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 There is no romance (it's been replaced by the buddy feels), and it was always entertaining enough to keep my inner curmudgeon from raising it's head.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!).
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
There are fires all around, and luckily, many of them are
starting to be controlled by the relentless work of some amazing fire fighters.
The pictures are stunning. At one point, I was close enough to see the flames
in action (at night), and the fire is both terrifying and beautiful in person. It
is a force of nature, like the veil slipped open and spilled something uncanny
on the world.
I’ve been struggling with what to write since last week when
it started. I spent last week with my ear glued to a scanner, trying to follow
the progress of the fire and the efforts to contain it. Lately, I feel guilty.
It is a form of survivors guilt because everyone I know is safe, and my
families’ homes are all okay. I sigh with relief, but there are hundreds of others
whose houses burned down. My heart breaks for them. They are my co-workers, my
neighbors, people I went to school with. It is horrible.
The stories that are coming out of these fires are harrowing
to say the least. Fire is terrifying. Wildfire is like a march of demons set to
destroy the world, and this one moved so fast, just so so fast.
I had started the month doing a bunch of #inktober drawings,
but now, all I can seem to muster is fire paintings. I don’t think I’ll be
sharing those any time soon.
There’s rain in the forecast, and I can honestly say, I’ve
never hoped for rain more.
I'll be back to my normal schedule soon, but in the meantime, stay safe people.
I once wrote about where I find the time to write. I said I
didn’t look through my pockets to find loose time. I said it had to be stolen,
pilfered, and sacrificed to the god of words.
I’m clearly not making the right sacrifices lately. My word
counts have been REALLY low this year. I finally drew a line in the sand and
said “enough.” I went to a retreat and pounded out 11,000 words to finish a
book I started in 2014, (a small miracle as far as I can tell), but since that
retreat, I haven’t been able to just sit down and make the magic.
I worry that I’m broken.
I worry that the magic is gone.
I listen to podcasts and they talk about writing exercises
and I despair at ever having enough time to write those exercises to try things
on. How would I find the time?
And that’s when I realize I’ve caught myself in a trap.
Doing a writing exercise is a literal act of improving the craft for the sake
of improving my craft. If I can’t improve my craft prior to writing a book (or
the second draft of said book) then how will I write a better book? Yes, all writing
moves a writer in the direction of better writing, but sometimes, you need to
spend a couple dozen pages of words figuring out a character. It’s worth the
time to hone the craft before diving into the words, as the choice is really
write it better the first time, or rewrite it, it seems more efficient to take
the time out of my writing schedule to work on the elements of craft.
But my writing schedule has been insanely tight with edits
and proofs, and marketing plans.
So, I’m insecure about the fact that I’ve been writing and
publishing and I feel like there is SO MUCH to learn, and I’ve been blithely
sending books off into the world without these elements. Which isn’t true, they
were just there without me having to think about them because my betas stuck
them in, or my editors pushed me to write those things in. But it’s time to
What about you, dear reader? Do you feel like you have the
time to work on craft as well as piling on the word count?
I’ve decided that it’s time for my internet version of me to
start lining up a little bit more with the real me.
Wait, Rena, you LIED to us???
Oh, gosh, internet, how quickly we jump to conclusions. No.
I haven’t lied. In fact, I’ve been super duper cautious to never lie on the
interwebs (the Easiest to Fact-Check place ever). But, I have left certain
things out. Like lots of things. I've spent a lot of my online existence trying not to "offend the wrong people" and I'm starting to realize, that's just silly. Who am I going to offend? My readers? My opinions are in my books! All writing, at some level is autobiographical, so it stands to reason many of my opinions have already been heaped on my readers. And many of my opinions are downright silly (Yes, I love Sailor
Moon, and No, I don’t see a problem with how often she gets saved by Tuxedo
Mask. She saves his buns a lot too. A LOT! That’s what we call partnership.
Also, he’s never bummed out about being rescued by a girl, so in some ways, it’s
pretty girl positive, but I digress).
To that end, I'm going to run a bit of a series this fall to get back into the swing of blogging. This series is going to be pretty simple: Things I love, enjoy, or am generally obsessed about. Expect a lot of book and movie reviews, lots of talk about painting and museums, and some pictures.
I want to talk about the things that make me really excited,
and right now, it’s Fall.
I LOVE FALL. It is easily my favorite time of year. I know
people like the other seasons, but I’m all about Fall. I love turning leaves
and grass getting green again (yeah, I live in California, and our wild grasses
go blond for the summer, but with the coming rains of fall, they green up
again). I love how the days can’t decide and start with frost that melts into
day with skies blue like glacier, but a sun bright enough to cut your eyes. I
love the stars of fall, turning overhead to the great lanterns of winter,
guiding us (in my melodramatic feels) through the darkness.
