Why I am publishing MAIDEN!

It took me roughly four years (on and off) to write the first draft of MAIDEN. Another year later, and I had a final draft I was confident enough with to send to agents. A lot has happened in the last two years:

  • 6 writers conferences
  • 4 face to face agent story pitches
  • 57 queries to agents
  • 6 queries to independent publishing houses
  • 8 requested manuscripts
  • 8 rejections

Each meeting, each conference, every rejection and every re-write has been a learning experience. I truly hoped to get a publisher for this story, but it didn’t happen…and I’m okay with that. My story, my way. A story for my daughters told just the way I want it told. And thanks to advancements in technology, I am also able to share the story with others. I am very, very excited!

Why I wrote MAIDEN…

Three words:

  1. Alex
  2. Jordan
  3. Andi

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In December of 2008 I was working on a middle-school adventure novel (which I might still finish one day), but I wasn’t happy with my writing. It was a chore. I was working on the story because I wanted to be a guy who sold lots of books, not a guy who wanted to share a good story. The conversation in my head went a little like this.

Me: I am not happy writing.

My Brain: Why?

Me: I don’t know. The story is just not coming together.

My Brain: Well who are you writing it for?

Me: [long pause] Middle school kids…I think!? They’ll buy it write!? Hopefully!?

My Brain: That’s not a good reason to write a story.

Me: Umm…I don’t know then.

My Brain: What if you wrote a story without worrying about who was going to buy it?

Me: Umm…but then who will buy it?

My Brain: Doesn’t matter.

Me: [scratching my head] So I just write a story that sounds fun and then figure out what to do with it after I write it?

My Brain: That sounds like a good idea.

Me: What if…what if I write a story just for my girls? A story they would like? That might be fun!

My Heart: BINGO!

This story is for my girls. I hope when they read the books they understand the royalty inside them and it urges them forward with faith and confidence. It is a planned trilogy, with the first book dedicated to my first fair maiden, Alex. It has been the most fun I have ever had writing.

James River Writer’s Conference 2014

I am a very proud member of James River Writer’s organization and if you’re not, you should be too! Go here to learn more about membership.

But I’m especially proud this weekend because of the greatest writing conference on Earth (alright, the greatest writer’s conference in Virginia at least;-) Very much looking forward to seeing all of my writing peers, attending the workshops and programs, pitching MAIDEN to Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and just having a fun weekend!

Hope to see you there!

The Idea Thief (Flash Fiction #30)

“Hello my name is Mr. Damion,” the man on the front step said, reaching out his hand.

Thomas shook it, reluctantly, then wiped his hands off on the grimy towel hanging from his belt loop. Thomas could tell Mr. Damian was from out of town – the top hat, the slim mustache and not a wrinkle in his dress shirt. No, the visitor was not from the Northeast, much less New Jersey and Thomas had no time for visitors regardless of where they were visiting from. “Yes, how can I…” Thomas began.

Mr. Damion slowly drifted from Thomas’ view. His eyes glazed over and he felt a fleeting presence lifting him, tho his feet stood firm. Seconds ticked passed and Thomas felt light, then heavy, then light again. He blinked and noticed a man in front of him, grinning.

Thomas blinked again and suddenly felt nauseous. “Can I help you?” Thomas asked, wondering how long he had been standing there.

“I have all I need, thank you,” the gentleman responded, giving a slight bow, and turning back toward the hard clay of Christie Street.

The mid-day air blew across Thomas’ face as he watched the stranger disappear. He walked in, closed the door, and stood in the parlor and scratched his head.

“Oh well,” he said and walked slowly back to his lab. Sitting on his desk, as if waiting to be picked up, was a glass container. Under it, a book. He knew it was his handwriting and sketches, but it was jumbled in his mind. He picked up the container and caressed it. It felt like his, something he owned, but it’s purpose was not clear. Waiting, gazing, he hoped for some understanding.

When none came he shrugged, took the bulb and the book, and placed them in the crate labeled ‘Discarded Inventions.’ After the lid closed shut, he looked around the room, arms folded, wondering what project he should tackle next.

NOTE: I have been tinkering with the idea for a MG novel about an ‘idea thief’ and wanted to take a crack at it. Please feel free to share any thoughts or ideas!

Anatomy of a Writing Retreat

I had the privilege this past weekend to attend my first ever writing retreat. Four writers from my writing group – Richmond Children’s Writers – and three from another local group made our way an hour and a half south of Richmond to Lake Gaston. One of the members had an in with a condo owner so we got to stay for free (yeah, big plus).

The goals of the retreat were to:

1) have time for writing and critiquing

2) to learn and grow as a writer through sharing and discussion

3) to have fun!

Mission accomplished. It was a wonderful experience and couldn’t have come for a better time for me. I find myself getting comfortable or unmotivated about every 3-4 months and need that little spark to keep me going. It was perfect!

There was a pretty organized schedule, but it was not set in stone. There was time for writing, critiquing, discussion sessions, eating and just enjoying each other’s company. Over a two day period, there was probably 10 hours for writing and 10 hours for other.

