Not for the Faint of Heart

I am currently staying with friends in Palm Desert decompressing after a transformative publishing course on the Oregon Coast. I was a part of a roller coaster of a workshop led by six top-marketing, award-winning editor/ authors: Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Helfers, Kerrie Lynn Hughes, Rebecca Moesta, and Kevin J. Anderson. I and my fellow course participants prepared for this course by writing six short stories in six weeks, (in my case these were mainly genres I was not familiar writing for) and then reading all 250 manuscripts in one week (the equivalent of five books in a week) and submitting our work not only for review but for possible publication in six live anthologies to be published soon by Fiction River.

To accomplish this (and to make sales as well) was only a part of this experience. The most amazing part in my opinion, was to be privy to the decision-making process editors go through when choosing among the top stories submitted for their anthologies, what qualities in a story make it a good fit for a certain anthology, how tastes can vary widely between editors for the very same anthology and how the buying editors’ vision for the anthology does play a huge role in choice where the submissions are all of a very high quality, how word count is also an influence in a decision. I do not believe any other course for high-level writers exists like this. To have your story dissected before a group of amazing writers is both challenging and rewarding. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but well worth the experience if one is not wedded to one’s words and willing to stretch further every day in one’s craft.

This was also a course about publishing. Learning the directions the industry is taking and how I too might take advantage of that move. Our last day at the course was devoted to seminars with experts in the field of publishing. Not only did our editors step in and give us insights into the paths they took to success (and challenge) but we also had seminars with award winning author Matthew L Buchman on setting goals of publication, Romance Author Christina York on meeting personal challenges and getting back to the writing process, Lee Allred on his experiences writing for Marvel and DC Comics, and the inspiring Mark Lefebvre of Kobo on the value of e-publishing. We learned about constructing cover art, by the brilliant publisher/CEO Allyson Longueira at WMG Publishing Inc.

As I began my drive toward southern California and the weather warmed and the trees began to blossom, my own awareness blossomed too with the possibilities that had been presented to me. Many of these possibilities scared me too, as they involve steps into technological territories I have avoided before now. I now have a clearer idea of my career, however. I now need to get busy and lay out a business plan for myself. This involves a re-structure of this website with more links to what I have out there in the market, so that those of you who might be looking for my work can find it. It also involves getting more of my work out there into e-publishing.

In summary, I not only bumped up my writing to a higher level, filled my poor little head with so much knowledge that I feel like my brain is exploding, I also networked with other brilliant writers who are publishing and winning awards out there. I hope soon to establish links to their sites so you can meet and enjoy them all!

Have you ever had a time in your life when the knowledge came at you so fast and furious you weren’t sure how you could process it all? A time when you knew that such knowledge would change you forever and you were totally ready to embrace that chance? If so I would love to know.

Distractions vs. Priorities

I am currently working on two short stories at once. One is for a Kickstarter anthology open call, and the other is a wonderful shared worlds anthology I have had a request to submit to. I am now working to two deadlines, and at a time when my dearest friend, confidant and sister is facing her own most horrible and inexorable deadline with brain cancer. So, of course here I am up-dating my blog. Why? Don’t writers need to be diligent? Nose to grindstone? Stay on track, butt to chair and all that? My answer is yes, of course.

All that, but I do believe we are complex beings as well. We need to understand ourselves and what is blocking us.

Sometimes we just feel lazy (it’s summer I want to go lie in the sun) sometimes defeated (what makes you think you stand a hedgehog’s chance against a mallet you can make it into this amazing anthology? With these incredibly successful and diligent authors?) We can meet most distractions like this with force and determination. (Butt in chair first, you slacker. Don’t think, just do.) But at other times it’s our failure to look up from our thwarted, anguished page and see that what we’re facing is our own physical and emotional torment. Ignoring our reasons for procrastination is as bad as hitting ourselves over the head with a hammer because it feels good when we stop.

Sometimes we must seem to let go in order to hold on.

So I have. I have put the longer WIP on hold 40K short of completion. A hard choice. It is a project very dear to my soul and I have an editorial request for it. Setting it aside might be fatal. But not an error. Not now. Career vs Family? No contest. I have looked my guilt straight in its mean little face and seen her for the varmint she is. My first priority is family and my own emotional health.

