It’s That Time Again–NaNoWriMo!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Small-SquareI’m gearing up for the 2015 National Novel Writing Month. This year, I’ll be tackling a ten-part hi-lo story I’m tentatively calling Space Cadets. It features three very different teenagers, who, at first at least, can’t stand each other. They eventually learn to overcome and appreciate their differences and wind up having a series of adventures in and around the Terran colony on which they’ve grown up.

It might turn into a series of shorts, rather than a full-length novel, but we’ll see. Hard to say at this point. I’m something of a “pantser,” so who knows? (A “pantser” is a writer who doesn’t plan very much ahead. I do have a vague idea where I’m going, but no detailed outline or anything like that. If I did, I would be a “planner.”)

What’s a hi-lo book, you’re wondering? It’s a book with high interest and low readability. They’re excellent for older struggling readers such as my students. Older protagonists, teen-level language, and deeper, more sophisticated plots and themes–all wrapped in a reading level of about 4th grade, in this case. It allows kids to read something engaging, something written just for them, rather than some “baby” book. I’ll do anything to get a kid to read, even write the book myself!

To be honest, I’m not at all confident of logging that relentless 1,667 words a day, every single day, for the entire month of November. Still, the local NaNo group here in the Kansas City metro is an awesome group of folks, and I want to hang out with them at Scooters, drink mochas, and write as much as I can. I figure that anything I crank out is more than I would have written if I weren’t doing NaNo at all. It’s all good, given those terms. And maybe I’ll have a third series to toss my publisher’s way when I’m done.

See you on the other side of 50,000 words!

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Why do you write?

Greetings all,

I’m back from a wonderful holiday around BC (Canada) and a cruise to Alaska. If anyone is thinking about a trip to either of those places I’d highly recommend it (though maybe for Alaska to go in July or August) and tomorrow I’m off to a convention (about 6 hours away from where I live), so busy times! For this month, getting back on topic, I’d like to talk about why I write, it was something that came up at a convention and in Stephen King book I read (and is an important question for any writer I think.)


If you’re curious the book by Stephen King is called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“, I’d highly recommend any writer (or aspiring writer) check it out, if you don’t like King. Back on topic, I’ve always had a love of literature. It started (like lots of people I’m sure) with comic books (Archie and then superhero titles) and then novels (and some Hardy Boys and Choose your Adventure stuff). I love to be creative, at first I just wrote a journal but soon moved into short stories, poems and later novels.


The above reasons are (mostly) true but there are more. You write any story you’re in control, the characters, the plot, the setting, it’s a great feeling to write something exactly the way you want (well if you want to be published it might be a little different but close enough). To see your ideas come to life (even just on the page or screen) is a wonderful feeling and fills you with excitement. I do also hope that my writing has an affect on at least a few readers, I have strong ideas about the world and how it could be better and if other people feel the same, then maybe the world can be a little better. I wrote my first book The Newfoundland Vampire ( the sequel, Killer on the Road,  soon to re-released by my most excellent publisher, Distinguished Press, what? You knew I always put in a plug!)  because I had a story to tell and something to say and I’ll keep writing as long as that’s the case.


I’ll admit there’s another reason, I’m needy, in particular I need feedback, comments (hopefully praise) and even constructive criticism (please don’t come up and just say you suck, I’ve had that happen and it stings). I think most writers are needy and crave attention, it’s a big reason of you why get stories publish (or self-publish). I am thrilled when I get a new review of a book (especially if it’s a good one and goes on for a more than a few sentences).  I had a book launch party and having everyone show up because they care about your writing (I did a reading there) is also an incredible feeling, I’m looking forward to having at least one more.


Overall though, I write because I love do to it. I’d tell anyone that writing for the money is  bad idea, sure it’s nice to be rewarded but the money should never be the goal. I’ve read about that writing brings you joy, healing your mind and body and make you a better person. I don’t know if all those things are true but I know that if writing is a chore or all you see is dollar signs, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

What about you? Why do you write?


