Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Not the Only One: IWSG

I grew up in a very small town. I grew up in the kind of small town where everyone was just certain of my path and my destiny.

“Oh, that Rena. She’s going to be an amazing veterinarian when she grows up.”
“Rena you’ll be such a great teacher.”
“You know, Rena, you can make real money raising sheep. If you do your herd right, you’ll be able to go to college in the winter and work lambing on spring break.”
“You need to study hard if you’re going to save the environment.”

Yup, my whole life was planned, signed and delivered by the time I was 11. About then someone asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to be an astronaut. Reader, I broke hearts with that simple proclamation.

But it’s an old small town and they knew the true path to getting their way, patience, solidarity, and a steadfast denial of all words actually issuing from my lips. I played a pretty convincing part, raising sheep, showing horses, training llamas, you name it, I did it. But I also memorized all the features on the near side of the moon. I studied the stars, I took extra physics classes when I could. I sang in the choir. I was in the band, and drama, and soccer and swim team. I wanted to play football, but that path was closed to me. Small towns can only allow so much.

In school, I read every book in the library with a horse on the binding. When I’d read all of those, someone recommended that I try the ones with the rockets: and I did. And it was amazing! The only problem was, none of those books were about kids like me. Not one. I grew up lonely and never seeing a girl from a small town who got to have a story other than grow up and fall in love. The story was always girl grows up and realizes horses are childish and falls in love with a boy.

First, I desperately didn’t want to think horses were childish (one of my first real jobs was as a horse back riding instructor). I loved horses (and had to sell mine to go to college), and well, let’s just say the guys weren’t exactly throwing themselves to date the girl who ran faster, got better grades, and could literally throw hay bales, so a love story wasn’t exactly going to cut it for me. I was lonely, and my life looked nothing like the books that should have been hand made for me.

So one day, I wrote a different kind of story where a girl rode her horse into outer space to go save the Starship Enterprise. Firstly because everyone should ride a horse to go save the world, and secondly because I’d never seen a girl like me, do anything the world seemed to think important. Surely saving the Enterprise would count as important.

That story was very important to me, and no, no one will ever read it. But it had everything that I loved and it spoke to me. 

Hooked, I wrote another story just for me. This one didn’t use nearly so much Intellectual Property not belonging to me. As with many of my works, I cajoled, bribed, and begged until someone else read it. And that time, that time I heard the timid voice whisper back, “I thought I was the only one.”

I thought I was the only one.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard that whispered back to me by people who were embarrassed by some deep truth so close to their hearts they’d never shared it with anyone until I showed them the scars on mine. People I didn't think I had anything in common with, people who didn't look like me, grew up under totally different circumstances saw something of themselves in my words.

And that’s why I write. I write because even in the world of over sharing social media, I still hear it. People read my stories and confess that they had always felt alone. They’d always thought they were the only one who felt it—the shame, the secret joy, the guilt, the pain, and the pure exhaustion that is life, or just how lonely it is to feel something you shouldn't feel because society tells you that you're supposed to have exactly one emotion (I'm looking at you motherhood).

In short, I write so people will know they are not the only one.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group, so hop on over to the Link, wave at The Ninja Captain, and say howdy to this month's cohosts:  J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Avoidance IWSG

I’ve talked before about how the best way to protect yourself from failure is to never try. You are absolutely guaranteed to never experience any rejection if you never put yourself out there for others to see (and all too often, criticize).

Which brings me to today. I have cleaned my work area, swept the floor, answered every email, done the dishes and cooked every breakfast the people in my house are going to eat for the next week. Yeah. All of that.

I’ve spent the whole week thinking about how much writing I was going to get done, but instead I have done LITERALLY every other chore in the house. I’m avoiding it. I’m worldbuilding. I’m plotting, I tell myself, I need time to think. Okay, that might be true, self, but it looks like, from over here in the no word count land, that you are actually doing the thing where you are avoiding writing.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I have an idea for a novel, and I LOVE it. As in, I love it so much it might just break my heart. I love the idea so much, I might just never write it because the book it will become, no matter how good, will never feel like the shiny thing in my imagination. If I could have one wish, it would be to be able to make books fell the same way the idea feels in my head. It just doesn’t happen. Well, I should say, It hasn’t happened yet.

