2018: The Year in Advance

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2017 is over already.

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In 2017, Harmony Ink Press released two of my novels. Midnight Chat, which came out in February 2017, is about Mira, a girl who is trying to keep her best friend Rob from doing something he can’t take back. She believes Rob is only a danger to himself, but what if she’s wrong?

 

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Dolphins in the Mud, released in August, is the rerelease of a novel originally published several years ago. Chris Talberman is trying to hold his family together–but who will help him hold himself together?

 

The last two novels I submitted were rejected, both for valid reasons largely involving the books’ genre, paranormal, though that wasn’t the only reason. Unfortunately, that leaves me with no releases scheduled for 2018. This will be the first year since 2009 that I haven’t had anything released under the Jo Ramsey pen name, and it’s a little bittersweet.

At the same time, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m currently revising one of the rejected novels, on which the editors kindly gave me very useful feedback, and plan to send it elsewhere when it’s ready. I also have begun a new contemporary novel, and hope to send that to Harmony Ink by summer. I might do a short story or two and post them on my Free Reads page, and may even take the second rejected novel, which would have been a rerelease, and try self-publishing it through Amazon.

While it’s strange not having anything schedule to release this year, it’s giving me time to get back up to speed on my writing craft, meaning better-written, better quality stories. I have more time to think about options. And I’ll be launching a new adult fiction pen name this summer.

So that’s what 2018 looks like for me right now. I hope your 2017 was a good year, and I hope 2018 will be even better!

“Which One?”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone I hadn’t heard from in three or four months. He asked whether I’d finished my book.

My immediate response was, “Which one?”

It isn’t that I’m working on a lot of books at this point, though that used to be the case. From 2009-2015 or so, I was always working on a book or short story, and during a lot of that time, I worked on more than one project simultaneously. If someone asked whether I’d finished my book, I genuinely had no way to know which one they were talking about, unless I remembered the last conversation I’d had with them. Even if I did remember it, though, it might not help me figure out which book  they meant, because I might have talked to them about more than one.

hard cover books in attractive colors
hard cover books in attractive colors

Nowadays, I work on one book at a time, and sometimes I’m not working on any books or stories. But as I rebuild my career in the direction it used to be–though hopefully less stressful and better organized–I’m nearly always working on something, even if it’s just a brainstorm.

In the few months since the last time I spoke to this person, I worked on, and then temporarily set aside, a young adult novel. I’ve written several short stories, and completed a novel I’d been working on for nearly a year and a half; the stories and this novel are adult fiction and under a new pen name which I haven’t officially launched yet. My memory is wonkier than it used to be, so I legitimately can’t even remember for sure when I last talked to this person, let alone which project I’d talked to him about. And I didn’t want to ask, because that would have looked a little foolish. Some people don’t understand why I don’t remember every word of every book I’ve written; most people definitely wouldn’t understand why I can’t remember what I was working on this past summer.

Since I had recently finished the adult novel, I told him that yes, I’d finished my book. I just hope that was the book he was asking about…

Completion Euphoria

There’s a certain feeling I get when I finish the first draft of a manuscript. I feel it when I finish editing rounds and when the book is released, too, but it’s strongest when I mentally type “the end” on a first draft.

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I don’t actually type “the end.” Publishers sometimes don’t like that. But in my mind, those words appear on the bottom of the final page.

The feeling is hard to describe. Euphoria is pretty close. It’s the jump-for-joy, happy, shout-from-the-rooftops sensation that fills every part of my body. I’ve been working on this book for however long. I might have had to delete half of it and start over; that happens sometimes. I’ve agonized over how to word things just right, and whether I’m repeating myself or contradicting something from earlier in the story. I’ve wondered if the bleeping thing is ever going to be finished.

And now it’s finished.

But alongside the excitement and joy of being able to say I’ve written another book, there’s a sort of let-down feeling. I’ve been working on the book for however long, and the characters have become my constant companions. During the waking moments when I’m not sitting at the computer actively typing, part of my brain has been occupied with thoughts of plot points and plot holes, and how to get the characters from A to B. Sometimes I’ve even dreamed about the story and the characters.