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Rabbit in Red

Another author with Distinguished Press is about to have their cherry popped! Joe Chianakas’ debut novel and first book in the horror mystery series Rabbit in Red is about to hit shelves.


Bill Wise has blood in his past, so he turns to horror films to wipe it clean. Jaime Stein has felt the betrayal of death, so she too takes refuge in the on-screen deaths of others. Now Bill, Jaime, and seventeen other horror-loving teens have gathered at Rabbit in Red Studios, the brainchild of eccentric horror producer Jay “JB” Bell, for the terror-filled, blood-drenched contest of their lives. 

JB has presented this competition as a race between the best of the best that will reward the winners with cash, internships, and a career making the movies they love. But things aren’t always as they seem at Rabbit in Red, and soon life starts to imitate art. Will Bill and Jaime be strong enough to confront real horror to save their friends, or will they all fall victim to JB’s twisted plans?

Rabbit in Red

Rabbit in Red

Check out the excerpt below!

This was the moment! He seized a knife that was on the kitchen floor and stabbed the hand—his own hand!—pinning it to the floor. He hesitated a moment, looking at this image in front of him. It was the strangest thing Bill could have imagined. There he was, on the floor of JB’s game chamber, but all around him he only saw the infamous cabin in the woods from The Evil Dead. And he had stabbed his own hand, but thankfully he felt no more than a sharp pinch. The knife was virtual, but the glove was real, and whatever technology JB programmed in it, the glove reacted in perfect real time to everything happening on screen.

He knew what he had to do next, and he was both excited and terrified at the idea. This was the epic moment with Ash in The Evil Dead. He had to cut off the possessed hand. That was the only way to get rid of the evil, to not become fully possessed. With his right hand pinned to the floor gushing out blood, Bill reached for the chainsaw that Ash had used earlier in the movie, which of course happened to be right next to him. Remembering this iconic scene from those younger memories when he and his friends cheered, Bill picked up the chainsaw with his left hand, bit on the cord and yanked it back with as much force as he could to start the gas-powered hacking device and brought it down on his right arm. The screeching noises, the loud mechanics of the saw, the crunching of bone, and the splattering of blood coalesced in a cacophony of noises, an orchestra of pain.

Bill cut off the hand.

About the author:


Joe Chianakas is a professor of communication at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, IL. He’s a super fan of horror and literature. Rabbit in Red is his first published novel. He likes writing in all sorts of genres from horror to traditional coming-of-age. You can find Joe online at or

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This ‘n’ That

Almost too tired to write this up, to be honest, but here we go. It’s the start of another school year, and that leaves me with so little time and energy to write, edit, or anything remotely related. Not even blogging, obviously, since it’s been over a month since my last entry.

Kids are good. Quite a few are actually big, big readers, and they’ve been drooling over my classroom library with over 2,000 books and checking them out like they’re going out of style. I’ve had some kids make recommendations of books they’ve read and enjoyed, and their eyes about pop out of their heads when I flip open the iPad and One-Click them right then and there. So that’s fun.

One series I’ve started adding to the library on student recommendation is the Surviving Southside books. It’s a series of very intense hi-lo books–books with young adult protagonists that are written at lower reading levels for struggling readers. It stands for “high interest/low readability,” and they are a lifesaver for teachers of reluctant readers. Anyway, the first one, entitled Beaten, is about a teen girl who winds up in an abusive relationship. I read it, and I felt the topic was dealt with honestly and sensitively, providing positive, hopeful information and without sensationalizing the subject. I’ve already ordered the next few on the strength of that. My own interest was piqued by the fact the books in the series are all written by different authors.

I have an author event lined up in October at my local public library. Pretty pumped about that. They do tons of publicity in the libraries and online, so that’s exciting and a little embarrassing. It’ll involve some Q&A, a read-aloud, and book sales. I imagine it’ll also involve treats of some kind if I want kids to come out (and I do.) I’m thinking of having some bookmarks and posters made with the book cover on them for publicity and for give-aways. The big deal, though, is that it means real, actual books made of paper, and I’m going to be a screaming mess when those babies come in the mail!