Am I the only one, or do you procrastinate putting pen to paper when you have an idea you’re in love with?

Jump on the link, visit the Ninja Captain, and check out this month’s co-hosts: Raimey Gallant,Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

Hey, did you know my books are up on Amazon? 

Check them out here and here

Monday, January 21, 2019


There’s so much going on right now, I feel like I’m one of the spiny bits in an old school egg beater. Here we go:

The good news: Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon is available for sale. Yes, you read that right! I got the rights to my book back, and it’s currently for sale on Amazon. I have not pushed it out to other platforms, and it’s not looking like I’m going to anytime soon. Turns out, I don’t have any time to figure out anything else right now (long story), so for the foreseeable future, my book is on Amazon as an ebook. I have some paperbacks left, but it’s a diminishing supply (don’t buy the fifty dollar copy from that crazy person who thinks my book being rare drives up the price). In a few months, I should be uploading to Create Space for those of you who like books you can touch.

More good news: Prom, Magic, And Other Man-Made Disasters will be up soon. How soon, you ask? Sometime this week, ebooks should become available. I’ll post when things are settled out (it takes Amazon some time to link editions, and I’m trying not to lose my reviews, those are hard to come by!).

The BEST NEWS: The sequel to Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon is coming out! That’s right, it’s really really happening. GROUNDED, NO PHONE, AND OTHER SIGNS YOUR MOM IS A FIRE BREATHING MONSTER is in production!

What does this mean? I won’t have a release date for a while yet, but I’m very excited to share the much anticipated sequel to Acne. If you loved Acne, you’re in for a real treat as the gang is back at it, but now things are bigger, more dangerous, and even more family secrets are unearthed. It’s going to be a wild ride, and I can’t wait to unleash it on the world! 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sometimes things go Sideways

If you’ve been to my buy pages recently, you’ll probably notice that they don’t work. My three novels have been taken down by my publisher, Curiosity Quills. The publisher is in the process of reorganizing their business, and we are currently in the process of rights reversion.

So what does this mean for me and my books?

Right now this means you can’t buy my books. (Sorry!) It means I am taking a crash course in self publishing because I have an irrational need to finish things. Acne has a sequel. It has two, possible three, and I want to make sure the whole story gets told. This means drafting, editing, formatting, cover art and marketing plan. This is not minor. On the plus side, the first sequel has already been written, but there’s a lot of production even when a book is 100% ready to go, and it isn’t there yet.

But Rena, you say, What about Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon? I haven’t bought my copy of that book yet! And I want it!

Yeah, for the books that were already finished, there’s a different problem. There are some paperback copies going out into the world still, but that’s a limited supply. There are no e copies. There were never audio copies.

As of right now, it’s going to be a while before ebooks are available again, and they will be. My plan is to re-release Acne and Prom as soon as I solve the problem of formatting, cover art, and final typo fixes (an issue we had with the previous books).

So I have a lot of work on my plate, and much sooner than I’d planned!

On the plus side, this gives me the opportunity to have more control of the direction these books take. I have loved being a Literary Marauder, but now I get to shred the skies with my own flag—just as soon as I figure out how to rig this spinnaker so it doesn’t flip my ship.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Plans? Maybe just direction? IWSG

It’s a new year.

I don’t really know what happened to last year. It was rough. It was good. Like all years, it was complicated by too many factors to be easily summed up in a single post.

Going forward, I have a lot of thoughts. I’m working on migrating the content of this blog into a new format (I’ll probably still cross post for a while), but as I go back through, expect to see some old posts go dark. Think of it as the pack rat going through and cleaning everything up.

In writing, I’m moving into a new phase of my own growth. I’ve been working on improving my craft, and I feel like that’s gone well. It’s an ongoing process, and with writing, you never “arrive.” Writing is like a knife, constantly requiring honing. I took a break for the whole month of December, and it was very useful to know there was no need to do anything for a whole month. Now I’m cracking my knuckles and looking around at what needs to be done to clean up my writing life. I have a list of projects, and I’m toying with a Shiny New Idea. We’ll see.