I love Halloween, and only wish that we could celebrate it a
And yes, I even love pumpkin spice latte. I know, I’m a
walking cliché, but there it is. I love Fall. (Spoiler alert, I also really dig
Son Of A Pitch Entry #1: Title: FROM SMOKELESS FIRE Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy Word Count: 90,000
Query: When Zahara floats up from a lamp in Daniel Goldstein's NYC apartment, she's a jinn with her own wish: fulfill an easy request from a modern-day sorcerer and trick him into eternal servitude.
Zahara's never been able to live up to her infamous mother's demonic expectations, and a binding magical contract that guarantees her a human thrall would be just the thing to impress her family. But newbie magician Daniel, whose Moroccan grandmother has reached out from beyond the grave to command him to raise a jinn, wants to do good—to the tune of stopping two fallen angels bent on revenge against humanity. Daniel and Zahara end up on the run in Morocco, dodging paranormal mercenaries and bumbling terrorists, while trying to foil a massacre that will rip open the barrier between the jinn and human worlds and plunge the two sides into a devastating war. As Zahara and Daniel try to keep their friends close, they end up discovering their enemies are even closer.
First 250 Words: Coming out of the lamp was such a rush. One minute Zahara was nothing but vapor, swirling in the icy storms of the last level of hell. The next, she streamed out into the mundane air of the human sphere. Her flesh solidified into a floating upper torso, while her lower body remained only a tail of black flames licking up around the brass vessel used for the summoning.
And what flesh it was.
Zahara pinched back her shoulder blades and posed with her hands on her hips to better accentuate her breasts. They were huge, because she liked her first impression to be a lasting one.
The resounding crack of thunder that marked the transition into the world of man faded away. With a fanged smile, she faced the sorcerer who had dared to call her, the most notorious jinnayah this side of Baghdad.
"Behold. It is I, Zahara, Dread Spirit of the Endless Desert." She’d made that up on the spot, and it sounded great. "I have journeyed, O Child of Mud and Dirt, from the land of smokeless fire to your dreary realm. What do you call yourself, and what is it you demand of me?"
She had decided to put as much formality into her speech as possible, to further impress upon him how fortunate he was to have summoned such a powerful jinn to do his evil bidding. Not too traditional, of course, since she was speaking in flawless English, not classical Arabic.
Title: SENESTRE Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy Word Count: 93,000
Ten-year-old bastard Maleficent (renamed Senestre for this retelling) is painfully aware that she should never have been born. Her mother is hell-bent on revenge against the Vesii who abducted her when she was just a teen. If Senestre can’t prove herself valuable to her mother’s quest, she won’t live to turn eleven. When Senestre’s gift for magic flares to life during her testing ritual, she escapes death at her mother’s hands only to find herself embroiled in a convoluted plot against her will.
As she grows, so do her powers. Soon she surpasses all the other Wise Women in her village in both strength and skill. Hungry for more, she secretly learns the spells that are reserved for male magicians, hoping the knowledge will keep her safe—maybe even earn her mother’s love. But all the magical power she possesses isn’t enough to protect her mother and sisters from the brutality of life in the village. When her mother dies at the hands of a lecherous warrior, sixteen-year-old Senestre dedicates herself to vengeance in her mother’s name.
Blinded by hate, she sets in motion a tangled plot that she does not fully understand. Determined to prove her worth, she carries out her mother’s strange last wish and curses an unknown baby girl to die. Only when she comes face to face with Aurora on the princess’ sixteenth birthday will her mother’s plot—and its price—become clear.
First 250 Words:
My eyes darted to the bedroom window. The sun hung halfway below the horizon—I’d almost run out of time. “Please help me. You know how awful the testing is.”
My fingers tightened around the lump of hard brown bread I held out to my half-sisters. Rhea and Starling eyed the bribe from the corner where they crouched, swallowing as hunger made their mouths water. I swallowed too—I’d scrimped the bread from my own meager dinner.
“All I’m asking is if you’re up first, wake me. That’s it. I know I can’t get out of the testing tomorrow, but maybe I can avoid being scared awake.” I shivered. “That’s the worst part.”
I took a step forward and stretched my hand out further, emboldened at a hint of a sympathetic nod from little Starling. Fabric rustled behind me. I froze.
Wren darted into the room and snatched the bread from me. Clutching her prize to her chest, she glared at Rhea, the only one of our sisters large enough to challenge her. But Rhea suddenly found the sunflower-colored braid circling Starling’s head fascinating. Wren relaxed. She raised the chunk of bread to her mouth and tore off a bite.
My own mouth watered. The others watched as intently as a flock of birds hoping for crumbs. I should have known none of them would brave the Woman’s wrath for me. Unless I could come up with another plan, I’d have an empty belly followed by a terrifying morning.