There are times I let the ebb and flow of the ocean take me. It’s healing just to watch it and not think at all. At others I re-finish furniture, draw silly cartoons, work in my garden, write poetry, talk to friends on Facebook. I have allowed myself to cut back while keeping up my morning pages, this blog, and a few short fiction subs. Rawness, dear reader, is not the same as distraction. Nor is it a reason to stop living either. As author Graham Joyce put it in own final blog post: “Just cherish it all.” And raw as it is, I intend to.

I would love to hear what you think.

The Fall

I do not profess to be a poet, however today upon this autumn equinox having watched my dearest friend and sister pass with grace through that thin space between this life and that other I am compelled to write words. If they are poetry so be it. They are the words I perceive on this day, granted the gift of vision only such a profound and graceful passing could give me.  Thank you my Mary. This one is for you…


Death opens us all

As nothing else can do


Nut falling from the shatters


Revealed we are broken

And remade a thin place

A membrane. A shade

Left behind is all

This is.

Light calls. All is Well

As we yield to open that letting go

Anger Ego no more.

The Floor we pass through observing Death.

The dear one—

We are there our own loss

Our own self. Gone

Passing in startled surprise—

All other emotions enter it: Love

Birth. Despair all passing,

Passing with the tick-tick of

Veins pulsing in-out-breath

Fading from that skin

Belief is in—

Re-leaf. It comes to us all    As we fall.

What is Success?

This is not the answer to a JEOPARDY question. Well, wait, maybe it is.

Just before the Holidays 2014, I found out I’d made my fifth short story sale of the year. “GRET” a short story that takes place in the fantasy world of my work in progress “TRUTH SEER” sold to Ragnarok Publications BLACKLIST ANTHOLOGY, which is the companion anthology to the greatly-anticipated BLACKGUARDS.  BLACKGUARDS’ table of contents reads like a who’s who of many of the best writers in the fantasy field. Because the BLACKGUARDS Kickstarter campaign surpassed every stretch goal set for it and became a Kickstarter staff pick, Ragnarok editors Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz rewarded their backers with an additional anthology. Thus the BLACKLIST ANTHOLOGY was born.  260 hopeful authors and writers submitted to Ragnarok’s open call. Thirteen stories were selected. Two for BLACKGUARDS and eleven for THE BLACKLIST.

Here’s where the JEOPARDY part comes in.

My short story GRET was written because I really wanted to get into BLACKGUARDS. I admire Ragnarok, an amazing up-and-coming publisher, I like writing fantasy fiction and more specifically Grimdark Fantasy. Mostly I wanted to be a part of what looks to be a stunning line-up of authors. But, as in all open submission, I was taking a risk (thank goodness not in front of a huge TV audience). That risk was I might not make the cut. I could have been one of those other 247 open subs.

Would I still have been successful even so? Of course! Are those who get invited to appear on JEOPARDY a success even if they don’t win? Of course! Competition or no, it takes brains to be on JEOPARDY. Nobody gets on there without a ton of smarts. If you are making sales as a writer at all, it means you’ve been invited to the show.

Success is writing a story in a limited time and finishing it and then going on to write the next and the next. Success is sending out those stories. Success is accepting passes as well as sales because both these things are about progress, about learning the market and learning the writer’s craft.

I have sold stories this year. I have also had passes, some decent ones and others crusty and one non-response. I’ve continued to put down words. I’ve forced my butt into my chair, through death, through anguish, through fear and through just plain deadlines. This was my success in 2014: that I kept going, that I took responsibility for my own career and that I re-submitted stories others had passed on.

I would love to hear about your successes last year. What were they and what kept you going?

Wing-chicks, Muses, Mentors and Friends part one

Wing Chicks:

May also be read as ‘Wing Man’. This term was explained to me by Gay Haldeman, the wonderful wife of author Joe Haldeman at a World Fantasy Conference I attended one year. Gay told me that a ‘wing-chick’ is that person who is there for you to support you when you are in action. I found I liked it so much I resolved to be that for several writer friends I know, as well as hoping I might aquire a wing-chick of my own. Since then I am honoured to have several wing-chicks and all of them are very dear to me. In my profession, action involves public appearance: readings, presentation, networking and sales. Action also involves writing and production. A wing chick helps with all of these and is more than a muse, a mentor, or a friend. It is possible to have more than one wing-chick and one may be a wing-chick for more than one person. Being a wing-chick is a commitment. You can’t be one unless you care deeply about furthering somebody else’s career. Being a wing-chick is a selfless paying forward of time and effort, but it is also fun. Wing-chicking has so many benefits. You have the pleasure of watching the growth of someone’s career. Of having early and often the first access to reading their work. You gain pleasure from making the path a little easier for your partner by being there at their readings, by their side at conferences, celebrating successes, plugging their work, stepping in and assisting when they need back-up, providing a sympathetic ear, facilitating in every way to the best of your ability. A wing-chick learns while being a wing-chick. Every experience is a chance for taking in knowledge and learning what works in the business and what doesn’t and often applying it to one’s own endeavours.