And now it’s finished.

Finishing the first draft of a book is definitely a time for mixed emotions. I’m never sure what emotion I’ll feel the most strongly, though I know I’ll at least be proud of myself for getting it done. But while sometimes I celebrate and literally do jump for joy, other times I cry. I know I’ll see the characters and story again, because there’s editing to do once the manuscript has set for a while, but for now they’re not going to be part of my life, and sometimes that causes me to feel sad even as I’m feeling happy.

Teaser- A Perfectly Nice Guy

From a work in progress. Susurrus: Season of Tides (C)2017 Evil Overlord Games. Used by permission.

I went upstairs to my room. The house only had three bedrooms, but Mom and Dad had converted the attic into a room for me when Kendrick was born. I was eleven then and didn’t want to share with a baby, and my parents didn’t want Kendrick sharing with Donovan even though she was only three and he was a baby. So I’d ended up in the attic, which was fine with me even though in the summer it could be a furnace. I had privacy, and that mattered more than staying cool. At least Dad had put in an air conditioner.

My laptop was on my bed where I’d left it. I opened it and refreshed the browser, which was already on the game forums. I’d been playing before school, even though I wasn’t supposed to be online in the mornings. What my parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

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Susurrus wasn’t one of the usual types of online RPGs. Instead of choosing a character and running around bashing things, players chose a character and read things, and clicked on links that led to more things. It was kind of like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books the town library had, which I’d read as a kid, except in the game, other people were making choices that might affect yours.

No one knew I was a gamer. Like acting in community theater, it was a way-too-geeky thing that wouldn’t have gone over well in Dayfield. Some of my friends did Dungeons and Dragons, and a couple even did ren faires and that kind of thing, and they got hassled for it on a regular basis. They got hassled for being theater nerds too, which was why I’d never joined the school drama club. I liked keeping some things in my life separate.

The little envelope icon near the top of the page had a “1” beside it. Someone had messaged me, and that someone was almost definitely Corriman. No one else would have.

I clicked the envelope and read his message. Liked what you said about the mage alphabet. They should use your idea.

I couldn’t help smiling. He liked something I’d said. My idea about using the mage alphabet for graffiti to keep the city under control was probably a crappy one, and probably something the game writers had already considered. If the city was under control, there wouldn’t be much point to the game anyway. But it didn’t matter whether it was a good idea or not. Corriman liked it.

We’d been talking back and forth on forum posts since March, and after a couple weeks he’d also started messaging me privately. I felt like I knew him as well as my real-life friends. I didn’t, of course. All I really knew about him was his screen name and that his primary character in the game was a werewolf. Which meant having a crush on him was probably pretty stupid, but I felt how I felt. I just wished I had the guts to ask if he felt the same.

They probably wouldn’t use a player’s ideas, I typed. But thanks. Maybe I’ll just write a fan fic or something with the idea.

I read that a couple of times. I had never written a fan fic in my life. I didn’t write anything if I could help it. But Corriman didn’t know that, and he didn’t have to. I sent the message.

A new one from him showed up within minutes. This takes too long. Can I text you? Or message you on Facebook or something?

He wants to message me? Awesome! I started to type my phone number, then deleted it. Texting or instant messaging with Corriman would be awesome, unless he turned out not to be who I thought he was. That was the downside of only knowing him in the game. He might be a seventeen-year-old guy like he claimed, or he might be some elderly creeper who liked flirting with boys. Or he might be a serial killer.

Okay, the last one was definitely my imagination running away with me. But it still didn’t hurt to be cautious. I’d like that, but how do I know you aren’t going to stalk me or something? LOL. I was serious, but maybe the “LOL” would make it sound less offensive.

I Don’t Write That

Since I’m a published author, occasionally I’m contacted by people who are writing books, or who know someone who’s writing a book. Usually they want advice on how to get that book published. Even though sometimes, the book isn’t even started yet, let alone ready for publication.

