New Covers, Old Books

I promised a post with the new covers I decided on for my already-published collections. With the new collection coming out I wanted to re-brand these so they look like they belong together.

Feel free to comment–I’ll be making final tweaks and uploading the new covers within the next week or so. I’d love to get your feedback. Let me know what you think!

Here are the original and the new cover for Flashes of Magic.

And here are the original and new covers for New Skin.

 

Cover Poll–Flashes of Splashes

I am finally getting to the “almost done” stage of my new flash fiction collection, and I realize I haven’t mentioned it much here.

It’s mostly based on the stories I wrote in April for the AtoZ Challenge, but everything has been edited and cleaned up, and a few of those stories have been tossed out entirely. The title I finally landed on is Flashes of Splashes, referencing the water theme running throughout the book.

Here’s where I need your help… I’ve been messing with cover designs for about 3 weeks, and I almost can’t think anymore. So, here are 6 covers currently in the running (5 that I like, one I’m less thrilled with). Please indicate which ones you love and/or which ones you hate. What would make you pick up the book? What would make you avoid it entirely and why? Feel free to give your opinions in the comments, or shoot me a private message if you don’t want to leave one publicly. Image names are beneath the images. And I just realized I didn’t update the title style on the Dancer image, so consider the two different title/subtitle styles as options on any of these, if you wish.

To inspire you, I’ll post the final-ish versions of the re-covers for New Skin and Flashes of Magic in another post.

Dancer

Mermaid

Rain Girl

Umbrella Man

Umbrella Bricks

Umbrella Yellow

The Month Ahead – June 2017

May has been a little bit hit and miss as far as getting the things done that I wanted to get done.

I’m actually OK with that. I’ve had a lot of months that were all miss and no hit, so this is actually an improvement.

What I did

I’ve been pretty faithful about keeping up with the reading for the 1000 Day MFA. I’ve taken a day off, here and there. Mostly, like, weekends–though I haven’t even taken every weekend off. I’m at the very beginning of this intentional plan to read more across more genres so I still have lots of time to fall off the wagon, but for now things are looking pretty good.

I haven’t kept up as well with the short story writing. I’ve written one story, and it’s one I need for a collection.

I really want to get back to that and use those stories to restart the weekly fiction posting I was doing on the blog for a while. Stories for the blog will always come second to stories that I intend for publication. But if I can get the juices flowing by writing and posting short pieces here, I believe it will help with my overall word output.

What’s on deck

June is going to get busy for me.

Here’s what I have planned (keeping in mind that by “planned” I mean “I intend to do these things but haven’t created any kind of firm schedule to actually get them done.”)

  • The Water Collection (these are the stories I wrote for AtoZ in April)
    • Write a few “bonus” stories (2 replacement stories–1 of which is done, plus 3-5 originals that have never been seen before)
    • Polishing, editing, and proofreading
    • Cover design and back cover/marketing copy
    • Formatting and publication
  • Advance planning and simple outlining for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project.
  • Return to and complete the revision analysis of my Android story and decide if I’m going to try to revise or if I’d be better off completely redrafting the thing

That doesn’t look like much. On the other hand, it looks overwhelming. Gah!

Even though it looks like a lot of steps, I don’t think I’ll have any problem knocking out the Water collection–it’s the other stuff that has me worried. My biggest issues have always been with outlining and completing longer-format stories. Here I have one that’s begging to be completed, and another one waiting to be told.

I believe I can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of focus. Maybe I need to get brain glasses.

A to Z is over… now what?

Hello, sports fans!

Welcome to May.

Yes, I know May has been going for more than a week now, but April was pretty busy and I took a few extra days to recover.

For those who were playing along, you are already aware that my A to Z challenge was completed with relative success.

I didn’t adore ever single story, but I got them all written, mostly on time. And I’m happy enough with the overall quality that I’m going to publish a collection!