I think that to understand what it is to have wing-chicks of your own, you must first be a wing-chick yourself and watch other wing-chicks in action. Keep your eyes and ears open at conferences and you will see them in a big group of writers, interjecting a genuine compliment here or a suggestion there. Good wing-chicks do it easily, without being obtrusive, and often while working on their own careers as well.

A wing-chick is appreciated, needed and active. I do not believe I’d be able to keep going without my wing-chicks. I do not ignore them or take them for granted. They are all a stimulating drink of much needed incentive and I try to see them as often as time and finances allow. Thank goodness for social media and email to bridge the gap between re-unions. My wing-chicks/ wing-men are all active writers, but a wing-chick/man could also be a spouse, a family member or a writing partner. In every case it should be somebody who cares about your work almost as much as you do.

Being a wing-chick is freeing for me. It keeps me thinking outside the dimensions of my own creation and within someone else’s. It helps me celebrate another’s genius with delight and enlightenment. I know I will never write the way my author friends do, and they accept my individuality.


So what about you? Who are your wing-chicks? How did you get them? What are the rewards for you?

Part 2: Mentors

When I find myself challenged is when I most need to challenge myself. I learned this technique by watching my mentors at work.

Two days from now, I will be attending the SuperstarsWriting Seminar down in Colorado Springs thanks to a wonderful scholarship I received from WMG Publishing.  This is an intensive and holistic crash course with a super-powered tribe of writers and NYT award-winning authors in the business of writing. I cannot wait to challenge my skills with these inspiring people.

I am a writer. This I did on my own. But improvement and success has come about with the much-valued assistance of my mentors. I have learned by the best process possible. I have found and learned from artists who travelled the path before me. In the early 90’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, incredible speakers, editors and award-winning authors, were the first to give me encouragement and some very honest advice. They didn’t need to do this. They had busy lives but they took the time to reach out to a newbie/ hopeful like me and give me a much-needed push. I had completed a manuscript and thought it was ‘ready’. *sighs at younger self* After a lifetime of writing and getting nowhere as far as selling went, or bumping up the level of my writing, hearing their information about the craft was like watering the root of a starving plant. I heard truth, knew it and surged forward, writing four novels (while holding a day job and raising two kids) and taking a number of incredible courses down on the Oregon Coast. I improved by practice, became a member of the Oregon Writers Network and found my tribe.

In 2000 I met award-winning author Carol Berg,  who writes glorious, soul-stirring Epic Fantasy novels for ROC Books. At that time she had just launched TRANSFORMATION her debut novel. We became instant friends but in this process she has become the ideal mentor. I have had the privilege of following Carol’s career close to the beginning and learned so much about every aspect of this business through writing sessions, plotting, and attending conferences and readings with her.

I learned that no writer/author gets where they are without hard work, set-backs and frustrations in this business. Well, maybe a few go astral right away, but those are exceptions and once they hit the New York Times List, this presents its own set of challenges.

2014 has been a heck of a year filled with several bereavements, estate legalities and house purging. Yet during this intensive time, through the horrendous loss of my dear sister and muse, I have managed to mentor young writers and do the WMG Anthology Course.

In 2014 I wrote at least 100,000 words, sold five short stories, attended four major writers’ conferences as a panelist and yet another as a volunteer. I did all these things because, though life was rolling over me, my soul needed to speak, to scream at life and keep going or I was going to fall apart. I needed mentorship and to be a mentor. It has been my salvation. I am still sane. (I think.)

Four days before she died in hospice, Mary, my dear muse and sister, asked me to read her the story I was writing for a shared worlds anthology—one which I had set aside for several weeks due to my need to be at her bedside 24/7. It was the last day she could speak, yet she wanted me to read THAT story to her, unedited and rough as it was. It was a beautiful experience sharing with her that one last time. Almost her last words to me were. “You are going to do this thing. I want you to promise me you are.” I promised not just Mary but myself. Since the day I was born, my sister has been my first and important mentor. Even now after her passing her words keep me going.