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The thing is… I’m published in young adult fiction. My publisher only takes LGBTA+ young adult fiction. I don’t have a mental database of knowledge about every publisher of everything ever. So when someone comes to me to ask about getting a memoir published, or a picture book, or a nonfiction book about magic, I’m not going to be much help. I don’t know how publishing those things works, nor do I necessarily know publishers who take those things.

When I tell people that, though, sometimes they don’t take it well. “What do you mean, you don’t know? It’s a book! You write books! How could you not know?”

Easy. All books are not the same. All *writing* is not the same. I write pretty darn good YA fiction, but I’ve tried writing picture books and can’t do it to save my life. Sometimes I can manage writing nonfiction, but if it’s something that involves research, it probably isn’t something I’ll do well with. And most nonfiction involves research of some kind.

All publishers are not the same. Many of them, especially smaller presses, specialize, the way Harmony Ink Press specializes in LGBTA+ young adult fiction. They aren’t going to look at a memoir, or a nonfiction book, or a picture book, because that isn’t the kind of thing they publish.

Sometimes my “I don’t know” response is met with, “Well, can you find out and let me know?”

Um…no. Because I’m not willing to do *your* research and *your* legwork to get *your* book published. I have enough to do with my own books. You have access to the same resources I do. Look at books similar to the one you’ve written or want to write, and see who publishes them. Find those publishers online and see how to submit books to them. Join an author community either online or in person, or both, where you can find out more about how the process works. If all else fails, Google is your friend.

Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing that someone is excited about something they’re writing, and if they get it published, I would love to know that. But generally, the most I can do, and the most I’m willing to do, is give general advice about writing and about avoiding publishing scams, and steer people in the direction of some of the resources I mention above.

Writing is work. And some of that work is finding out for yourself *how* it works.

Teaser- Fresh Meat

(Note: This is from a revision of a previously-published novel. The book is no longer available.)

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Shawn came back into the arcade right after Larry left. To my astonishment, he actually had a girl with him. She was scrawny, with barely enough boobs to fill her pink bikini top, and zits peppered her face and shoulders. Her hair hung down greasy and heavy, as if she hadn’t washed it in a few days. But she was definitely a girl, and judging from the way she hung on Shawn, I figured he might actually have a shot at fulfilling his mission.

I beat my high score a few times before the nerd who worked the change counter chased us away from the game. He claimed other customers wanted to play. I looked over my shoulder as we walked out of the place. No one was anywhere near our machine.

The four of us went out to the beach. Even with the sun pounding on us, being outside was better than having the arcade nerd chasing us around. Shawn’s chick, who Shawn didn’t bother introducing to us, bought us all snow cones. I heard him calling her Cherry a couple times and wondered if it was her name or just what he planned to lose with her.

Eddie and I tried not to look when some of her snow cone dripped down between her microboobs and Shawn licked it off. There was such a thing as too perverted for public.

After a while, the two lovebirds took off to do their thing. “Shawn’s going to spend the rest of the summer bragging,” Eddie said.

“The rest of the summer’s only like three weeks,” I pointed out. “Find your own girl and you can brag too.”

“Yeah, I want to screw someone random just so I can say I did.” Sarcasm dripped from his voice. “I’m as into girls as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to pick up some chick from the beach who I’ll never see again, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“What about you?”

“Huh?” I knew what he meant. I just really didn’t want a conversation about picking up chicks.

He rolled his eyes. “Girls, man. Why aren’t you out there with Shawn trying to get laid?”

I shrugged. “Why bother?”

“The old guy in the arcade seemed interested.” He made a face again. “It’s kind of nasty, you know? I mean, he kept looking at you the same way Shawn looks at girls.”

I tensed. Yeah, I would definitely never be able to tell my friends I might like guys.