What that means for you is that if you want to reread any of my stories you should do it sooner rather than later. I expect to leave everything up at least through the end of May, but once the collection is ready I’ll be taking down most of the stories here. My Blog Hop story (V is for Vortex) will stay put indefinitely, and I may pick one or two more to remain. I also need to do some rewrite on a couple of them, and I always like to include some bonus material so I need to write a few extra stories too. But I’m hoping to have the collection ready by mid-June at the latest. Watch this space.

Writing Stuff

In other writing news, I’m getting back to work on the revision that fell fallow over the last several weeks. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it is almost certainly going to end up as a complete rewrite. But I’m still taking the whole thing through a complete HTRYN-style revision process to get there. Partly because I want/need to fully understand that process. Partly because what I’ve done of that process so far has really helped me focus on what I think the story will end up being. I want to create a clear enough target that I know for certain that I’ll hit it the second time around. 🙂

I also have another idea percolating in the back of my head. It’s a young-adult-space-opera kind of thing that I worked on for a while and abandoned because I didn’t know what to do with it. But recently I’ve had some new ideas for the story so I want to take another stab and it. I think it will be 3 novella-length shorts, but it may decide to end up as a single, full-length novel. I’ll play that by ear as I’m working on it.

I’d really like to get both those ideas completed and published before the end of the year. It should be more than doable, but will require the kind of focus I employed during the A to Z. Sustained effort! Yikes!

If anyone wants to help, send chocolate! 😉

Moving Forward

In other news (that’s really related, but on a slightly different trajectory), another author has put a challenge out there to do what she is calling the 1000 Day MFA. Basically, it’s a process of intentionally self-educating by consuming lots of content and producing stories on a regular basis. Without the high price tag of a traditional education. Yeah – that’s a plus.

I’m at least tentatively committed to her plan which includes:

Reading/consumption
  • 1 short story, 1 poem, and 1 essay every day
  • watching 3 movies every week
  • reading 1 novel every week
  • reading 1 craft book (writing craft, duh–not arts-and-crafts) every month
  • (my own, personal addition) regularly listening to writing-related podcasts as a means of keeping up with author/writing/publishing news. I regularly listen to:
    • Writing Excuses
    • The Every Day Novelist
    • The Creative Penn Podcast
    • The Self Publishing Podcast
    • The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast
Writing/output
  • write 1 short story (or flash fiction story) every week
  • write 1 novel every year

My personal goals are actually a bit higher, but I don’t have the best track record of meeting my self-imposed goals, so going with these reasonable, doable plans is a good starting point.

Really, the overall goal is to get story and form and language and ideas percolating in my brain. That way, when sitting down to write, interesting things will end up on my page. I was already doing some of this. Joining this public-ish challenge seemed like a reasonable extension of my own personal commitment.

I haven’t quite “officially” started yet. I need to figure out a regular source for poems and essays since those have not been part of my usual intake up to now. This might be as simple as a visit to the library, but I also want to look into online resources. Additionally, I need to set up a tracking system both for what I’m consuming and for what I’m writing. That shouldn’t be too hard, especially since I have a husband who is the king of spreadsheets. But I need to figure out exactly what I intend to track and what I want that to look like.

The other bit I am adding that isn’t part of the “official” process–sharing things here. I want to start posting a weekly review of some kind. I want at least some of my short fiction to be practice in genres that are not my usual fare. And I want to get back in the habit posting weekly fiction or snippets here so y’all can follow along with what I’m doing. I probably also need to improve my blog organization so it’s easier to just get to what you want here. Right now it’s a bit of a mess, as per usual. * insert eye roll here *

Again–none of what I’m proposing should actually be that hard. The tough thing for me is going to be creating the habit.

Wish me luck!

And, like I said, send chocolate!

Sometimes the writer brain rebels

I was supposed to have an “R” story up by now.

I don’t have it written yet.