Title: The Unbroken Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy Word Count: 108,000
Query: Catori is a peasant. She grew up picking flowers to sell in the streets of Mennos’ main cities and she’s served ale to many a lord in her home town’s tavern. But this barmaid has a dangerous hobby. To protect herself and her family, Catori’s picked up the art of swordplay. Her skill with her blades has earned the admiration of passing travelers, including some with hidden ties to powerful families.
When war breaks out following an orc invasion, Catori knows she must help. She leaves her infant son under the patronage of a noble family and joins the Mennosi auxiliary, where she begins to rise through the military ranks on the recommendation of a mysterious hero. Soon she stands at the head of a broken and neglected army against the might of a massive orc army. But enemies lurk under the guise of support. Catori will need friends old and new to end a brutal war and keep her son out of a feud that could end his life.
First 250 Words: Bitter’s body was lying on a table inside his tent, the same table that only a day before had been covered in various papers including her last letter to him, creased and worn as if he’d read it repeatedly. His armor had been removed and was hanging on a post beside him, just waiting for him to get up and pull it on. It looked almost as if he were sleeping but for the noticeable pallor in his skin and the deep, bloody wound in his stomach.
Catori stood just inside the tent, staring. This was the man she loved, the father of her child, the man she was supposed to marry. No—it was his body, but the man had gone. She was half afraid to move closer, as though doing so would cement his death forever, but the lure of him was too strong. It had always been too strong.
With slow, hesitant steps Catori stepped closer. Fresh tears welled in her eyes as she gazed down at her lover. He didn’t look like the Bitter she had known and loved, but it was unmistakably him. His pale skin lacked any color now and his lips were turning grey. Someone had closed his eyes, thankfully. She didn’t think she could handle him staring up at her, unseeing. She reached out and touched his cheek lightly. Yes, he was real. His skin was cool to the touch.
Son Of A Pitch #4: Title: FLESH AND INK Category and Genre: YA Fantasy Word Count: 87,600
Query: When the blue stains growing on her stomach are exposed, 17 year-old Lilivan knows she must abandon her dream apprenticeship as a holy inker-of-flesh. Only enemies of the Goddess bear these stains.The church’s soldiers will kill her for her marks and sentence her family, even her favored sister, Naoma, to a life of servitude.
On the run from the church, Lilivan tracks down a hidden sanctuary for those who bear stains like hers. There, she learns the church lied. Her stains are a blessing, marking her as a wielder of non-church magic. The church uses earth magic and seeks to eradicate all who possess magic they can’t control.
Protected in her new home, a nightmarish vision awakens Lilivan—the church has trapped Naoma and is draining her earth magic and her very life. If Lilivan wants to save her sister, she must embrace her new powers and the elemental beings she once shunned as evil spirits. But first, she must win her freedom from a sanctuary that doesn’t think she’s ready to leave.
First 250 Words: The window above the sink lit the half-subterranean kitchen a little too well. When I raised my arms after dinner to put a plate away, my ill-fitting shirt exposed more than just my light-brown stomach.
I’d grown careless since the blue stains first appeared on my stomach two years ago. The dark-brown dye I used to conceal the marks was currently faded and patchy. I should have permanently inked over them.
“Oh, Holy Goddess!” Papa's face paled as a mug slid from his fingers and splashed into the sink. “Demon-stains, Liligirl?”
I shoved the plate onto the shelf and yanked my hem down.
“Papa, I didn't do anything,” I said, breaking into a cold-sweat, “I swear, by Domina Earth, the Goddess Nelopai Herself!”
Papa had to believe me. No matter what the church said, the stains had arrived like acne right after my fifteenth birthday. They weren't heralding some imaginary deal I’d made with demons. Despite my prayers, the angular cobalt-blue stains spiraling out from my navel had spread. They now brushed my sides, contrasting against my rounded belly when I neglected to cover them in nut dye. Maybe the myths were true, the Goddess couldn’t hear the prayers of the soulless.
My dream apprenticeship as a holy inker-of-flesh had seemed a chance at redemption for whatever I’d done to deserve the stains. How could a soulless one have been allowed to perform such a sacred task? For over a year I’d been doing dye prep and touch-ups on the faithful.
Son Of A Pitch #5 Title: IMMUNITY HUNTER Category and Genre: YA Fantasy Word Count: 98,000
Query: Two years after Sasame’s parents were devoured alive by undead mutants known as Konadai, she joined an agency that helped turn her grief into revenge. Now an Immunity Hunter, seventeen-year-old Sasame kidnaps those who are immune to the Konadai virus. Her victims are harvested for their blood and bones by the agency so they can create a stronger antidote.
Although the work tears at her conscience, Sasame trusts her boss, Omi, and his belief that this is the only way to save her island city.