I also realized a couple of days ago that National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner again. I made such a mixed-up hash of the second Were-Children novel last November by not writing in any particular order that I was hesitant to sign up again this year. Then I remembered how enjoyable it was to attend the write-ins and meet folks, that I decided I would. This time around, though, I’m going to be a “plotter,” rather than a “pantser,” I think. What I have in mind is a series of hi-lo science fiction shorts–eight or ten books–that I’ll write all as one thing to reach the 50,000 words. I figure it’s my “novel,” and I can make it what I want, right? I’m spending September and October doing some outlining, researching, and note-taking so I’m ready to go for that. It’s a long slog, and it seems brutal and relentless at the time, but it sure feels good to have it done. I’ve always gone by the Dorothy Parker quote: “I hate writing. I love having written.”

It takes five things to make a list, doesn’t it? Hrm. Okay. Here’s a picture of my dog.

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Why I Want To Be Successful

One of my favorite joys as a professor is writing a student a wonderful letter of recommendation. That’s one of the surprises for which no one prepares you. I love the moments when a hard-working (we hope) student walks through my office door and asks politely and hesitantly, “Do you think you could write me a letter of recommendation?”

I smile and nod. “My pleasure.”

And it truly is. I get to work with the next generation of ambitious leaders as they pursue their dream jobs, and there is little else that gives me the satisfaction of being able to help them achieve that. And not just through classroom lessons, but through that essential reference, the teacher communicating with a future employer and saying, “You’ve got a great candidate here.”

My first novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. “Is this really happening?” But it’s terrifying, too. I ask myself, “Do I need this? Do I really want this?” People are going to see the inside of my head! There will be critics—oh, so many critics! Can I handle all of that?


One of my college classes. I’m in the back with the maroon shirt. This is my dream job!

Yes. The answer is yes because I think of the smile on a student’s face after they read the rave review I had written for them. I’ve worked hard to be in a position where I am lucky to help others get to where they want to be. I’m lucky to already have my dream job. But I made the decision to never stop developing and chasing new dreams. I set a goal to be a published author, and now it’s happening. I hope for success, of course, but I have to ask: “Why do I want to be successful as an author?” It’s not ego or pride, is it?

No, it’s more than that.

I dream not (just) of being on a bestseller list (although of course I’d be thrilled!). I dream of a day when I can help other writers and artists accomplish their dreams. Isn’t that what would be the absolute coolest thing about being J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? They could get on a Twitter account any hour of any day and make someone a bestseller with a single tweet. Can you imagine?

Oh, I’m sure it’s a terrible pressure, too. But what a beautiful gift.

That’s also why I’ve fallen in love with my publishing home at Distinguished Press. We fight for ourselves, sure, but we’re also fighting for one another. I’ve told my students that when we collaborate with others, when we strive to help others, then we also help ourselves.

If we fight for the success of others, then we, too, will find success.

One day I hope that I possess the beautiful gift of recommending an artist to the world and consequently am able to help that artist achieve all of his or her dreams. THAT is my dream.

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

I’ll look back on all the enthusiastic people that have always been my side, and I’ll do anything I can to help them out.

That’s why I want to be successful. That’s why I fight to share my first book with the world and hope to share a dozen more.

I’ll hope you be with me as I take my first steps as a published author.

About the author: Joe Chianakas, 36, teaches communication at Illinois Central College. His first published novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. Like him on Facebook here, and follow him on Twitter for the latest exciting news!

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How Pregnancy Changed My Writing

In early March I experienced a very strange moment. My breasts had been hurting for a couple days, and when I mentioned it to a friend her immediate response had been to ask, “Are you pregnant?”