Don’t think I’m making excuses – I’m totally not. I had every intention of being multiple stories ahead of the publishing schedule for my challenge and I just didn’t quite get there. Instead I’ve been squeaking in barely under the wire (or, in many cases, just past it in the wee hours of the following day). So, yeah. Time management fail.

But today in particular I was running on too little sleep, even after sleeping half the morning. I had an appointment in the afternoon that ate a good portion of my usable day. We had plans with the offspring to celebrate the son-in-law’s birthday tonight. And by the time I sat down to write it was already nearly 11pm.

And I’ve just sat here. Puttered on Facebook a bit. Spent some time on my writers’ forum. All the while trying to decide what I would write for the letter “R.”

Not entirely unlike what I did last night trying to write a story for “Q.”

Except last night I got an idea I liked and cranked out a story relatively quickly.

Tonight it didn’t happen.

So, here it is at half-past tomorrow and I’m going to bed. I’ll write an “R” story tomorrow. And an “S” story, since that’s what’s due tomorrow. And maybe an extra one to get ahead of schedule for the first time this month.

We’ll see how it goes.

Conflicted

Actually… lack of conflicted, if you really want to know.

That’s the problem. And it’s a big problem.

The story I’m currently trying to revise is badly broken. And one of the main problems it has in the lack of meaningful conflict.

In order for a story to be worthwhile, it has to have conflict. That sounds contrary, I know. And as someone who doesn’t especially like conflict in real life, it can be difficult to put appropriate conflict in my stories.

I’ve even heard people argue that conflict isn’t really necessary for a good story. But they’re wrong. In fact, without conflict, it’s actually impossible to have a story.

And contrary to what some think, conflict doesn’t necessarily mean fighting. Nope. Conflict is about your character having a goal, and someone or something is standing in the way of them reaching that goal. Sometimes there’s a fight. Often, though, there’s some other kind of obstacle. A traffic jam. Embarrassment over calling the cute guy from geometry class. A fitness instructor who tells you to work harder while they’re eating a hamburger with bacon and extra pickles.

Without the traffic, you easily just drive to where you’re going. Without being flustered over the cute boy, you simply get a study partner and new boyfriend in one fell swoop. Without the hypocritical coach, you’re just, ya know, on the treadmill doing what you do.

And it’s all very dull.

Without conflict, all you really have is a slice of life. Sometimes that can be interesting, I guess, but it provides for very little movement. A story that doesn’t move, that doesn’t go anywhere, is not something that people read. It’s just not.

So, yeah. Conflict. Based on the character’s desires and goals. Goody.

Right now my biggest conflict is that I’ve been avoiding working on my story because I’m at a point where I need to analyze and improve the conflict. I love the idea of the story, but it has very little movement because, scene by scene, there is very little conflict. So it’s boring. I have to fix it.

But I don’t like conflict.

I’m so conflicted. sigh

What’s coming up?

I say this entirely too often around here: I need to be more consistent in what I’m posting.

I always have the best intentions to post regularly and be witty, creative, and interesting. And, as someone once said, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Ahem.

Obviously, it’s kinda not.

That said, I do have some specific goals at the moment and for the rest of the year, so here I am to talk about them. Yay.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

For the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Basically, you write/post on your blog every day during April. Sundays are an off day unless one is needed to hit the 26 total posts required to round out the alphabet, as is the case in 2017. As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April.

As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April. I will NOT, however, do what I did last year and try to make all those stories scenes of one larger story. While I was really happy overall with the idea I got last year (an Android raises a human boy for a science fair) the story I ended up with is such a disjointed mess that it will probably take a near-complete rewrite to pull it together into something useful and cohesive. So yeah, not doing that again. Two years ago I went in with no plan and ended up with a near-even split between sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism stories. I will be going in with no specific plan again this year.

If I try to give myself some direction and create a theme, I’ll let you know.