Then she meets Konan, a persistent teen working with a group fighting to figure out why people are vanishing. His passion and dedication to the city reel her in, but she fights her attraction to him—connections lead to distractions and heartache. Eventually, Konan’s constant interference breaks down her guard and Sasame uses his attention to distract from the madness.
Her weakness angers Omi. His Immunity Hunters are well-oiled machines, and a petty romance is a distraction he won’t tolerate. After forcing her to watch the murder of another agent's girlfriend, Omi presents Sasame with a choice: kill Konan to prove her loyalty to the cause, or be killed herself. First 250 Words: Prey comes in different forms. Luckily for me, my target is an idiot.
With his face glued to that small, bright screen, this will be an easy hunt. Forget sneaking—short of yelling his name, he won’t notice me.
I follow him past decorated storefronts and dull office buildings. The faint scent of pastries and coffee still lingers in the midnightair. Sakura trees line the sidewalks a few feet apart. Pink and white petals give pleasant color to the concrete surroundings.
Downtown is deserted this late at night. Few people live close to the oversized buildings towering just high enough to see the top of the concrete wall surrounding our city. And around this time, most people are locked safely away in their cozy beds. They prefer living in the smaller homes in quiet neighborhoods and farmland.
Anything to avoid reminding themselves of the outside world.
Usually, my prey takes the time to enjoy the lasting smell of baked goods and the blossomed sakura, or at the very least, care. But this guy refuses to turn around or take his eyes off the screen. I could’ve taken him down at any point during this seemingly endless trek through the empty downtown streets, but his attentiveness to the phone intrigues me. How can someone get attached to something so trivial?
Irritation rushes over me—both from the fool I was sent to capture and the too-tight bra strap cutting into my shoulder. Then it hits me.
Son Of A Pitch #6 Title: Odriel's Heirs Category and Genre: YA Fantasy Word Count: 90,000
Query: As the Dragon Heir, seventeen-year-old Kaia inherited the power of flame to protect her homeland from a demon Necromancer’s resurrected army of Lost. But after centuries of peace, the ancient Necromancer has faded to myth, and the Dragon Heir’s formidable power is feared by normal folk. Persecuted as a child and cast out by paranoid villagers, Kaia struggles to embrace and control her seemingly useless gift while confined to her family’s secluded sheep farm.
When the Necromancer’s Lost terrorize the land once again, the elder Dragon Heir, Kaia’s father and mentor, calls for her to join him in battle. Kaia leaps at the chance to escape exile and seek adventure. It doesn’t take long though before Kaia learns just how unprepared she is to battle not only demons, but the prejudiced Okarrians she's sworn to protect. When Kaia’s father sacrifices himself to his sadistic nemesis for Kaia’s freedom, Kaia is sucked into a downward spiral of despair and doubt.
With her father dead, the handsome but unsympathetic Shadow Heir and a snarky, cursed cat offer their aid. The three reluctant companions cross the land to intercept the Necromancer’s impending army before he engulfs the land in darkness. On the way, Kaia must figure out how to regain control of both her confidence and her fire in time to save Okarria. If Kaia is to protect her home, she will have to embrace the gift that has always tormented her. If she fails, she will sacrifice her family, her new friends, and the enchanting world she has only just begun to see.
First 250 Words:
The brave, empowered with fire,
Raged like a dragon.
The cunning, veiled from the world,
Walked like a shadow.
The gentle, blessed with life,
Healed like time itself.
Burning rivulets of blood and sweat stung his eyes. Torn boots sunk deep into loose sand. Muscles cramped with ruthless intensity. Legs buckled in near collapse. Deep in a fugue of despair, Guardian Jago Brigg was only dimly aware of these difficulties as he grunted under the load of his father's broken body. With grim determination, he lurched forward in a wobbling trot to flee the carnage behind him.
Dirty smoke, stinking of charred flesh, billowed into the desert night. Cackling flames towered in searing pillars that cast an orange pall across the sky. Amid the fire and smoke, a cacophony of agonized screams, panicked shouts, and desperate pleas rose above it all.
Jago shifted the body on his shoulder and glanced back at the chaotic ruin of Moorvale. In truth, the Lost had taken the village before the Time Heirs had even arrived. Nonetheless, the Heirs had fought alongside the townsfolk, healing as many as possible in a futile bid to forestall the inevitable. When the Lost breached the hall in a savage rush, Jago's father was caught with his yanaa completely spent. Surrounded by a horde of howling Lost, his father held them off for only a few moments before disappearing under their frenzied attack. When Jago finally fought his way to his father’s aid, the horde had moved on.