Then Eddie went on. “I mean, I guess if a guy’s into guys, it’s his business. I don’t care, as long as he isn’t into me. It’s just that guy’s a lot older than us, too, and the way he looked at you gave me the creeps.”

I gave a little sigh of relief. Maybe Eddie wasn’t a prejudiced dickwad. He just had something against Larry’s age. “Can we change the subject now, please? I really don’t want to talk about creepy guys who might or might not be into me.”

He gave me a look. “Sure. What time is it?”

Rejection

Recently, I got a rejection on another novel. This would have been the re-release of one of my past novels, one that I rather like and would love to see get a new life with a different publisher.

Rejection happens when you’re an author. It’s a normal thing. When I first started writing, I got a bit spoiled because I pretty much never received a rejection on anything. That wasn’t so much because I was an amazing writer whose stuff blew people out of the water, though I suppose that might have been the case with some things. Mostly, however, my stuff didn’t get rejected because some of the publishers I worked with didn’t always expect great quality. If the idea was good, they accepted it.

That isn’t anything against those publishers. If it weren’t for them, I might not have started getting published in YA at all. But it is a facet of working with small, digital-first presses.

This novel was my second to be rejected by the same publisher this year. When the first one was rejected, after I’d taken time to revise it according to feedback they’d given me the first time I submitted it, it hit hard. I thought I’d done a good job, but they pinpointed some of the same problems as the first time. I almost didn’t send them anything else.

But this time, the rejection didn’t matter so much. It was partly about the story, though one of the biggest things they didn’t like was something the original publisher and some reviewers praised me for when it was published several years ago. Mostly, though, it was about the genre. This one, like the one that was rejected earlier this year, is paranormal, and the publisher wants more contemporary fiction at this point.

It’s hard to take that personally. It just means I need to work on something different for a while, and that isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy writing paranormal and urban fantasy, but I can deal with writing contemporary. Meanwhile, now I have one book I might self-publish, and another I can submit elsewhere or to an agent, once I polish it a bit more.

Teaser Thursday- Redemption

From an unpublished novel.

“Been arrested before, have you?”

“No, but I know a load of crap when I see it.” I sat down in one of the chairs. “So why’d you really bring me here, Detective?”

“You’re under arrest for arson.”

“Really? That’s it? What about Tracy Hinson?”

“You have a serious attitude problem, Mister Letellier. This is no joke. The investigators have proven that the fire at your video store Saturday night was arson and you’re the prime suspect. Actually, you’re the only suspect.”

“That’s because the one who actually set the fire is dead. And I’m planning on being at her funeral at eleven o’clock, so whatever’s going on, make it quick.”

“Get this through your head. You will not be going to Kara’s funeral. You will not be leaving here except in the back of a cruiser when we transport you to jail. You are under arrest.”

The door opened. “No, I don’t think he is.” Thomas came in. “I’m sure the police chief would be interested in knowing who you’re really working for, Detective.”

“He’d never believe it.”

“Oh, really?” Thomas smiled. “I know him personally, Detective. He and I worked together against your, shall we say, employer years ago. I gave him a little heads-up on what kind of people are on his force. He seemed to feel he should follow up on it.”

Morrow turned on him. “You’re nothing. You couldn’t even protect your own son.”

“I’m not his son,” I said. “And he did what he could.” I looked at Thomas. “I know.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. Where’s Zeke?”

“At the front desk trying to pay your bail. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any paperwork on you. At all. Care to try to explain that, Detective?”

“I don’t have to explain anything.” Morrow focused on me. “You’ve been a problem far too long, Dominic.”

Just in time, I blocked my mind. I felt Clyde adding to it. “I’m still a problem, Detective. I will be until that thing’s gone for good. There’s nothing you can do that will keep me from fighting it. And maybe I can’t destroy it but I’ll come as close as I can.” I looked at her. “Want to take a chance, Detective? You can’t get to me. Do you think I can get to you?”

I couldn’t, of course, not without opening my mind, but I was counting on her not knowing that. And she didn’t. She took a step backward. “I’m a police detective, Mister Letellier. You’re adding to the charges.”

