because Space Mom is Awesome.
I am completely down with how many women there were with speaking roles in this movie! Amazing! LOVE IT!
Middle Trilogy movies are always so difficult, but this one worked as a story. I can sense the next one will destroy me emotionally.

In short: I loved it. I loved it’s message. I loved the battle scenes. I enjoyed the humor. I LOVED the imagery (cinematography was ON POINTE!). Will see again, probably in theaters. WOW. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Insecure about self-made barriers

Don't forget to check out all the other Insecure Writer's Posts at Ninja Captain Alex's blog, hop on the Linky and thank this month's co-hosts: Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

This has been a heck of a year for me professionally and personally. On the writing side, I’ve done more new things than ever before.

I joined SCBWI
I went to a writer’s retreat
I went to a writer’s conference
I went to a class visit

All of these were terrifying to me, but I went and did them anyways. And, I didn’t die. I’d even be willing to do repeats on all of them. But the funny thing about these items were these were all items on my list of markers that denoted a “real author.” These were all things I had seen other writers posting about and feeling jealous about. And, like most things viewed from the outside, they are different once you do them.

I’m a little suspicious of Moving Target Syndrome, the sensation that you long for a thing, but once you achieve the thing, you long for something else to feel gratification. I’ve experienced this before with writing, and well, it’s real. But somehow these markers were a litter different:

I was the one lurking in the shadows not joining SCBWI for more than a year after publishing—you can join at any time, by the way! I just hadn’t felt worth it, somehow. Going to a writer’s retreat was amazing because there were people at literally every stage. There were people with multiple books, people with agents and sales, people with agents and no sales, people with no agent, and people who had never written a book. It was awesome. And that was another barrier I had given to myself, thinking that I needed to be wildly successful to participate in that.

I could go on (the class visit was fun, and I’ve taught a lot, so I already knew how to handle a group). My point is, these markers of success that I had were all things I could have done years ago, but I felt too much like an imposter to do them. If you can learn one thing from my fail, please learn this: if you’re writing, wherever you are in the journey, don’t write yourself out.

Anyone else suffer from False Barrier Syndrome?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Widow of Papina Reveal!

Widow of Papina
Katie Hamstead
Published by: Soul Mate Publishing
Publication date: December 2017
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance

Forrest and Braydon Miller moved to the small town of Papina to follow their dreams and start a family. Braydon loves her new life in the quiet town, kept alive by the prestigious boarding school overlooking the valley. She is so proud of her husband’s work, helping the teens on the reservation.

Until one day, Forrest doesn’t come home.

Scandal spreads when it’s discovered that one of the teenagers is missing, too. But, Braydon refuses to believe her husband would leave her. When the teen is found, she isn’t talking–literally.

While Braydon’s heart is breaking, she must hold her crumbling life together, raise her son, trust in the Sheriff’s loyal, and ever-growing devotion, and find a way to love the MUTE teenager enough to discover the truth of what happened to her husband.

Add to Goodreads

Author Bio:

Born and raised in Australia, Katie's early years of day dreaming in the "bush", and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.
After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.
She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing.
When her debut novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, climbed into bestselling status, she believed she was onto something, and now has a slew of novels now available, and is published through Curiosity Quills Press, Soul Mate Publishing, and REUTS Publishing.
Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports, and be a good wife and mother. She now works as an Acquisitions Editor to help support her family. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Prom, Magic, And Other Man-Made Disasters: a Book Birthday!!

Today, I have unleashed my book onto the world:

Before Tessa can confess her feelings to her long-time crush, he beats her to the punch and confesses his love—for her best friend, Maria. Missing the crush of her dreams and her stag wingman for prom, Tessa’s on the prowl to make it a night to remember, and for more than the humiliation. Determined to not be the only dateless girl at the prom in Small Town USA, she asks the new guy. He has all the qualifications of a fun date: polite, mysterious―pulse―but the way Sean talks about magic like it’s real could ruin the illusion. But desperate times call for desperate dates.

To make matters awkward, Maria insists on double-dating for the pre-prom dinner. When a wizard shows up and kidnaps Maria, things go from jealous to deadly before the cummerbunds hit the floor. He’s mistaken Tessa’s friend for a powerful mage whose blood could help him conquer his world, but he’s got the wrong girl. Using the wrong blood wouldn’t make Maria any less dead, and Tessa has no plans to let some whack-job villain from another dimension murder her best friend. Working with Sean, she tracks the wizard to his home, a land filled with strange creatures, stranger customs, and a five-hundred year grudge match between three nations ready to explode into all out war.

Tessa’s starting to think she has a chance against the wizard so long as she has Sean by her side, but his kind words and sweet smile aren’t what they seem. He’s the wizard’s son.

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to Goodreads.