Title: The Girl in Man's Armor Category and Genre: YA (High) Fantasy Word Count: 88.000
Query: Seventeen-year-old Dalila has no friends of her own and is desperate to marry soon. Her older brother Don is called off to fight in a war against foreign invaders. Because Don is a devoted husband and expectant father, Dalila feels like her brother has too much to lose and leave behind, while she sees herself as a girl of little worth. So, she disguises herself as her brother to go to war in his stead.
General and Prince Kazim is excited to meet the skilled warrior Don Bau. Determined not to reveal her inexperience, Dalila starts training immediately. Favored by the gods, the god of war himself - known as Heru - grants her mastery of the bow and arrow, as well as the sword, helping her win Kazim’s trust. But Heru has plans for her in this war.
But when the camp is ambushed by Kashian soldiers, Dalila freezes in fear and even her new fighting skills can’t keep herself and the other soldiers – including Kazim - from being captured. The goddess of magic then comes to her aid, telling Dalila that she has her own combat magic that could save both her and the prince. If she manages to waken and master it.
Meanwhile, the country of Medea remains vulnerable without its prince. If Dalila doesn’t help the prince escape from the enemy camp soon, the invaders could destroy everything she loves. But in order to do so, she will have to learn to believe in herself and see her own worth, so that her magic may awaken.
First 250 Words:
When the night began, I had expected it to be full of old women, not foreign soldiers. After all, the war took place in the borderlands, which was at least a day’s travel from where we lived. And our prince and his elite warriors kept the enemy away from the mainland.
Caressing worn leather in my hands, I inhaled the humid jungle air and listened to the thump of our horse’s hooves. Wooden wagon wheels clattered against the sandy road.
The blazing heat dried my throat and soaked my lower back. The strong rosy fragrance of Nana’s overwhelming perfume made it impossible for me to know if I smelled as bad as I felt.
I gripped the reins, my hands slick with sweat. Shades of green, brown and beige blurred the edges of my vision as we rode past.
I thought the scene would make for a great painting and regretted not taking some papyrus, paint and brushes with me on this journey. Although I doubted Nana would have allowed me to take a break from the ride to paint the scenery.
The passage through the jungle was tight, and we were unable to see too far ahead. I kept looking around as though I was being watched, but it was just the drooping branches touching my shoulder. My horse Monifa was skittish, too, and it made guiding the wagon through the thick underbrush even more difficult.
Son Of A Pitch #8 Title: THE SILVER GATE Category and Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy Word Count: 95,000
Query: When 17-year-old Nora gives CPR to a stranger on the beach, ancient magic awakens in her blood, making her a target of the goddess of magic. Her plan to finish senior year, leave her hometown, and escape the terrifying visions that haunt her when she is there shatters when her parents reveal she is half-magical shapeshifter, from a hidden land where gods, magic, and mythical creatures exist.
Rule number one when living a double life is don't get caught, but Nora finds herself distracted by a new student who can hear her thoughts. She tricks him into revealing he is also a shapeshifter in hiding.. They’re drawn to each other but fear the gods may be using them as pawns.
To make matters worse, Nora begins dreaming of a stranger killing everyone she loves, one-by-one. The stranger, working for the goddess of magic, will make Nora’s nightmares a reality unless she complies with his demands. Nora must decide if she is strong enough to protect everyone, or if she will follow him through the Silver Gate and take her chances with the dangerous unknowns of the hidden land.
First 250 Words: All I’d wanted was a quiet walk. My parents and I had just spent a month in our tiny, remote mountain cabin during summer break, and I missed my beach. I parked in the sandy pull-off as heavy raindrops dotted my windshield. A few of the regulars made a run for the dry shelter of their cars, but I ignored the cold drops speckling my skin and started walking. The beach was alive when it rained.
Strolling towards the shoreline, I inhaled the heady mixture of salt, sand, and ozone, and smiled as the beach emptied. All mine. My smile fell when I spotted a hand sticking out from behind a large piece of driftwood.
The body was face down on the sand. White sea foam bubbled around faded blue jeans and muscular arms. His skin was pale, too pale, almost translucent. Not a good sign.
I crouched down, praying I could see a slight tick in his jugular. My pulse hammered through my veins and pushed against my skin, but I couldn’t see similar movement against his. I knew what to do, but I really didn’t want to.
My hand shook as I placed two fingers on his carotid artery. His skin was soft, firm, but lacking the thump, thump, thump I so desperately hoped to find.
Sadly, the beach near my hometown was known for bodies washing up. Steep cliffs rose close to the shore, and too many times, people on dares, drugs, or ego thought they could beat the odds at cliff diving in shallow waters.
Son Of A Pitch #9 Title: ELISE AND THE SEER Category: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy Word Count: 69,000 words
QUERY Space opera nerd Elise Kan only wishes there was a Dark Side to defeat.