“There are no charges.” Thomas didn’t often use his abilities but when he did, they were very effective. And mind control was one of them. “You never brought Dominic here, Detective Morrow. He did not commit any crimes and there is no record of his having been here. You will not interfere with him again.”

Morrow’s face went blank. After a moment, she turned and left the room. “Thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” Thomas replied. “Almost twenty years too late, but I can help you now.”

“You did what you could back then. It was out of your control. Come on, we’d better find Zeke.”

Zeke was at the front desk, arguing with an officer. “I don’t care if you have a record of it, he’s here.” He turned at the sound of Thomas’s and my footsteps. “Right there.”

“We’re all set,” I said. “Strange how Detective Morrow forgot why she brought me here.” Zeke looked questioningly at me and I shook my head. “I’m not the only one who can do that.”

He glanced at Thomas and nodded. “Good. Let’s go. There’s just enough time for you to change for Kara’s funeral.”

I looked down at myself. “Change? Why? I’m wearing black.”

“I hope you’re joking.”

Thomas and I followed Zeke out to his car. “Need a ride home, Thomas?” I asked.

“Thanks, I can walk.” He looked at me for a moment. “How do you feel now that you know the truth?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I should have been able to destroy the force of darkness. I would have ceased to exist afterward but it would have been worth it. Instead I was-” I stopped. Even now I couldn’t say aloud what had been done to me when I was younger. “I was separated. I became human. The force of light- I don’t know. What happened to it?”

For a while, it was like me, Clyde replied. Zeke’s met it, actually. It’s incarnate again now.

Thomas looked amused. “You’re talking to a force of light now. Not the one who was you, I take it.”

“No.” I held out my hand. After a moment, Thomas took it and we shook. “You did the best you could,” I said. “You weren’t able to protect me. That wasn’t your choice. I accept what happened.”

He hesitated. “Thank you, Dominic. That means a lot. I know what you have to do. Zeke told me a little; the rest I already knew. Good luck. And if there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“I will. Thanks.” I turned to Zeke. “Okay. Kara’s funeral first. Then I have the feeling I’ll need a ride to the Black Bridge.”

Teaser Thursday- Intercession

It took a few minutes for the line to clear out. Then Dominic came over to us. Before he could say anything, Laura said, “Dominic, I was wrong yesterday. I’m sorry. You’re one of my best friends and even if I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m still here for you.”

Dominic just looked at her for a minute, then hugged her. “That means more than you know, kid. Thank you.”

“We want to help you,” Laura said.

Dominic glanced at me. “Really?”

I shrugged. “If you want help. What’s going on with your employee over there?”

“She didn’t even notice how angry you were,” Laura added. “It’s like she’s used to it.”

“She probably is.” Dominic sighed. “She’s lasted longer than any of my other employees. I don’t exactly like being a jackass but I can’t help snapping sometimes.”

“Stress.” Laura touched his arm. “Dominic, you’re trying to do too much. Do you even know how you’re making yourself feel?”

“No, but I know how you’re trying to make me feel. Thanks for the thought, kid, but don’t waste your time. Even if my emotions go away, the problems causing them won’t.”

“That doesn’t make it a waste of time.”

“You still like to argue, don’t you.”

Laura grinned. “With you, always.”

“Yeah, well, like I said, don’t waste your time. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need help from either of you. I’m getting everything under control. I can handle it.”

“No, Dom, you can’t,” I said.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Zeke. Look. I have a store to run. Laura, thank you for apologizing, not that I think you really owed me one. I hated thinking that our friendship was over; you’re really important to me. But I don’t need help. If I do, I’ll let you know.”

“Dominic-” Laura began.

Let it go, Clyde advised. You can’t force him to accept help he doesn’t believe he needs. That will only make him more resistant to accepting it when the need becomes apparent.

Laura took a deep breath. “Just remember we’re here for you, Dom. No matter what.”