Mentorship. I have been so blessed to find mentors. Artists with courage to keep me going even when there seemed to be no going. Find your mentors, dear friends, for in these you discover the path to inspiration.


I returned last Monday from a wonderful convention in Missoula Montana where I hung out with many friends and compatriots in this writing game. I mingled with fellow authors and pros, and found myself invited to participate in an anthology for which I am now writing a story that I have long wanted to write. I gained pounds from good eating I now need to work off, and over a dozen titles for new potential stories that will go into my to-be-written file, but I gained so much more. I made friends.

MisCon is one of the best genre cons in the country and is now attended by big name pros/ guests of honor who tend to return even after their appearance as GOH has ended. They return for many reasons but I think a strong one is for the flavor of this con. It is a great place to make friends. Award-winning GOH artist John Picacio sums it up even better than I can here on his blog:

Most of the time we write in our own personal space, winging along on our own creative power. Unless we are working on a collaborative piece we don’t want other input in our heads. Heck we have enough input from our characters. We need to stay down deep in story. However, when we emerge we look to others of our tribe and friends at all levels of this industry for inspiration.

Inspiration exists everywhere of course, but I am enlivened to take in my world when I’m with friends.

Friends provide me with serendipity–a shot in the arm of new ideas and a tease of laughter. At a con I come across cos play,  demonstrations of weaponry and an opportunity to heft a sword, to watch a combat demonstration or shoot a cross bow. In my genre this kind of hands-on understanding is invaluable. but also it is an opportunity to make a friend. Matt is not only a weapons master, he is fun! A generous guy who introduced me to some of the foods of his Scandinavian heritage.

This week I happened by a corner in the leather-chair lounge where wonderful former GOH artist Rob Carlos was drawing a young woman and her parrot–both of them magical creatures, so colorful, so filled with grace, I was stunned and transported into story. You can see some of Rob’s imagery here:

MisCon was friends all the way from the extraordinary con com (thank you Justin Barba, Kendra Lisum, Amy Farrington, Bob Lovely, Clay Cooper, Matt McAdoo and the whole crew) to the amazing visual artists, (John Picacio, Todd Lockwood, Rob Carlos, Jean Carlos, Betsy Mott, Vandy Hall, Jeff Stugeon, and so many more) authors (Steven Erikson, Terry Brooks, Carol Berg, John Pitts, Shawn Speakman, Peter Orullian, Mark Teppo, Patrick Swenson, Rhiannon Held, Ann Gimpel, Sue Bolich, Laurey Patten, to name but a few of this stellar group of pros) and attendees who return every year.

Friends provide antihistamines to control allergies, muscle relaxers and massage. We celebrated the release of my new story St Jean and the Dragon in FICTION RIVER’S ALCHEMY AND STEAM ANTHOLOGY. Friends supported me at my reading of my ghost story The Crow War of Willows Beach. Friends are often my first readers and I am theirs. It is friends who support me when I go dark.

I could not do this without friends. They make the impossible possible. They keep me on this path.


The name of this post relates to how many new things come up that need dealing with once you begin a new endeavor. Be aware of what lies out there but don’t go crazy when you realize it will take energy to do everything that’s required for success (and disaster too–that’s what learning’s about.)

There was a time when a writer could become an author just by writing, submitting and selling and just letting the traditional publishing world take over the rest, doing the business work for the author and taking their share. I grew up with that model. I am finding it doesn’t entirely work for me any more and I am rapidly becoming a hybrid author venturing into a whole new amusement park.

My warning to you if you are going my route. Don’t let yourself be daunted. Decide what needs doing first and do that. I am desperately trying to act on my own advice.

Until now I have been engaged in building my craft, writing story after story and developing the epic fantasy concept I am now swiftly bringing into being. Until now I stayed largely under the radar, using this site as a static business card, largely unaware of the potential of newsletters, links, blogs and such. I now know this has to change and swiftly because my visibility in the authorial world is changing. I am moving away from being a baby author and starting to play with the big kids.

I began by publishing in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and then in several other great anthologies, but now my focus is shifting to novels and indie publishing. Whack-a-mole. I have to re-invent this page. This involves finding someone to work with because, honestly, I don’t have the time or the wits to learn to build the kind of web page I need.  I am figuring out how much to learn and how much to farm out. Whack-a-mole. I’m deciding how much money to spend and where it’s coming from. Whack-a-mole. Finances. Whack-a-mole.