Instead, she’s stuck with Calc problem sets, pseudo-friends who throw up M&Ms in class, and (literally) hovering Asian parents who keep nagging her about how much she eats. Yes, half the population may manifest unique Gifts when they reach their teens, but most of these abilities are useless, and others completely suck.
So Elise counts calories. Obsessively. Because maybe the most significant thing she can do right now is prevent the Freshman Fifteen.
Then a shapeshifting fiasco forces her to cross paths with Tanata, a new kid with Gift-related problems of his own. As they bond over eighties space opera Third Millennium, Elise’s eating disorder tightens its downward spiral. Elise has to decide if she’ll open up about her mental health—and in the process, learn how to fight for good even when there’s no clear Dark Side.
FIRST 250 WORDS
By October, no one cares that Ms. Stickelman steps in through the back wall to start first period Econ, but she keeps doing it anyway.
“Okay, AP guys, I’d say we’re eighty-seven-point-five percent awake,” she says, solidifying as she sits down at her desk. Her words come rapid-fire like she’s on Five Hour Energy, except she doesn’t drink caffeine. If she did, I think the world might explode. “Which is decent, considering last week it was only--” she picks up her attendance sheet-- “seventy-five. Kevin Shao?”
Kevin jerks awake. His butt is starting to float a few inches above his seat-- only his knees, which knock on the underside of the desk, keep him from drifting to the ceiling. “Huh?”
“G’morning to you too,” Stickelman says, smiling pleasantly. “Can you give us a reason why a firm’s supply curve might move right?”
Kevin flushes all the way up to his carefully sideswept bangs. Stickelman moves on with her attendance/cross-examination, calling on Jane Meyerowitz (Gift: making cutesy rain clouds above the heads of people she doesn’t like), Mara Dale (Gift: baking perfectly round macaroons), and James Jorgensen (Gift: running super fast, so he can’t compete in regular track meets but all the girls flock to him anyway).
I stuff my cold hands under my legs. The heater roars, but there has to be a draft from the window because I always have goosebumps crawling up my neck and my fingers are blocks of ice.
Not enough body fat, Mom nags in the back of my head. You get too cold, you will die of pneumonia.
Title: THE MAGIC WITHIN Category and Genre: YA CONTEMPORARY WITH ELEMENTS OF MAGIC Word Count: 73,000
When introverted albino teen Ana Samuels moves to a tiny town in the rainy PNW, she expects to be wet, lonely, and miserable—and she is. What she doesn't expect is to fall for James, an adorably awkward deaf boy, or to find an enchanted violin in her attic, one that offers her a mysterious gift if she can play it. As an accomplished fiddle player, Ana is convinced this will be easy: play the violin, receive the gift, fix her life—too bad the damn thing shocks the hell out of her every time she tries.
Instead of trying to fit in at her new school, Ana focuses all her attention on trying to play the violin. Each failed attempt drives her obsession. Her previously perfect grades take a nosedive, and her blossoming romance with James threatens to crumble. Then the side effects begin. If Ana waits too long between attempts, she experiences severe headaches and bouts of inexplicable itching, which are relieved only by touching the violin again. Now she's trapped. She can't play, but she can't stop trying. As Ana's obsession continues to grow, her grasp on reality wavers. And if that's not bad enough, Ana discovers the magical offer has a rapidly approaching expiration date. She must hurry and find a way to endure the magic long enough to play before time runs out, or the violin's gift won't be all she loses.
First 250 Words:
Sweat dripped down the back of my neck beneath the weight of my blue curls. I swear it was hot enough to melt the lips off a chicken. A vision of a plump hen with liquefying lips flitted through my mind. I smiled at the ridiculous image. Clearly, the desert sun had finally fricasseed my brain.
I slid deeper into the shade of our old willow tree, careful to keep my pale, melanin-free skin under cover. As far as I could determine, the only positive feature of our impending move to the rainy and miserable Pacific Northwest was the promise of cooler temperatures.
After spending the morning helping my parents do a final sweep of our house, searching through closets and empty rooms for forgotten items, I'd escaped outside. Despite the heat, I needed to get away from the memories that pulled at me from every corner.
I leaned against the tree and opened my book, trying to lose myself in the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read for a few minutes, then the words began to dance and blur. The world around me hushed and became silent.
I’m sitting on a dirty, wooden floor. A dim light filters in through the two stained glass windows at each end of the long narrow room. Thick wooden beams run overhead. There is a roof, but no actual ceiling.
The air is cool and musty with a hint of something more unpleasant. It catches at the back of my throat and I sneeze.
Check out all the details at Katie's blog Team Princess Luna, Here. For those of you who don't know, entries are posted on the four host blogs: Samantha, Team Fluttershy
Myself, Team Rainbow Dash Elizabeth, Team Discord Kathleen, Team Rarity
The hosts will critique the entries on their blogs, and the guest critiquers will also offer crits on the entries. This contest gives some very in depth critiques, and from multiple points of view. It's such a great opportunity (I'm so excited).