To start the year I’m writing a low pressure piece just for the fun of it, and to share it with my friends. I kid you not, it’s a piece that I have no actual intentions of showing to the rest of the world, and I’m really looking forward to the ridiculous purple prose of an elf prince falling madly in love with the wrong person. So good.

I’m taking it easy right now due to other factors, so I’m going to write my very extra pointy eared prince and then reassess the direction of my career.

Do you plan out your writing year? Whenever I try to, it takes a detour at Albuquerque. So no real plan this year. Working on craft, writing something just for me, and we’ll see when we get there.

While you’re procrastinating, jump on the Link and visit the Ninja Captain, Alex. Be sure to check out this month’s cohosts: Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Doing Better

I’ve been thinking about my journey lately, and I can’t really complain. I’ve published three books. I have a sequel in the wings (not until at least 2020, alas). Working full time has definitely slowed my process, but even there, I still have no complaints. I’ve put together a book a year since 2009 plus a handful of extras.

I don’t know how others are doing, but things seem to be going cautiously well for me. I feel like that’s a somewhat controversial statement in our current political climate, my home state going through disaster after disaster, and the actual climate, but things are okay. I know it’s crazy to say, but I have finally sorted out something big.

When I first started writing and querying, I would always wonder if my writing was “good enough.” I’d get a rejection and it would say something like “sorry to say, I’m passing at this time,” and I would say to myself, “was it the project or was it the writing? Can someone tell me if it’s the writing or the project, please?”

The funny thing there, is that people did. They did say “your writing is great, but not this project.” Agents and editors said this a lot, but it wasn’t enough. It never passed through my thick skull. I always assumed that the agents were just being nice. When I read reviews of my work, I only ever found resonance in the negative, letting it outweigh the good reviews, even though there were more good reviews by a factor of ten.

The problem for me has always been my own demons, but I feel like I had to go through those things so I could be in this position where I’m writing what I need to write. I’m telling the stories that burn in me, and if I’m not marketable right now, that’s fine. The only thing I can control is the thing I create. Everything else will come, or it won’t. I have no control over editors or agents. I certainly hope I will connect with them through a book, but I can’t control that.

I’ve spent my time focusing on craft. I’ve sought out critiques anywhere I could get them, and bit by bit, I’m starting to understand how much I have sought agents and editors for validation of my writing. I can definitively say, that’s the wrong approach. If my words are finding fertile ground in your heart, I have another gem that’s finally started to sink through my thick skull: if there is a hole in your heart, no amount of accolades that can fill the hole. No amount of external positive things can actually give you self worth.

I know, this got deep fast, but hear me out. I’d been using publishing as a way to fill something inside me that was empty and broken. Publishing couldn’t fill that hole. At first it felt like it did, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that I was playing a shell game with my heart, skipping from good review to good review like I could tie the sinking ship of my heart to the words of a stranger and that could somehow right the ship of my life. Inevitably, each sank as the feeling of joy wore off, and worse, my ship got bigger and heavier so the next positive thing I needed to keep my head above water had to be bigger than the last. It’s a bad cycle.

The truth is, if you don’t feel like enough without an agent or publishing contract, you certainly won’t feel like enough with it. I’ve talked about this before in other IWSG threads, but it bears repeating. It’s something I still struggle with, even as I move forward. So that’s the big one today. (I’m super excited about my current manuscript! I really love this story. It’ll be interesting to see how this next part unfolds.)

Jump on the link, hop over to the Ninja Captain, Alex, and say hi to this month's co-hosts: J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

An Evolution

The question this month is "How has your creative life evolved since you started writing?" 

This one is really hard. I've been writing novel length works of fiction on and off since I was 12. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I recently crossed a very BIG birthday number milestone, and to be honest, Things Haven't Changed A Lot. 

Big caveat here: I have absolutely changed my writing style, but one thing has always guided me. My first novel was about the book I NEEDED. My most recent book was the book that I NEEDED. And to be fair, most of the books in between have been the book that I HAVE NEEDED. 

But I have strayed from the path. I have tried to chase a trend (it did not end well, no you may not read the result). I have maybe started projects that were not in my best interest but were in the best interest of the market. They failed. Each. And. Every. One. 