Well, I stared at the computer screen for awhile with this dulled, blank look on my face as the consequences of potentially being pregnant washed over me. There were the sort of concerns and fears most people have about being able to afford having a child, health insurance, and (selfishly) how it would change my life if my life wasn’t about me anymore. Would I even be a good mother? I’m a great mom to fur babies, but a human baby is completely different. I’d be responsible for raising a child who would have to interact with society. No pressure.

I’d never felt so many emotions as we drove to the store to stock up on pregnancy tests. Excitement. Fear. The purest of both that I’ve ever felt. We talked about names, jokingly, because joking is how we both deal with stress. I barricaded myself in the bathroom and drank glass after glass of water, and then I called him to the door. I didn’t say a word as he opened it, but he lit up when he said, “Are we having a baby? Oh my God, we’re having a baby, aren’t we?”

I told him I wanted more cold water. Yes, I survived that moment.

I didn’t call him to the door, however, when my bladder was so full I had almost no choice except to pee on the stick. I instead had a private little meltdown by myself that involved a few tears, lots of smiling, and borderline hyperventilating. I had a freaking tiny human growing in me who was utterly reliant on me. I was pregnant.

Before I became pregnant, it seemed like the half-assed way to add drama to a story. Dare I say…the easy way out? PREGNANT would always illicit an eye roll from me, even when it came from the best authors. Gwen in The Kiss of the Highlander by KMM? Blech. The mention of Xhex possibly being pregnant after being raped by Lash was marginally better, although (SPOILER ALERT) she wasn’t. It was with some (many) reservations that I decided to incorporate pregnancy into one of my upcoming novels. I loathe to be a  hypocrite, but was convinced that the end justified the means when it came to moving the development of the character forward. My understanding of pregnancy itself had been shallow and superficial. I greatly underestimated the experience. Perhaps that’s part of why it’s been sitting on my shelf, untouched, while people clamor for this sequel.

I’ve met a version of myself I never knew existed. One who swings through phases of eating all-organic and dotes on onesies before catapulting to the nearest Cinnabon, and laments her misery over a caramel pecanbon to whoever will listen. I’ve become multifaceted to the point of almost multiple personalities. My pregnancy hasn’t been terrible, although neither has it been smooth. My normally dormant Tietze Syndrome has become the bane of my existence and I endure pain 24/7, and my IBD is at war with most of my pregnancy cravings. Being pregnant had never been a viable “excuse” before in regard to how people acted. Now I’m riding a roller coaster where censoring myself into staying well-behaved is…hard. Just today, as I sat trying on my first ever pair of Crocs, some kids walked by and shouted into the store at me. It took almost more self-control than I could muster to not go running after them and berate them. I’m six months pregnant, my feet hurt, and you think it’s smart to mock me trying on Crocs? I’ll show you, you little whippersnappers! In fact, the only thing I think stopping me was the fact that my feet hurt too much to chase after them.

The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones is my worst nightmare. In my head I’m already reacting to situations with the sole interests of protecting the unborn young who is brutally hiccuping and kicking me when I’m trying to sleep. A car accident is my most immediate concern, and it’s constantly on my mind. I’d like to say I’m driving like a grandma, except I think we all know old folk are rather…reckless when they’re on the road. My own grandmother could drive blocker for a truck of illegal Coors. I was reading a book a week ago where the female MC learned she was pregnant, and didn’t tell the father on the basis that his previous (and likewise pregnant) fiancee had been shot dead by the mob. Before pregnancy I would’ve just rolled my eyes until they spun right out of my head. How cliche, how ridiculous. But now? It hit me right in the fucking feels. While I might not be pregnant with the spawn of a mobster (I try to take what blessings I find), I could understand. Or, perhaps a better way to phrase it, I finally understood.

I still intend for my character to be pregnant. I intend it more than ever now because instead of thinking it will change her a certain way, I know for a fact it will. And it will make my story fantastic.

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My writing habits

Greetings once again all,

Summer is coming to close (for me in NL we’ve had maybe 4 weeks of summer weather but such is life here) and like when any season ends I get a little reflective. This month I thought I’d talk about my writing habits/process. Every writer has their own way of being creative, here’s my story (and details.)