This process really helps take queries and pages to the next level, and can really help people see their writing in a new light.
After the critique round is the showcase round where editors will be making requests from the ten lucky pitches.
I am so very, very excited about the next book I have coming out (this fall, November 21st!)
Oh, but Rena, what will I get if I read your book?
You will get the standard agreement in a Rena Book Reading Contract: Laughs, Feels, Explosions, Fights (guns or swords, depending), and a chase or two.
Wait, do I need to read your other books to follow this one?
Nope! This book is a new entry point into the same world. After this, though, no guarantees!
Rena, does this book feature Allyson and all of her Half Dragon Glory?
No, this book has a new Main Character, and a different plot.
But Rena, this book's title sounds very similar to your first book, are they related?
Yes! They happen in the same world. So the rules are the same, but we get to see the world from a whole new perspective.
Wait a minute, are events that happen in this book going to change what happens in your Half Dragon series?
YES! Oh, I mean, maybe. Possibly? Okay, there's crossover of some minor characters, and major plot points definitely change what else happens in other books (You know, sort of like how world politics influences global policy making?)
Is it funny?
I think so.
Are there sword fights?
It's going to be fun, witty, adventurous, Magic, and--sword,fighting--what's not to like?
PROM, MAGIC, AND OTHER MAN-MADE DISASTERS is already listed on Goodreads, and is coming out November 21st, so mark your calendars!!!
I quipped the other day that I was checking Twitter to see
if we were in the midst of Nuclear War. I’m pretty sure that’s how I’ll find
out. It’s how I found out about the bombings in Boston. I’m absolutely terrified of nukes. I’ve studied nukes, so I have
highly accurate nightmares about them (it’s a branch of the field I studied).
Needless to say, my constantly being on Twitter and Facebook has made for
fertile grounds for my Nightmare Bunnies. My productivity has tanked.
And that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?
If the artists and the thinkers stop making the content that
drives the minds of the next generation, then where are we? If we let our creativity
die, then we won’t be able to move forward. The point of art is to make people
think and feel, to understand others and bridge the gaps between us. If we let
our art die, we burn the bridges between us. We become isolated. We become
divided without art. And that’s how a people are conquered. That’s how a
Right now, we’re once again flirting with nuclear action. I
have to remind myself that the writing I’m doing is more important than me
being glued to Twitter. It’s more important to create. Art is resistance. So I’m
trying to task myself to write as though I’m not terrified of nukes. Maybe
fearless writing isn’t the right term, but “Write because staring at twitter
isn’t helping anyone and sure isn’t getting this book done any faster” doesn’t
fit in title slot very well.
Anyone else having a hard time reconciling the news climate
with getting stuff done?
I know that it isn’t going to be fall for weeks yet. I know
that we are still at summer’s mercy. I know that I shouldn’t complain, and all,
but it’s just ridiculous. It’s hot and miserable, and I’m not a fan of either
condition. Add to it the fact that my actual favorite season—fall—has a tendency
to get lost in the holidays and craziness, and now it’s going to start being
fall with 100 degree weather (if things don’t settle down quickly). It's like summer is expanding.
Going into this weekend, it is going to be abnormally hot
every day for the big weekend. In most cases, it will be within a degree or two
of record breaking.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Honduras, and Nepal, they’re having
record setting floods. These are, undoubtedly horrible disasters, and their magnitude far eclipses my inconveniencing (though we'll be in the danger zone) heatwave.
I'm just ready for fall.
Conclusion: When it comes to weather, record setting should
not be a thing.
So, I've entered #Pitchwars. It's fun to hang out on the hashtag and watch the mentors tease people. Someone did a quick calculation and the odds of getting into #Pitchwars are less than the percentage of applicants Harvard accepted this year. So I already kind of know my odds of getting in, but that's not the point of entering.
I've been a bit of a recluse in the world of twitter and facebook (I'm having a hard time with the insanity of our news cycle these days), so I needed to get back into the swing of things. Besides, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain (and unlike previous years, I would actually have time if I am lucky enough to be picked!).
I'm trying to paint a picture of how chill I am about this particular shot in the dark. So chill. Like I'm handling this like a boss.
And then the anxiety dreams start popping up with their snakes and their slugs--
Rena, when did slugs become part of anxiety dreams?
Yeah, I have no idea, but I had a very vivid dream of having to walk with my *pet* slug across an open field in a torrential downpour to make it to my car (and presumably the terrarium where I keep said slug).