This has helped me refine my voice. My failures have, in one way, sort of shown me who I am, and what my wheel house is. It's been... useful, if painful. Rejection is part of the path, but what it does better than anything is show you where and how you're willing to accept rejection. Specifically: when I'm writing to the market and that gets rejected, it's MUCH WORSE. It's worse because I KNOW that I was chasing money not heart. It hurts because I sold myself short. People judged me on my lack luster work, and it was lack luster because my heart wasn't there. The dollar signs were in my eyes.

And now I know better. So that's the real thing that has evolved. I know that if I can't put the full metric force of nature that is My Heart, there is no point in trying to write that project. It will not come alive. Like the life stone of the Deathly Hallows, that project will have a half life, a cursed life. (and I don't have any unicorn blood to feed it!). 

In short, the only thing I have learned is that it's not really worth writing a project unless my heart is in it. Which sounds really cliche, but it's very, VERY true. 

Don't forget to visit the Ninja Captain Alex, and say hi to this month's cohosts:  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor JQ Rose Ann V. Friend and Elizabeth Seckman!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Feeling like I’ve been here before: IWSG post

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I’m getting ready to query a new book.

Oh, yeah, that’s come up once or twice on the blog. So many times in fact I have many agents and agencies memorized. I’d be lying if I said I was perfectly confident that this time—THIS TIME!—would be different.

I’ve had dozens of full requests, I get personalized feedback on my query letters. And I have hundreds of rejections. Hundreds. And yet, here I am with another book, making my list, checking it twice, finishing up the draft and making notes for revisions.

It is the definition of insanity to try the same thing and expect a different result, and YET HERE I AM, because this is “the process.” At this point, it’s probably fair to say that I’ve lost faith in the process. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t appear to be working for me. It’s like I’ve come to live in a world where there is an invisible line I cannot seem to cross. It starts to feel like that time I agreed to tutor one of the guys in my physics class and after I showed him the mnemonic for memorizing the formulas, he showed me how ALL THE OTHER BOYS WERE CHEATING on the exams. Literally everyone knew this one trick (and it was cheating, to be clear), but for three years they hadn’t told me, the only girl, about this one thing.

Watching other writers find their forever homes for their books feels like that. It feels like there’s a secret club and I’m somehow just not smart enough/good enough/stubborn enough to get there. It feels like there’s a cheat code I don’t know about, but everyone else does.

I’ve tried everything to find that cheat code: Writer’s conferences, workshops, crit groups, professional editors, agent critiques. I put every first page and query up for critique on every writing podcast with a critique show (You’ve almost certainly heard or read one of my queries). I’ve participated in so many query contests and received so much feedback, that I now know what does and does not work for me.

Still, I keep hacking away at the process. I’m polishing my manuscript. I’m crafting my query, and I’m girding my heart against the process, worried that this next attempt will end like all the ones that came before it. All I can do is keeping doing.

At least there is one thing I can say from my experience: I’ve tried everything. I’ve followed every rule. I’ve tried to be the perfect little writer, the perfect representation of what I’ve thought the world wanted of me, and NONE OF THAT worked. I’ve tried being me, and that didn’t work much better, but I enjoyed it more. Maybe the point of this process is to find my voice in the storm? Anyways, I’ll be sending my owls into the night again, and I’ll just be over here practicing deep breaths.

Don’t forget, this is a blog hop! Head on over to Ninja Captain Alex’s blog and jump on the Linky. Be sure to visit the cohosts Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey,Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

Friday, September 7, 2018

On Publishing and the Pursuit of Happiness

I missed IWSG this month (whoops), but it was because this post was too important to just whip out on short notice, so here it is (I'll totally post a real Insecure Writer's Support Group next month, I promise).

Trigger warnings: Depression and Suicide

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now. I know that in the aftermath of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain a lot of people were struck by how such successful people could be struggling with depression and mental health, so it’s time to talk about it.

First, so you all know what you’re getting into, the credentials. I am not psychologist. My SO has a masters in psychology, but today we’re going to be talking almost entirely about my opinions and epiphanies about mental health and how it relates to publishing and/or success. In that vein, I’ve had some pretty big successes. I have also had some pretty impressive failures. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place to talk about my own experiences having finally come to terms with many of them. Grab your blanket and a beer, and gather around. This one ain’t pretty.