As I mentioned in my previous post I am involved in an indie book bundle enterprise with eight other amazingly talented authors, Ann Gimpel, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Caridad Piniero, Julia Lake Mills, Susannah Scott, Melissa Snark and Rosemary Edghill. If you haven’t been over to their sites or signed up for their newsletters, go do this! I would have those links right here but I am still learning how to put links here on my page. Aargh.

I have a huge bunch of stories that need to be formatted for e-pub and covers to work on to fit their concept. I write in a bunch of genres, but people tell me I write character stories with distinctive voice, much of it with a mythological or Native North American twist. I need branding. Whack-a-mole.

I need my own newsletter too. Whack-a-mole. Learning where I can do this is of primary importance. Whack-a-mole! Oh, and then there’s learning how to find subscribers, how to link to my other social networking sites, promotion of the current book bundle, while finding time to deal with the creative kittens scrambling around in my brain and this enormous epic fantasy that’s clawing a path out of me book after book. Gasp!

The mallet grows hot in my hands. I’m getting a huge workout. I have no idea where it will take me. This game is both stimulating and terrifying.

But, as I said earlier, I am learning bit by bit that I can’t just rush blindly into this process any more than I rushed blindly into writing, editing, and publishing my earlier work. If I can maintain the clarity of vision I need to do the business end of this job, I won’t go banging away in a frantic tizzy. This book bundle has opened my eyes to so many possibilities. I need to go for them, not with a mallet but with a brain.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear how your process is going.

Dealing with Janus

I think right now of Janus: the god with two faces, one looking forward and one back. To me he’s a god of transformation and he sits right in the painful middle of it.

January has been a difficult month.  I have succeeded and failed. Succeeded in writing five stories in as many weeks and failed to feel good about them. The world is too much with me. 2016 has made me aware all too clearly of the precious nature of every day and every hour and yet …

I have gone dark.

I am discovering that a bereavement doesn’t happen the same to us all and that numbness can last a very long time. I thought I was coping fine by carrying on and living. What I didn’t expect was that I was frozen up. A safety mechanism to survive.

Over the holidays, I unthawed. I learned that grief is insidious. If you don’t deal with it, it won’t go away.

I discovered grief still waiting right there at my door. It was hard because I wasn’t prepared for it still to be there. I was caught off guard and swept off my feet by such a feeling of loss that I didn’t know how to recover.

Every conversation I had with family and friends pointed me at it. Every book I read and every story assignment I undertook made me want to tear up. (Now I know why ‘tear’ and ‘tear’ are the same word.) The loss of great icons stirred me up and pushed my nose into grief and into fear and into the belief that my work felt worthless. Stupid, I told myself. You’ve dealt with this fine for over a year. You’ve dealt with this in both your careers as an educator and as an author.

I told myself others feel the same. I wasn’t alone. But I was.

When grief and depression hit it’s dark. Somehow you know that all the friends in the world can’t really understand your pain. They might understand pain but your pain is one step removed from them–thank goodness. I would never want to be an empath.

Friends or family members might give you a warm hug, or listen while you sob your heart out, and that can help for awhile. They give you stairs to pull yourself up on. But you are the only one who can pull yourself up to stay. It’s your will and yours alone that will keep you moving. You can climb out or think about climbing out, or you can tell yourself it’s too painful.

I knew if anybody was going to pull me out of the dark it would have to be me–for me. For me, because what I needed to understand was: I had to be worth it to myself. Not just the family who would be hurt, or my dear departed sister who was so proud of me. I understand that holding on to grief undermines self-worth. It pushes down and pushes out everything else that used to be important.

I had to deal with it.

Here are two postings that helped a lot:

Yet as I think about the fact that things are constantly changing and that grief will pass I also think on this: I only have this moment. Life is lived in moments. Every moment is a small infinity. If the infinity I am living in right now is pain how do I get out of that darkness into light that isn’t a part of that moment? That thought moved me here:

When someone who was entirely meshed with your life dies, when someone who was entirely meshed with your life leaves you, even if it isn’t through death, it’s inevitable you will feel a part of you is gone and you might desperately be wishing to reclaim that part of you. But I know now that’s impossible. As every moment passes we are changed and transformed. The one who went away through death, divorce, or anger is changing too, wherever they are. I must wish my dear one well in her transformation.

Moment by infinite moment I move away from what I was then at the moment she stepped through that door and I became that person with the hole in my heart—to something else. I can let that hole in my heart be filled with grief or I can image that grief and see it turn into light, transparent and moving.

My grief can be a hole. Or a revelation.