For me writing is a time to relax, to dream, to fantasize about mythical creatures and imagine how my life could have turned differently if I had made different choices. I know some people can write in public places with all sorts of noise and people around but for me I need quiet, solitude and something to look at. I also find that generally I am at my most creative in the morning. My best writing occurs when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, get up at 6 or 6:30 and start writing by 7 or 7:30 AM. (Unless I’m on vacation, then it could certainly be later.)


I also find that I need an outline. I like to have a clear idea of where I’m headed in a story so I always plan a novel at least two or three chapters ahead of time. (For book 3 “The Gathering Dark” it was the whole book, now for book 4 “War of the Fangs” about 12 chapters). Before I write I have a look at my outline (especially if I’m at the end of a chapter). Also at least once a month I look over the tips my esteemed editor, Kathy, gave me from book 2 ( and I try to keep in mind all I’ve learned from Karyn as well). I find that generally I only write in short bursts, 30-45 minutes tops then I’ll look out the window, possibly check my e-mail or pet one of my cats if they happen to be on the table with me. Generally I do most of my writing at home but sometimes I use my iPad for on the go. As I mentioned above if I have the time (and my laptop) I have also been known to write on vacation, in airports, at conventions and on weekend trips around the province (I live in Newfoundland, if you want to visit somewhere different, you should come . . .  in August or September only!).


With my first book published (by the wonderful people at Distinguished Press), I also find it useful to keep a copy of “The Newfoundland Vampire” nearby, it serves as both an inspiration and a guide as I work on further installments (there will be at least 4, after that, we’ll see). For me I try to write about places that I’ve been (or wish I’d been) and either way I like to look at pictures of that place before I write the scene, sometimes I read histories of a building or a town (for me info about my research methods for writing go here). As the main character, Joseph, is about 90% me, it is always a lot of fun to revisit these places in my mind and see how I would act differently in my imaginary world. For some scenes I try to imagine the whole thing in my head and then get it down on the screen as accurately as possible.


When it comes to personal preference, I find I enjoy writing the sex, action and humor scenes the most. Action scenes in particular get me excited and then they writing comes faster. A friend of mine gave me a tip to just set a simple goal, write one page a day every day. I found this very helpful as even one page, single spaced, means a chapter done in a week and of course some days I get inspired and do more Thumbs up.


The best scenes for me just fly out of my brain and I worry about cleaning up dialogue, punctuation and grammar at later time. While I’m certain writing could be taken with a scientific approach for me its artistic expression and the best way I have to communicate my ideas and feelings to the world. I read once you should write drunk and edit sober, I’m certainly not going to encourage drinking but writing drunk can be fun 😉  I hope you do something creative today and let me know you thoughts. What writing habits do you have? What scenes are the most fun to do? Do write better at certain times of the day? Inquiring minds want to know! Have a good one all, talk to you next month.

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In Defense of Bess Marvin

As I’ve said many times before, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan when I was a middle-school reader. Nancy had it all and could do it all. This summer, since I own the first 55 of the originals, I re-read this precious and well-loved series.

And I came away disappointed. Not so much because of Nancy, although she can be a bit cloying to my adult sensibilities, but because of a character I have absolutely come to loathe: George Fayne. George, often touted by modern feminist writers for her traditional boys’ name and her bravery and athleticism, is, in short, a mean and horrible person. And she’s especially a mean and horrible person to her cousin, Bess Marvin.

So let’s talk about Bess for a bit. Bess is the girly-girl femme friend of the intrepid sleuth. She’s the one who is slightly plump, not as athletic as the others, and much more cautious. Let’s look at each of these traits, as they are depicted in the stories.

Bess is cautious. She’s also usually right about the danger. And yet her loving cousin, George, scorns her, scoffs at her, sneers at her, and shames her into doing things she doesn’t think are safe (and they usually aren’t.) If they’d just listen to Bess once in a while, they’d solve the mystery with a lot less danger.