Now, for those of you who don't know, I have a strict rule set for pets: we either have predators, or prey. We don't have hamsters and cats. We have cats. We don't keep rats, birds, gerbils, chinchillas, or anything that a cat would misconstrue as dinner. It's hard to explain death to a kid. It's much harder to explain Prized Mouse eaten by Favorite Cat. Trust me, that way lies madness.
All this to say, I don't keep slugs. Never. Not once in my whole life have I even entertained keeping slugs as pets. The closest I've ever been to slug wrangling was when I was working in the Nevada desert. We'd sometimes pick up horny toads and pet them (in our defense, it was hot and we were dehydrated).
Right, so I have this fancy slug, about an inch and a half, and it's super slimy and it's raining. And I was worried about my poor little fancy slug every step of the way (two football fields), as the sky gushed water on me.
I'm not sure where my brain was going with that one (is the slug a metaphor for my manuscript? Great, I have a fancy, slime filled manuscript and even my brain knows it), but I'm apparently not as chill about #PitchWars as I want to be. Also, slugs. Really brain? Really?
What are your anxiety dreams like? Typically, mine are snakes and nuclear detonation, but apparently, I have a subset for slugs.
If there’s one piece of advice writers like to give other
writers, it’s “Don’t compare yourself to others.”
I cannot tell you how many times I sat with my laptop,
viewing the success of others and reading the unwritten subtext put there just
for me: You’re a failure because you don’t have an agent/book/deal/best pound
cake on the block.
To be clear, the subtext of almost every book deal and I got
an agent post is “Oh, gods, please don’t see that I’m a fake and have managed
to completely bamboozle this person into liking my work! I’m so happy, but
TERRIFIED because no one talks about the After in Happily Ever After.”
Yes there are a lot of writers who feel like they worked
hard and deserve it (I applaud you confident writers who don’t suffer from the
dreaded impostor syndrome), but there are heaps tons more who feel like some
person with a clipboard is going to show up and say “I’m sorry, but we both
know you’re a fraud.” (this, is a direct quote from Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art
commencement speech, good stuff)
Our stories tell us that the part that’s actually super hard
is something those movie people cover up with one song (usually edited), and
the whole process is really a great backdrop for a Rom Com. The stories most of
us consume have endings (some happy, some not), and we try to fit our lives
into these story templates. And it doesn’t work. We compare to other people,
and we see that what they present to the internet fits the mold: worked hard,
made the thing, queried and got the agent, BOOK DEAL!
It’s the perfect happily ever after rolled up in blog posts
and tweets. Sometimes these success stories feel like fairytales, all wrapped
up with a perfect little bow. And do you know what bearing this has on your
None. Absolutely none.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll tear yourself apart comparing
yourself to these fairytales. And they aren’t real. The path in writing is so
very unclear. So much is about taste and preference, it’ll kill you to go about
assuming the normal rules apply to publishing and agents and writing.
In the movies (which we’ve been taught to use as our gauge
of how to process the world), it’s simple: You work hard, you put in the time,
and you get the reward. Our stories are built this way so we understand that
our culture values hard work. Unfortunately, the formula in movies doesn’t pan
out in real life. In real life, you can work as hard as is humanly possible,
and the reward you were working for might not come. You did nothing wrong, but
you don’t win the game or get the book deal/agent/job. And we don’t have many
stories like that even if it is a reality of our world.
But Rena, how can you talk about disappointment when you
have Book Deals and even a book coming out in November??
Oh, sweet summer child, I know more pain than can be seen in
my scars. I struggle everyday with the doubt born of how I clearly bamboozled
my way into having a book deal, but I’ve never been a good enough con-artist to
get an agent. My rejections folder is filled with “Not right for me,” “Send me
your next project,” “I’m sure someone will snatch this up if they haven’t
And I know those sound like I’m on the right track, but
those were responses I got with the second book I queried. I’ve queried a
number since then, and I still get those responses. And some of that is my
fault. I tend to query my books too early. I have taken some of those books and
revised them and that’s how I got my book deals (you know, after collecting a
no from every agent who will even read SFF).
And here I am, on the brink of #Pitchwars with the very
awkward path of trying to get a mentor for a book I’m probably rushing towards
a Happily Ever After that probably doesn’t really exist while juggling an
upcoming book release, trying to plot out another sequel and promotion. It’s
awkward. I was supposed to get the agent, then get the book deal. I never did
anything the standard way, but I’m worried my rush to get to Happily Ever After
may have hamstringed my attempts to get an agent. I’m worried I’m no longer a
fresh naïve writer. I’m wiser now, but I’m still worried I’m rushing. Just the
other day, I realized there was a major revision I could put into my manuscript
to make it significantly cooler, so I’m trying to nail that down before I throw
my hat into the arena.
So that’s this month’s insecurity. How about you all, anyone
else struggle with rushing their projects?