Camp NaNoWriMo

April is also the month of the first 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo event. Unlike November’s full-blown NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo allows for flexible goal setting. It also lets you have smaller groups, or cabins, of like-minded writers cheering each other on. It’s a great introduction to the NaNo lifestyle, as well as a way to build some accountability if you’re challenged in the completing things department.

My goal for April’s camp will be a combination of the above-mentioned AtoZ challenge and the continuation of my in-progress revision of last year’s AtoZ mess. What that looks like for goals is roughly 13,000 words of new fiction (500 words x 26 flash stories) PLUS about four lessons completed on my HTRYN revision. I don’t know that there’s a good way of distilling the revision down to a word count, so the 13,000 is probably all I’ll put on my NaNo page, but I’ll be working on both so feel free to poke me and ask for an update if you’re curious about my progress.

Story Time Blog Hop

This has become one of my favorite ongoing challenges over the last couple of years. Some other author friends and I each post a story on our blogs four times a year, with links to all the other authors participating in the hop. It’s a way to get a few words out for our own fans, and maybe introduce our followers to other authors they will enjoy.

The upcoming Blog Hop will take place on April 26th, right in the middle of the AtoZ Challenge, so that day’s post will be doing double duty. That makes it easy. Except I need to have that post ready a week in advance so the links can get all sorted out ahead of time, that adds a layer of challenge.

The fun part about the Blog Hop, though, is that we are open to other authors participating. So, if you write speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, magical realism, etc.3) and want to participate, let me know and I’ll get you the deets. Or you can click here and discover the details for yourself.

On Beyond April

So beyond April and all its deadlines breathing down my neck, I do have some other things planned for the year, although the specific goals are somewhat more nebulous at the moment.

  • Finally get a novel written. Preferably before my next birthday since this will be the half-century milestone for me. The full-spectrum goal is to plan, structure, write, and publish a long-form work of fiction. But “write a novel” is good, all-encompassing shorthand.
  • Write, polish, and submit at least 12 short stories. The intention was to do one a month throughout the year. That hasn’t happened – I’m currently three behind. *insert eyeroll here* But there is still plenty of time to fulfill this goal… I just need to get started.
  • Read. Specifically, read as many books on the writing craft as I can get my hands on. I currently have roughly 90 such books in my personal library, either on a shelf or on my Kindle. Clearly, getting them into my hands is not a problem. I’ve actually read about 12 so far this year, according to my GoodReads log. That comes out to about 4 per month. I’ll be pretty happy if I keep up that pace. And then, duh, apply what I learn, because isn’t that really the point?
  • Complete the revision that I mentioned above. Right now I have a roughly 13,000-word incomplete mess of a story written haphazardly during the 2016 AtoZ Blogging Challenge. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be expanding the story into a full-blown novelette, or paring it down into a more focused short story. I’m still trying to figure out what the story wants to be, and I’m using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel to get through it, step-by-step. Because I expect the end result to be significantly different that the original draft I did here on the blog, I plan to leave those posts live so people can see where it started and what it becomes. At the moment you have to hunt through the AtoZ tag to find the pieces of the story. If… No. When I get the revision done and either sell the story somewhere or self-publish it, I’ll make sure I pull those posts together in one location to make it easier to find them.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.

What… isn’t that enough for you?

Update on my procrastination skills, and other events of note

alarm-clock-590383_1280Yeah, so, procrastination.

About that.

It’s still a thing that I do. (For evidence, note that here it is something like 3 weeks after saying I’d post an update in a week. Ha!)

HOWEVER, that is not to say there has been no movement on that front.

I did do a little bit o’ plotting. Not much. Not enough. But some.

Blog Hopperpetualbloghop

Also, I wrote a flash story – one that I really like! I’m participating in the Story Time Blog Hop again this month. It’s a quarterly thing, and being October, all the stories will probably be leaning toward ghost stories, Halloween, paranormal… typical haunted fare.