Bess isn’t as athletic as George the Jock and Nancy the Exceptional at Everything, either. But you know what? Whenever they go swimming, or boating, or skiing, or horseback riding, or playing tennis, Bess is right there with them, keeping up. Does she live for it with the same competitive spirit the other two do? No. But she’s quite a competent athlete in her own right, if the story lines are anything to go by.

And, finally and most importantly, Bess is slightly overweight. The books always state that she’s trying to “lose a few pounds.” Get that: a FEW. Three? Five? The illustrations in the books show her to be just as slender as Nancy and George, so it can’t be more than that. But so what? What if it were fifty? Would that in any way justify the cruel teasing and fat-shaming her “loving” cousin inflicts upon her? I don’t think so.

Let’s take the 44th book of the series, The Clue in the Crossword Cipher, by way of an egregious example. On page 41, Bess remarks that she’s so very excited about their being in South America that she could burst. George, predictably, gets her dig in with this non sequitur: “Well, my dear fat cousin, that might be one way to lose some weight!” Again, towards the middle of the story, when the girls are sharing a meal with a Quechua elder, George admonishes her cousin, in front of others, not to eat so much in the thin mountain air, and according to story, gives her a “withering look.” Why not just a friendly reminder to the group in general? No, George intentionally shames Bess.

The worst, though, happens on page 57. The girls are out sleuthing and stop at a hotel for a lunch that includes slices of homemade bread. That’s when this happens:

As Bess reached for her third piece, George grabbed her cousin’s arm. “No, you don’t,” she said. Meekly, Bess put the slice of the bread back into the basket and finished her salad. (Emphasis mine.)

Honestly, that’s the point at which I wished Bess had taken her free hand, punched George right in the face, and said, “Shut it, jerkface. I’ll eat what I want, and you’ll have nothing whatsoever so say about it, or there’s more where that came from. Got it? Good. Now pass me the damn bread.” Alas, it never happens.

So here’s to Bess Marvin, the concerned, loyal, and kind friend of Nancy Drew. She doesn’t get enough credit for being capable and competent in her own right, and it’s all because her cousin George belittles her and treats her like dirt. Jerkface.

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The Trouble With Love

It’s a well-known fact that I don’t write much in the way of romance. When I was writing the short story “Space in the Fall” for Persephone’s Song, I brought in my friend Jadeleath to help me out with the parts that were supposed to sizzle. When the Gloves Come Off is an exercise in growth, but still very much plot driven. There’s action. Boxing! Mobsters! Drama! I’ve realized in my ‘old age’ that I’m an author who doesn’t mind including romance…so long as it furthers the plot. So long as it fits the situation and the characters, and wasn’t thrown in for the sake of having a sex scene.

Even though I don’t write much romance, I love reading it. Some of my library staples are Karen Marie Moning and J.R. Ward. Many of my favorite books are love stories. I watch promoters online like a hawk, looking for romances to go on .99 cent promotions or — even better — free! I hoard them and go on reading binges when I am running out of steam for my own writing. Sometimes it’s nice to step out of the worlds I’m building and just live in someone else’s for awhile. The problem I’ve been encountering lately, however, is that everyone else’s worlds…kind of suck.

I have been suffering a drought of love stories. My Kindle, brimming with them, contained only about three or four who deserved even a four star review on Amazon. The consistent problem I found was that the story itself was taking a backseat for the smut.

I don’t mind characters having sex. That’s what people do! My problem is when authors bend characters into doing things that people don’t do. Mob boss kidnaps a girl as collateral for her father’s unpaid debts? Makes sense. Girl immediately hops into bed with said mob boss? Not so much. Or–and this one killed me–girl studying abroad is making eye contact with this handsome, debonaire stranger from across the museum gallery. He approaches her and has the mouth of a pig and is a complete dick. Naturally she’s going to just go for it! Right? Because isn’t that was people do? I can’t speak for anyone else, but not any people I know.