The top 3 things I learned at the retreat:

– it’s a very positive experience to sit with other writers and just…write! I’m used to being by myself and leaving all the distractions behind when I write. But sitting in the same room with other writers was very rejuvenating and encouraging. All the clacks of the keyboard, the periodic discussion…there was a great energy. We were very blessed to have a great group that melded well together.

– I need to take more time to brainstorm and discuss my writing projects with other writers. I am very blessed to have a critique group, but I need to take more time to interact about ‘big picture’ subjects and other mechanics of the craft.

– good readers make good writers! I have fallen out of the habit of reading for pleasure and need to get back in the groove.

Considering going to a writing retreat? While this was a group organized retreat and somewhat informal, I imagine all writing retreats are similar in goal and organization. Are you stuck in your writing? Do you find yourself lacking writing friends to brainstorm and commiserate with? Do you have a goal but aren’t sure how to get there? Are you at the point in your writing where you can give honest critiques and receive them as well?

If you answered yes, then it sounds like a writing retreat might be for you! Have a look here for a great tool to help you look for retreats.

I know I am looking forward to doing it again next Spring!

What’s My Writing Process?

I have been extremely blessed over the past few years to have fellow writers help me become more involved in the writing community. I have learned so much by interacting and networking with other writers. Most importantly, I have grown and it has given the me the opportunity to share my experiences so hopefully others can grow as well.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned over time is that no two writers have the same process for how/when/what they write. That’s where today’s post comes in to play. I am carrying on the chain from fellow writer and my personal mentor Lana Krumwiede, who wrote about her writing process here. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share my writing process and I hope you come away with something that helps you.

What am I working on?

DAMSEL – The sequel to my debut YA novel, MAIDEN, (which I am actively querying, if you have an in, let me know;-). Inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, the story follows 17-year-old Jeanette as she struggles to accept her mission to help save her war-torn kingdom. I am just finishing up the outline and my goal is to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM MILLER – My first foray into MG fiction, a contemporary story about a 13 year old girl, Nadia, who on the same day she is sentenced to detention for 30 days finds out her brother who died 10 years ago left her a letter. We follow her as she deals with the realization that she cares about her brother more than she thought.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I wrote MAIDEN for my daughters, wanting them to have a story with a strong female protagonist that what she thought was important in life, is really not. As a novel that is clean and meant to be uplifting, I hope it is different enough for those looking for more than just an entertaining read.

For MALCOLM MILLER, I hope that my experience working with teens for 15+ years helps give a unique voice to a story with very real emotions. It’s a coming of age story in every sense of the word.

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write because I wanted to be a famous, published author. Wrong way to do it! I have grown over recent past to realize I need to write what’s in my heart, and what is in my heart are my children. I, as a father and a writer, more than anything, want to leave a legacy. If no other person on the planet reads my work, I hope my children find joy and insight from it. But having said that, it is my dream to become a full-time writer,and I hope that as I write what is in my heart and stay true to the story and characters, my writing will find the readers that need it.

How does my writing process work?barton-fink-at-his-typewriter

Before saying anything else, if you have not read Stephen King’s On Writing, do it…now! It is, by far, the best, most inspirational advice I have read on the craft of writing. When I read it 4-5 years ago, it changed my life as a writer. Go get it…now!

This isn’t set in stone, but if I had to sum up my writing process, it is this:

1) Storyboard – I have to have an outline. That’s just me. Otherwise, I’ll work on a story for months/years and then get halfway through and go, ‘Oooh, I thought of a cool new twist!’ Yeah, I don’t have that sort of time. So I call it my Storyboard phase. No movie EVER gets made without having a plan in advance of scenes and outline. I like to think of my outline as a storyboard. I don’t start working on a project until I have a storyboard.

2) 500 words a day – It is my goal to write 500 words every weekday…period. It took me a long time as a writer to get to this point, but writing so many words a day is what sets a ‘person who wants to write’ and a ‘writer’ apart. Half of what I write is crap and won’t ever get used, but it’s part of the process. The more you write the gooder better your writing becomes. Practice, it’s that simple. So figure out how much you can write each day. It might only be 200 words or maybe 2000. The key is to be realistic and then do it. If you miss a day, start fresh the next day. Writing 500 words a day every weekday gives me 10,000 words a month. The typical fiction is anywhere between 60,000-80,000 words, so that gives me at least one first draft every year. Figure out your goal and put your butt in the chair and write!

3) Revise – I am at the point where I can only write on one story at a time, but I can write on one story and revise another. So during my revising phrase of a manuscript, I use that as the opportunity to start a new project. Revising is kind of writing, but not really. But it’s just as important

4) Beta-readers – Writer’s don’t (or shouldn’t) live in a bubble. After so much time on a project, the lines start to blur and the writing becomes hazy. Finding a few (key term…few) people you can trust to give you honest and sincere feedback is crucial. While the manuscript is out to beta-readers let your brain rest for a month or two on that story and work on something else, something new, refreshing.

5) Final edit – With feedback from beta-readers, and a fresh pair of personal eyes, you are ready for the final edit. Consider everything your beta-readers come back with, but remember that you control the story and you don’t have to make all the requested changes. Make the changes that help the story the most in your eyes, tighten it up grammatically, get rid of words/sentences/paragraphs/storylines that are not needed, and…tada!

Are you a writer? What’s your process like?