But these are my friends, so don’t expect ordinary. Never expect ordinary. 😉

Expect to see that story as well as links to the others on October 26 at 6PM. (We are a global group, so we try to make things drop right at Midnight UTC. I’m in the -6 timezone, so I post 6 hours early.)

Advent CalendarKat's Advent Calendar

I’m also planning to participate in my friend Cat’s Advent Calendar again this year. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past, and it has always been a lot of fun.

As soon as I have sign-up info for that, I’ll post it here. To get the stories, you’ll need to join a mailing list… but it’s a list ONLY for the Advent Calendar and Cat never spams.

For that collection of stories, the theme this year is Winter (but not necessarily Christmas). As usual, most of the authors participating will likely have some kind of bonus in the form of an additional story, a traditional recipe, a fun desktop background… something unique. You won’t want to miss out!

NaNoWriMonanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200

Between the Blog Hop and the Advent Calendar, is the annual event known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  For those who haven’t heard of it, writers (anyone, really) are invited to try to write 50,000 words in November. That works out to an average of 1667 words every day.

50,000 might be a short novel, but by most classifications, it’s a novel. A whole novel (or maybe a good start on one) in 30 days is a pretty significant challenge. With my afore mentioned habit of procrastination, I have never managed to hit that 50,000-word goal. But I’m giving it a shot again this year. (My username there is pearannoyed, so if you’re participating too, feel free to connect!)

The story I’m planning is actually an extension of what I wrote for the Blog Hop. So if you drop back by on the 27th and read that story, you might have motivation to cheer me on for NaNo. Maybe. If you like it.

 

That is, I think, all I have on the table at the moment. If anything else comes up, I’ll let you know.

Procrastination

Hi. My name’s Liz and I’m a procrastaholic. appointment-15979_1920

I start out with really good intentions to sit down and write, or plan, or edit. I have the tools I’ll need at the ready. I have a gigantic cuppa coffee to keep me fueled up.

But then I lose focus.

Usually it starts pretty innocently. I don’t quite know where to start, so I’m looking for inspiration. Or I feel stuck on a particular project and I’m trying to decide what to do about it.

So I sit there. Thinking. Processing. And I’m inside my head, knowing I really should be doing something rather than just mulling it over.

And that makes me feel guilty. So to block out the guilt I try to think of something to do. Then I’ll make the mistake of opening my email. Or Facebook. I’ll go to check something out on the internet.

Once that happens, it’s all over. Ten minutes of email turns into, “how the heck did it get to be 4:00 in the afternoon?” And as much as I hate to admit it, there are other things I have to do besides staring at my computer. There’s housework and a husband and dinner to be cooked and eaten. There are the other commitments I have that I can’t simply blow off for more screen time. There are books to be read. There’s a dog to be walked.

Far too often I find that the time I have available for writing simply slips away from me, like mist across the water.

But I have a plan. That plan is to learn how to plan.

No kidding.

I’ve always been more of a pantser. That’s a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, for the uninitiated. One who sits down and just writes without necessarily having a concrete idea of where a story might be going ahead of time.

Pantsing feels more creative than plotting. Plotting feels too structured, too organized. Plotting will suck the life out of my writing. Pantsing seems so much more free.

Now is when you might ask, And how’s that working out for you?

Clearly, it ain’t. It’s fantastic for developing my procrastination skills, and terrible for getting any actual words on the page.

So this coming week my goal is to create a plot outline for at least one of the stories that have been percolating in my brain or languishing on my computer. The good news? I have plenty to choose from!

I’ll probably start with something relatively short, but not too short. One of my short story or novella ideas should work. I’ll create a basic structure for it, fill in a few details, and know what story I want to tell.

pen-994464_1920And from that, hopefully, I’ll be able to sit down with my coffee and my blank page and fill up the one while I empty the other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On being a professional

Every now and then I say something that makes me think, Yeah. That was good. Today is one of those days. So I turned it into a meme.

Presented here without further comment…

ProfessionalMeme