(Paperback versions available soon!)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Things I love: The Jack edition

This is Jack:

Yes, he's a cat

No he shouldn't be up there.

Note how much he cares about where he should or should not be

He likes to join in

And yes, he has a natural habitat:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ragnarok: Things I love, now Spoiler Free!

I went and saw Thor: Ragnarok this weekend, and I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a fun romp, almost exactly as advertised. There is no romance (it's been replaced by the buddy feels), and it was always entertaining enough to keep my inner curmudgeon from raising it's head. Were there plot holes? Yes. Did they play gags? Yes. But it was fun. I cannot stress how awesome it is to have fun.

The interesting part is that it felt like the first Avengers movie.

I'd go see it again. Heck, I'd go pay to see it again.

Any thoughts? Any haters? No spoilers in the comments please, but if you want to have a longer discussion, you can always @RenaTheWriter and we can keep it going there (where I will talk to people in 280 characters, practically a novel, really!).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

But teenagers aren't like that! An IWSG post

I think the thing I’m most insecure about is ever connecting with my audience and who that audience might be.

I am constantly under the attack of “that’s not what teenage girls are like.”

I think that’s my favorite statement ever. I love it because it seems to always come from men, but also because it completely ignores the fact that there’s no one thing that teenage girls are like. If you had fifty teenage girls in the same room, yes there are going to be some commonalities, but there’s going to be a huge spread about what they like and what they want to do. More importantly, there’s going to be a huge spread about who they think they are.

Caveat: I say think because the first encounters you have with college and adult life afterwards sometimes destroy who you thought you were in highschool. And sometimes, it only hardens it. One of my favorite quotes after coming back from college was that someone said “Wow, you haven’t changed a bit.” To which I replied, “I’ve changed a lot!” And the kind person said, “I know, but you’ve become so much more you than before!”

I digress. My point is that people are different and they have different desires. When I was in high school, there was this terrible choice you had to make: You could either be tough and sporty—able to change your own tire and throw a pass—or you could like pretty things. I see now that it was just another way for society to try to change me into a less powerful version of myself by letting me be tough, but denying me something that I really wanted.

As an adult, I see that it was a falsehood. Who would have stopped me from wearing pink fingernail polish while changing sparkplugs? Would the fashion police have stopped me if I’d worn a cute dress before the game? (okay, well, after the game, that might not have been as practical, but still). My point is I liked to do things where you got your hand dirty AND I liked pretty things.

This is something that I try to write into my characters, but it’s really hard because I’m constantly up against the “but teenage girls aren’t like that.” It’s something that I’m always insecure about. I’m always checking myself, when I start up a new character, are teenage girls like this?

And then I remember how I was forced to choose, how society didn’t seem big enough for my peers to not tease me mercilessly for have diametrically opposed likes. How could I possibly like fingernail polish and soccer? They teased me when I dressed nice. They teased me when I painted my nails. They told me I wasn’t taking my sports seriously enough.

It was all a lie.

Every scrap of it.

So when people tell me that “teenage girls aren’t like that,” I tell them to fly a kite. My only concern is that when you write a book with a character like the person I was, constantly rubbing against the grain of what others want you to do, it can be hard to find my audience.

Because my audience are the people who are still struggling with who they are and what they like and how life has pigeon holed them into “but that’s not what teenage girls are like.” I know there are people out there who are struggling, but trying so desperately to fit in, and I’m worried that their trying so hard to fit in makes them close off to the things they might actually love. And those people are my audience. I’m literally trying to reach the kids who are hiding who they are because they fear being called out the same way I was called out. In short, the people who might literally be afraid to pick up my book for fear of not fitting in.

Whelp, if you made it this far, fantastic! Consider hopping on the link and checking out the Ninja Captain himself, Alex! And a special thank you to this month’s co hosts: Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Things I love: The FLASH

Now let’s be clear, if we’re talking about the DC universe, my favorite has always been Green Lantern (though, Wonder Woman is making a heck of a comeback!), but Flash is a close second. And the Flash on CW has been no disappointment!

So yeah, I’m totally loving this TV show, and I have a hard time getting into TV shows (I blame the cancelling of Firefly and the wishy washy handling of the end of Babylon 5).  But why do I love The Flash?

I find there are some tropes that I love coming back to (super hero loses power, friend rescued, betrayal of teacher figure, magical girl transformation), so as you can see the first season absolutely played in my wheelhouse. Season two played it strong as well. For me, the weakest season so far was season three (with a few notable high points), but I suspect my not enjoying season 3 was that I have a hard time with the self fulfilling prophecy trope, which was played on REALLY big for the whole time. I have my fingers crossed for Season 4. 

Alright, this one’s just a short post because I’ve got some writing work to do (OMG, Less than a month before my next book comes out!!!!!). 

What TV shows are you into? What's are your favorite tropes in stories?