“Thanks, kid.” He glanced toward the counter, where the high school kid was having trouble scanning a movie. “I’d better get over there. She’s a good worker but not always so good at working, if you know what I mean.”

“Dominic, what did you do yesterday morning?” Laura asked.

He looked away. “I think you already know.”

Laura nodded. “I understand why you did it, I think. And we’re still your friends. Think about it, Dominic. Think about getting help from people who actually care about you instead of an evil being who couldn’t care less as long as it gets what it wants.”

“I’ll keep it in mind, Laura.” He gave her another hug. “Come see me again, okay?”

“I will.”

“Dominic, take care of yourself,” I said. “And like Laura said, let us know if you need us.”

“Yeah. See you later.” He went back to the counter but watched us as we left the store.

 

Teaser Thursday- Retribution

From an unpublished novel.

It was less than an hour from the donut place to the United States border. I was afraid we might have problems at Customs, but the agent just asked which country we were citizens of, where we’d been, and where we were going. Then he waved us on our way. Dominic let out a breath as he drove away from the Customs booth. “I can’t believe it was that easy.”

“No one wants to stop us from getting to the city,” Adam replied. “It’s us reaching Boston that they’re going to try to prevent.”

“Who’s they, Adam?” Phil asked.

“Anyone the forces of darkness can control. Which might include-” He stopped himself.

“Might include us?” I finished.

Adam nodded reluctantly. “You and Dominic, anyway. I think Clyde keeps them from being able to get to Phil.”

“Then why can’t Clyde keep them from getting to Laura and Dom?” Phil wanted to know.

I’m more directly connected to you than to them, Clyde replied. When Grace and I were separated you were meant to become my human form. My host, you could say. Because of Stacy, it didn’t work that way, but the connection is still there.

            “Because of Stacy?” Adam asked. “What did she have to do with anything?”

“You can hear Clyde now too?” I said.

He knows he’s a force of light now, Clyde pointed out. Therefore, I can communicate with him. That isn’t a question I’m going to answer, though, Adam.

            “Whatever,” Adam muttered. “I really wish I could have waited to fulfill my destiny until after I learned some of the stuff everyone keeps telling me I’m too young to know.”

In human form, you’re limited by human constraints, Clyde said.

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better how?”

There isn’t anything that will make you feel better except one of us answering your question. Which isn’t going to happen.

            Adam leaned back and folded his arms. “Are all forces of light like him?”

“No, Clyde’s one of a kind,” Phil replied.

“Thank goodness.”

Now that we’ve settled that, could we focus on what Adam said that started all this? He’s right. There will be problems when you get to the city. Dominic and Laura, both of you may do or say things that you’ll regret afterward. Don’t regret them; it won’t truly be you doing them.

            “That’s not encouraging, Clyde,” Dominic said. “Isn’t there some way you can help us?”

No. I can’t interfere in any way. If there was a way to break my connection with Zeke, I’d have to do it. This is Adam’s fight. He can only have help from you three to get to the portal. That’s it. I’m not even really supposed to be here.

            “Then we’ll have to try to resist it ourselves,” I said. “Won’t that be easier since we know it’s coming?”

“Not necessarily,” Adam said. Clyde echoed him.

“Laura, remember when I taught you to block your mind?” Dominic asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good. Use it.”

We stopped for lunch a few hours later in Augusta. We only had about an hour to go before we reached the city and none of us felt much like talking while we ate. It was bad enough knowing that Dominic and I might be forced to act against Adam. What made it worse was that Adam didn’t seem at all bothered by it. And he could have prevented it if he just hadn’t told Dom we had time to stop in the city.

Adam tried to catch my eye during lunch but I wouldn’t look at him. When we were finished eating and headed back out to the car, he grabbed my arm. “Let go,” I ordered.

“Not until you listen to me. Laura, don’t be mad. Please. I know you think I should have made sure we didn’t go to the city but it’s what has to happen. I don’t know why, I wish I did, I just know it’s supposed to.” He let go of me. “Please, Laura.”