Monday, September 18, 2017


Son Of A Pitch Entry #1:

Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

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.

Son Of A Pitch # 2: SENESTRE

Son Of A Pitch #2:

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.

Son Of A Pitch #3: THE UNBROKEN

Son Of A Pitch #3

Title: The Unbroken
Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 108,000

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: FLESH AND INK

Son Of A Pitch #4:

Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 87,600

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

Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 98,000

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: ODRIEL'S HEIRS

Son Of A Pitch #6

Title: Odriel's Heirs
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

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.


Son Of A Pitch #7

Title: The Girl in Man's Armor
Category and Genre: YA (High) Fantasy
Word Count: 88.000

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: THE SILVER GATE

Son Of A Pitch #8

Category and Genre: YA  Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000

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

Category: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 69,000 words

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.


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. 

Yeah, right. I push her voice away.

Son Of A Pitch #10: THE MAGIC WITHIN

Son Of A Pitch #10

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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Son of a Pitch Team Rainbow Dash!!!!

That's right, it's time for Son Of A Pitch!

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.

With that, the fun will start Very Soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


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!!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

FEARLESS WRITING: an Insecure Writer's Support Group Post

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 minority rules.

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?

Anyhow, as you can see, this is an odd IWSG entry, but it’s what I needed to tell myself. Don't forget to check out the Ninja captain, Alex, and this month's co-hosts, Tyrean Martinson,Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure.

Friday, September 1, 2017

When will it be Fall?

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. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What to do when things go wrong in a pitch contest

I made a video from the Writing Cave. I talk a little bit about revisions but mostly about Pitch Wars and what to do if you don't get picked for PitchWars.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ramblings: anxiety dream edition

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--

--wait, 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.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rushing to Happily Ever After: IWSG

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 journey?

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 already.”

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 na├»ve 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?

Saturday, July 29, 2017


For those of you scouring the interwebs, this is my #Pimpmybio for #Pitchwars.

This year I'm sending up STEAL THE SKY for all the love, so before we get started, here's a little about the book:

Sixteen-year-old Tashira has spent her life slipping through the cracks in the Shulloran’s reign over the city of Kaiou. Through prayers and songs, Shulloran priests keep sea monsters at bay, restraining the creatures from attacking the ships and eating the citizens of Kaiou. But not everyone likes the priests. They’ve forbidden singing since their teachings say voice controls water, and the untrained song could unleash the man-eating monsters at the bottom of the sea. Anyone caught singing is burned at the stake.

When Tashira witnesses a boy turn cloth to stone with his voice, she knows the priests are lying about their powers. To shut her up, the Shullorans burn down her home and send monsters to kill her. Tashira fights back, rescuing the boy who controls stone with his song, and learns the priests’ real secret. The protections keeping the monsters locked away are failing, and the monsters are escaping. To protect people from the creatures in the deeps, the Shullorans plan to combat years of sea level fall by unleashing a great flood. They hope the deeper waters will help keep the monsters submerged, and if it drowns one unruly city, then it’s all for the best. If she does nothing, her city and everyone she knows could die, but Tashira has a new weapon: her voice controls the weather. But she’s untrained, and she could spark off a hurricane or accidentally unleash the man-eating monsters. One way or another, the Shullorans know who they want to burn next.

STEAL THE SKY is a 90,000 word YA fantasy similar to what would happen if someone put Avatar the Last Airbender in a blender with the Pirates of the Caribbean and tossed in a splash of At the Mountains of Madness.

On to the Bio!

Okay, let me see, I think I’ve got an official Bio somewhere around here… A Ha!

Like most mad scientists, Rena Rocford has made an art form of living as a muggle. Today the bills, tomorrow the world. When she isn’t planning for world domination, Rena creates nerdy art and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She unleashed her first book Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon, on the world in 2015, and a companion novel, Prom, Magic, and Other Man-Made Disasters is sharpening its battle axe for release in late 2017.

That looks all official and shiny, but it’s pretty short. 

I sew costumes for fun: I particularly enjoy Dr. Horrible, but I make costumes for others as well. One year before Dragon Con, we measured the amount of thread I used in kilometers. When we added up all the spools I’d emptied, we realized I’d put nearly 5 km of thread through my sewing machine that summer.

I paint for fun. Mostly. Sometimes I paint because I absolutely cannot handle the world, and words are failing me. This year, I entered some of my art in the local fair, so, we’ll see how quickly my art aspirations get properly crushed. I jest—sort of. It’s hard to put pieces of yourself into the world and ask for judgment. We’ll see if I continue to share my pieces, or if I go recluse on these.

I have a day job, but I can’t really talk about it. Well, I can, but it goes from interesting to awkward because a lot of it is super duper confidential. Like I’d get fired and fined if I talked about the wrong part of it. No, I’m not a spy. “But Rena, that’s what you’d say if you were a spy!”

It’s a boring desk job, I swear.

But this is a long list of what I do, and I feel like that doesn’t really get to the who I am and why I write. That’ harder on so many levels. Turns out, for all my bluster and jokes, I’m a very private person. Yes, I’m the loud one telling the stories, but only to hide the fact that I’m mortally terrified of being awkward in public. I combat my fear by making people laugh. If you’re laughing with me, you’re not laughing at me. Wow, this went from funny to personal real fast. Quick, have a cat pic!

Okay, feel better after looking at the cute kittehs? Good, now onto why I write.

So, once upon a time, I decided to write a piece, I don’t know why, but it was super personal, and really—REALLY—TMI. But I put it out there into the world, and what came back to me was whispered in fear and lonely hope: “I thought I was the only one.”

It struck me that people were so afraid of the world that they’d taken their scars and tragedie and hidden them in their soul, isolating themselves for fear of being judged. So I started writing to eradicate that feeling from people. My books aren’t super personal like some of my essays, but my goal is to make the world less lonely.