Authors are coming up with great, vibrant ideas. Mobsters might be fading out, but motorcycle clubs and Russians are all the rage right now. I love it! But when your leading lady falls in love after knowing your hero for only a day (generally immediately after having sex, no less), you lose the romance. Part of what I love about authors like KMM and the Warden are that they BUILD the relationship. It doesn’t happen in an instant. They let the characters banter and sizzle and get to know one another. They let the characters fall in love with each other because of who they are. Not because their leading lady needs to sleep with the leader of the MC to guarantee her safety and she lays there after thinking he’s the One. Let your leading lady sleep with him for whatever the reasons might be, but let the lovebuild. Let the love happen naturally. And don’t let that love be overshadowed by the sex.

Dear romance authors around the world, please stop forcing the love through physical encounters and please, please, please stop letting the plot take a backseat to that forced love. If you really want to leave your audience truly hot and bothered and begging for more, #romanceyourreaders

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The Long Road to Publication

Cat Moon Final CoverThere are a couple of things that I don’t talk about much when I discuss my upcoming book Cat Moon, Book One of The Were-Children series. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to trot out my lack of success as an author. Maybe I don’t really want to admit that I turned 55 years old this past month. I’m not sure. So here I go. True confessions.

The first is that I wrote it ten years ago. Ten years. An entire decade. My daughters were 11 and 17, just children, and now they are grown women living their own successful adult lives.I was teaching at a different school in a different district. The students who were sitting in my classroom then are grown and having their own children, some of whom are approaching school age themselves. I probably owe them an apology for having assigned so much Silent Sustained Reading so I could scribble furiously on a yellow legal pad by longhand. They know me better, though, than to think I will ever apologize for giving them time to read. But if they ever wondered what I was doing while they were reading, this was it. I was writing this book. It was a long, long time ago.

The second is, I think, connected to the first. Author Stephen King once said he got “dozens” of rejection slips for his first published novel Carrie. I don’t know how many that actually is, but I do know that Mr. King has nothing on me. I have kept all of those rejection slips in a folder, even printing out the many that came via email. Some are from agents; others are from the few publishers who consider un-agented work. I’m pretty sure I could wallpaper my bathroom with them. That, of course, doesn’t count the ones for which I got no response whatsoever. Any author who has queried a novel will tell you that it is absolutely soul-crushing. Oh, most them are so sweetly polite they set your teeth on edge, and they tell you that your work is probably quite good. It’s just not right for them. They let you down easy like that, but inside, you know. You know they thought your manuscript was stinking up their office and that you better not be quitting your day job. You know.

Then came the magical moment when I got a phone call from a reader at a publisher I will not name. (I will, however, tell you that this same publisher’s predecessor company was the original publisher of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, a fact which absolutely delighted me.) The reader loved it and was passing it on to an editor. A few months later, she called back and said that editor was going to pass it on to another editor she thought better suited for it. A few more months passed, and yes, I got another rejection slip. She said it had some good points, but she just didn’t have the time for the work it would take to make it publication-ready. In other words, my manuscript was stinking up her office. I did not quit my day job.

You know what, though? A few more years went by, and the industry started changing. I toyed with the idea of self-publishing, but it was so overwhelming to consider, I just never did much that direction. Technology also changed, and that I felt I had a better handle on. So at the end of 2014, I participated in one of the literary pitch events on Twitter. Distinguished Press “starred” my short pitch, requesting that I query. I queried, fully expecting another rejection slip. This time, though, that didn’t happen. They accepted the manuscript. They love the story. They believe in me as a writer.

Here we are, just a few days after release. Shortly after release, my book–MY book–was in the Amazon Top 100 for three separate categories. For a brief, shining moment, I had higher book sales than the legendary C. S. Lewis. Unprecedented! Many, many thanks to Catrina for taking a chance on my work, to Karyn for the edits, to Vanessa for the gorgeous cover of my dreams, and to Kristina for getting the word out to folks that the book is there to be read. Now I just need to get cracking on the rewrites for the second book!

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