I have spent a large part of my writing career (really my whole damn life) with this idea that if I can just get through this part, I’ll achieve success and the hell I have been slogging through will have all been “worth it.” Other variations go something like this: I’ll be happier once I have an agent. Or: I’ll be a real writer when I’m published. Or “Once I sell enough to be marketable, everything will be okay, and I’ll be happy.”

These are all variations of the “I’m not happy now, but if I work hard on this external thing, I will be happy in the future.”

This is a LIE.

The reason this is a lie is because you are uniquely you. As in you are always you. You are the same you after you finish your first draft, after you sign with an agent, after you publish your book. You will always be you. I’m sure there are people who are now very curious as to what I’m talking about because, of course I would be me with a book deal. I would be me with or without a book deal. And for you lucky folks, I’m pleased you graced my post, but I suspect you aren’t my target audience. I’m talking to the people who harbor in their heart the secret desire that “things will be better when.” You lot know who you are. I know because I count myself amongst your ranks. (If this isn’t you, feel free to keep reading. I bet you know someone who has this particular world view, and this might help you understand them.)

Now, it seems like this is pretty simple stuff, but believe you me, in the realm of depression (and, quite frankly, ANY situation where you have feelings that are misaligned with what society tells you), your brain just makes shit up. I’m going to focus mostly on depression because that is the monster I know, though I could talk AT LENGTH about having feelings that are misaligned with societal norms (it’s complicated, so one thing at a time).

The first concept I want to explain about success and why it has nothing to do with happiness: You are 100 percent the same person with or without a book deal. I know this seems really simple. Of course you are the same person, right?


My brain has been telling me for decades that I will FINALLY be happy if I:
1)      Lose weight
2)      Get a book deal
3)      Get an agent
4)      Sell a ton of books
5)      Live in a big fancy house

I’m sure, for those of you who have the benefit of seeking therapy, you can see why there might be a mismatch in what my depression tells me, and the reality of the situation. Let me use a watermelon as an example.

I’m a watermelon. I present a thick green skin to the world, but inside I’m sort of a soft, squishy material that leaks if pressed too hard. I have never been happy with being a watermelon. When I signed my first publishing contract, I sort of expected to do a Sailor Moon transformation sequence and come out the other side a more exciting kind of fruit. Maybe I’d suddenly be an orange, or a banana, or a pear. Turns out, a publishing contract was a little more like a T-shirt and a little less like a Sailor Moon transformation sequence. So there I was, a watermelon with a publishing contract. This did not magically make me happy.

At this point, most people would very rightly realize that they didn’t get the magical transformation sequence because there is none, but for the few, the proud, the suffering from depression, we think that the reason the magical transformation sequence didn’t happen was because the success marker wasn’t big enough. To power a whole transformation, one needed MORE. Okay, so readjust the success marker. Now it’s making the New York Times list.

But when Watermelon me makes the New York Times list (I haven’t mind you, but I have been number 4 on Amazon, which is similar). This should definitely have enough juice in it to power the magical girl transformation.

And once again, it’s like I got a T-shirt (and a very plain one that doesn’t even have writing on it) not a magical girl transformation. Once more I am disappointingly still a watermelon. And again, most people would recognize the flaw in thinking, but when you are in the moment, when you’ve been fed the idea that if you work hard enough anything is possible, one of the things you start to believe is that outside markers of success will transform you into a satisfied, happy, version of yourself.

And the thing that hit me the most about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain was that they were at the literal top of their fields. There are no higher markers of success that they could have achieved. None. Seeing their tragic deaths helped me realize that they may have suffered the same problem I do. There is no magical transformation. That’s not going to happen. I started as a watermelon. I cannot be anything but a watermelon.

It has been a very sobering summer to look around and realize that happiness is not a thing that can come from the outside. If success could make people happy, then highly successful people (like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain) would not commit suicide. I’d always pegged my happiness on my success, and now it is glaringly clear to me, that no amount of success will ever kick off the magical transformation where I mystically become the unicorn I’ve always wanted to be. I’m a watermelon.

As you might imagine, this is deeply personal. I only talk about this because I see so many people who are clearly hoping—PRAYING—for the magical transformation sequence, and it makes me sad. You are you. And no amount of success will change what and who you are.

Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t benefits to success (paychecks, etc.), but the biggest problem I see most people have is struggling with the fact that you are EXACTLY the same person you were before. In short, everyone says it, but it is all too true: success will not make you happy. There is work that needs to be done on you as a person, and no one can do it but you. No amount of success will ever be enough. To paraphrase the immortal words of John Candy in Cool Runnings “If you aren’t enough without it, you will never feel like enough with it.”

I know. Simple, right?

Don’t confuse simple with easy.

If you need someone to trade words with, you can reach me at renarocford (at) gmail dot com (I’m slow to respond, so please be patient). Don’t forget, there are people who want and need you in this world, and the Suicide Prevention hotline number for the US is: 1-800-273-8255.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Terrified and Insecure

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I’m heading to WorldCon’76. It’s not a far drive, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. So I browsed through the offerings, and lo and behold, they had a writer’s workshop portion. Now, if there’s anything I’m a sucker for, it’s a critique. I pretty much always put my work out there to receive feedback. ALWAYS. I’ve had my queries and first pages read on podcasts hosted by agents. I’ve sent my work in The Writer’s Voice. I’ve entered every feedback granting contest I had a manuscript to enter in.

All of that is good and as it should be. Peers, sometimes published, sometimes not yet published, sometimes feedback from agents, sometimes interns, you get the idea. Considering all this experience receiving critiques, it seems like I should be happy to be adding to my tool kit, right? Right?

Well, it’s in person. IN PERSON. As in, I have to sit in the same room as the people giving out critique. And presumably not melt. Oh, and I have to sit with them. In a room where anyone could show up and watch (because it’s useful to watch someone else receive critique).

When I signed up, I thought, welp, there’s no way I’ll have gotten my work turned in fast enough to get a spot. Then I got an email. And yes, I have a spot. Deep breaths.

So I’m pretty insecure about that.

I bought my ticket and booked a hotel room on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, a fire broke out. Then another fire broke out.

Through the afternoon, it became clear these fires were growing. After an hour or two, they had grown to over 1000 acres. Firefighters commented on their frustration that these small fires could have been knocked down if they’d only had the resources (The Carr fire was claiming its first victims on Friday). And of course, the fire was headed straight for my parents house. I don’t know how many of you have been in the teeth of a wild fire before, so I’ll go ahead and describe it.

The smoke: It smells like that campfire from when you go camping, but it’s everywhere. Everywhere smells like a fire. The grocery store. The gas station. The house. The car. After you’ve been up close, you smell like the fire. And when you’re up close, you can’t see through it. All the pictures make it seem like a giant monster looming over the horizon, squatting and waiting, but it’s much more dynamic in person.

The smoke moves. It heaves. It breathes with the wind, pushing and pulling like sea weed caught in the tide. The closer you are to the fire, the more it moves. When it’s hot, the column of smoke rises off the land in billowing clouds of ash racing for the sky.

The flames: This is something no one every prepares you for: You can see the flames—or you can’t. When you can see them, they are towering monster chewing on the land, but when you can’t see them, you know they’re there because you can hear them. They hiss like a million snakes as they eat up the leaves. They pop. Trees sometimes explode. They just explode. Some trees go up like your campfire, but some go up like they’re drenched in oil (because ostensibly, they are, evergreens burn scary hot).

And the flames and the smoke are heading towards your house. It is terrifying. And you work as quickly as you can. If it’s a slow fire, you get to talk to the sheriff’s deputy. If it’s a fast fire, you’ll be lucky to have heard about it in time to escape.

We got to speak to the sheriff’s deputy this time. Three days later, my parents got to move back, but the monster is still burning. Still eating away at the land.

Last night, another fire broke out (quite a bit further from my family, thankfully), but we’re prepping to set up another shelter.

So I’m going to WorldCon’76, unless I’m working the shelters. Either way, I’m pretty terrified.

Be sure to check out Captain Ninja Alex's blog, and remember to check out the cohosts: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Insecure Writers Support Group!

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Hiatus style

Hey everyone!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Moving the Posts and something about green

I almost missed Insecure Writer’s support Group!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Like a Machine: an Insecure Writer’s Support Group

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

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

But wait, there’s more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Worried my Best just isn’t Good Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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