“Whoa, Rena, are you saying Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon isn’t biographical??? I feel betrayed. I thought you were half dragon!”

See, funny thing, it is, but it isn’t. I feel like the writing isn’t right until you’re a little worried people will see through all the plot and character development to the you in the book. “Oh, you just wrote this book because you were jealous and wanted to foist that on your character.” Or “You wrote this book because you were struggling with your identity and wanted to watch your character squirm through figuring themselves out.”

All true.

I write to purge my demons first (and boy, I’ve got plenty). I write so people won’t feel so alone. I write so I can know the way through my own life, and maybe that can shed some light on the path for others.

So what do you get when you read one of my books? Maybe you get something deep and meaningful to you, or maybe you get a laugh, a chase, and an explosion (all my books have explosions). One way or another, it’s a ride, and if you want to have fun, I’ve got an extra seat.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Posting from the Wilds of My Life

Some of you might have noticed that I missed an Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Yeah, it snuck up on me and ran right past.

But, Rena, How is that even possible? You always make your IWSG posts. Those are like your favorite ones.

Oh, sweet summer reader. Let me tell you.

Are you ready.

This one is amazing.

I'm human.

I not only forgot, I forgot about all the things. Between juggling a ton of manuscripts (turned one back in w00t!), managing my art for upcoming exhibit, doing a pop up promotion, worrying about the health of people I love, and making it from point a to point b for all the things in my life, I forgot.

For me, this is the stuff of nightmares. I keep lists of stuff I have to do because I feel like a flake. I spent the whole weekend worried I forgot to pay a bill. And of course, forgetting to post to IWSG made me super extra nervous. I'm probably going to go to work, clean my desk and scrutinize every message, post it, and email for action items I may have missed.

One of the biggest problems with having so much going on is that it's easy to forget something. So, how to fix it? Here's another big secret:

I can't. And I'm not going to.

Sure, I'm going to go over my super regimented schedule and see if I can build in another double check. At this point, I'm going to call it a win that I have a place to keep track of my submissions, and I haven't borked one of those up in years.

How about you, dear reader? Forget anything important recently?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Life After The Contract: Which Manuscript Was That?

I’ve mentioned that some things change when you sign a contract. Today is life after contract, the endless edits keep me from writing my next book edition.

I tweeted earlier today that within 14 hours of finishing a round of edits on one book, I received another round of edits for a different book, and this is now my life. My plan had been to draft between when I'd finished one set and received the next set. To be clear, I didn't write a novel in those 14 hours...

As of this exact second, I am juggling what can only be referred to as a ton of novels. A list:

MS 1: in pre-publishing edits
MS 2: on submission with publisher
MS 3: in the query trenches
MS 4: being drafted on lunch breaks with a wireless keyboard hooked up to my phone (this is the only time I can’t work on edits as I can’t take my computer to work without being willing to submit it to time consuming inspection by IT peeps—yes, my work is sensitive, but not at all how you think)
MS 5: in development
MS 6: waiting to go into the editing grinder

Yes, I have six novels running at the same time. Six. So at any moment, I could have good or bad news from an agent, an editor, or a crit partner, and I’m trying to stick words to the page. It’s a lot to manage. (and my email is officially a ticking time bomb).

Now, I don’t say this to brag, but I think sometimes we don’t consider what consequences our actions have. Action: I’ve written a lot of books. Consequence: finding a home for those books takes time. I wrote MS 2 in 2016. I wrote MS 1 in 2009 (yeah, it’s been a long haul with that book).

At one point, I looked up from my writing work and realized I knew exactly what I needed to be writing for the next three years, and that hit me in the creative noodle. I’d never been under contract. I’d just been frolicking about in the land of dreaming up the next great big book to lure an unsuspecting agent into my snare. Then suddenly, I know what I’m trying to put together creatively for the next few years. That’s a heck of a commitment.

I don’t regret any of it. I love the work I’m doing, but it sort of shocked me to realize that I started my publishing journey in 2009, I’m two books in, and my writing docket is all tied up until the end of the decade.

So I did something big name authors do all the time: I stole time from somewhere else to develop another project. MS 4 in that list has nothing to do with any of the other novels. Literally nothing alike. It’s not even an explosion filled action piece (but it does have dragons!). I found a piece of time I had, lunches and breaks at work, and figured out how to convert them into words. So far, so good. I’m averaging about 2K a week on drafting while I’m working on the endless edits for projects under contract.

Because here’s another hard truth: once you’re published, you still have to do EVERYTHING ELSE you had to do before you were published, plus revise, edit, and polish a manuscript. Market, prep, write a sequel, and do it again. And if you’re lucky, do it again. All the while, cooking dinners, cleaning house and fulfilling the whole full time job gig too. I’m lucky in that my SO picks up the slack when I’m ready to throw poptarts at the family, but I have to admit, my ability to create new work in the crunched time was one of the hardest adjustments.

So there it is, folks, find a way to steal time and write the next book. If that advice sounds familiar, it should. Writing the next book is almost always the answer. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


So a few weeks back (many more than a few at this point), I signed with Curiosity Quills for another book!

This book is near and dear to my heart. I have quite writing to focus on my serious (non-writing) career many times, but this was the book that brought me back to writing. This was the first book I thought was good enough to query.

It became the first book I decided wasn’t ready to query.

So I rewrote it. I wrote other books (MANY other books) and they each had their own journey (some of them not finished yet!). I rewrote this book because I loved the story and the characters, and now I get to share them with the world!

I’m so excited about PROM, MAGIC, AND OTHER MAN-MADE DISASTERS! And it’s coming out November 21st!

You can add it on GoodReads!