Writing Life Updates: May 2022

Life update: No bread pictures today. I’ve been on the fence about what bread recipe to learn this month. So, I’ve decided to just do friend loaves and have friends in my area request bread they like. It’ll challenge me and get me thinking outside my regular box. The first bread up is sourdough for my friend Sylvie.

Instead of bread pics, here are some things that have made me smile.

Author Life News

The biggest, bestest, and brightest news of the month is I sold my novelette ‘To Carve Home in Your Bones’ to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one of the top, if not THE top, magazines in the speculative fiction field. It’s a huge deal and a dream come true since I wrote the story specifically for that market over 5?? years ago when I first decided to be a speculative fiction author.

I remember I wrote the story in a spell, maybe a day or two after reading through some Delaney to get my mind around being a literary speculative fiction author who pushed the boundaries. The Jewels of Aptor was the story, and it blew the top right off my head. I loved it. I felt like every other speculative fiction story I read before was a joke. It was so weird and wild and so so damn well written.

The weirdness and wackiness of the story didn’t stop it from being expertly constructed and told. I wanted to do that, so I wrote ‘Queens’ a serialized story of a swim team that gets shipwrecked on this weird island in a world where trauma monsters burst from your skin. I had this idea I’d sell it to F&SF one chapter at a time. But when I shared it with my writing group at the time, they all but laughed. The story was shit and weird and poorly written and nothing worth trying to sell or even edit up.

But I knew there was something to this story. It was fresh and original and did things that were cool in ways that were interesting to subvert reader expectations. I also knew I was a young unskilled writer, so I just continued working on it. I plugged away at it year after year.

If you know me and how I approach my writing, you know I spend a lot of time practicing and learning. So, while I was editing the novelette, I was also learning how to actually grow at particular skills to make the piece better instead of simply rewriting and editing it until my brain broke and said it had enough. I mainly focused on how to write emotionally charged scenes and beats, use literary and syntax techniques to show a full world and dynamic characters, and craft distinct voices. All elements that are the backbones of any good story.

I finished the final edit on the piece, that went from being titled ‘Queens’ to simply ‘Queen’, at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. The final piece to fix, though, before sending it out was the name of the story. It didn’t represent what the story was about or what I was trying to do with the piece. I think it took me about a week to come up with ‘To Carve Home in Your Bones’ as the new title after digging into the themes and visuals of the story.

I sent it out to one other place before sending it to F&SF because I couldn’t stop hearing all the negative remarks about the story in my head. But then I got a personalized rejection that said the only reason they didn’t take it was because they thought the world was too set in our world (the market specializes in second-world adventure fantasy). That gave me the boost of confidence to send it to the market I knew it belonged in.

And luckily the editor thought so, too.

I got an acceptance about 2 weeks after sending the piece in. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop riding the wave of this sale. It’s the most I’ve ever made from a single fiction sale. It’s also the longest story I’ve ever sold to a magazine. It’s fucking The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It’s also a story I’m incredibly proud of and think it showcases all my various talents as a writer.

I can’t wait till I can share it with everyone!

On the editing side of the coin, Seoung Kim’s ‘Heavy Possessions‘ is out in Strange Horizons. I worked on this piece with Kim over the past few months and am so happy to see it out in the world. The story went through a few major changes the author was really great with implementing. It’s one of my favorite stories to have edited so far this year, so please give it a read to support the author!

On the book front, I got an email from an agent that wasn’t on my query list asking to read my full manuscript. It was awesome. It’s also why I have a small summary and note that I’m seeking representation in a lot of my bios, so these things can happen. After researching the agent and checking into what types of books they represented and what authors said about them, I sent over my manuscript. In the end, it was a no but still a great experience.

I’m still querying, but it is rough out there for agents right now. There are a lot of people quitting the industry, taking breaks or hiatuses, and being absolutely slammed with manuscripts by a lot of talented writers. While it may be difficult, I’m still in it. I have my other work to keep me busy and fed while I spin out novels and search for an agent.

For writers! If you haven’t checked out my school At Home Pro Writers, there’s a new writing course up. Scene Crafting 101 is a short self-paced introductory course to writing, analyzing, and editing scenes. I push past what is normally shared about scenes to help writers understand how to use them without all the cluttered rules. There are additional resources, and I’ll be adding video and audio. Grab a pre-enrollment seat for a slight discount!

I have a couple more free webinars scheduled for May around my other classes, but I’ll be hosting those myself. The free webinars coming up this month are:

They are all based around my larger masterclasses, but aimed at both students and nonstudents. If you have questions about any of the above, check out the links attached to the titles. You’ll find information on what we’ll cover and how to reserve your spot.

I finished up the final preliminary edits of my horror novella. It’s off with alpha readers now while I take a long step back from the piece and focus on charting out its scenes and looking at how it moves across the page. I’m scared and nervous but excited for feedback to make the story better. I should be hearing back from all of them before the end of the month! In the meantime, I’ll be putting it into my story element sheet and scene spreadsheet. Doing that helps me see the story’s functioning parts and how they’re working together, ways to deepen them, and where they are weak.

May is a big month with lots of stories out in magazines. I’ve got two pieces out in Lightspeed Magazine (a review and a flash story ‘It Came Gently’), The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and Tor Nightfire. I’ve also gotten the green light on a Washington Post piece about life simulation cozy games. I’m super excited about that one, too! It’s up there with my sale to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m still working through my short story edits and sending out stories to magazines on top of other things.

I really want to make 2022 a big year for me selling my fiction pieces. Last year, I sold a lot of nonfiction and established my voice as a nonfiction writer, but now I want to showcase my fiction talents on a wider stage. We’ll see how it goes. Along with my fiction work, I’m also working on some game concepts for a game publisher in hopes they’ll take me up on writing one.

If you’ve been following me for the past few months, you know I’m spending 2022 studying syntax and voice. For the past three months, I did a deep study of syntax, and now I’m moving on to my study of voice for the next three months before blending the two for the last part of the year. As a starter, I’ll be reading Dialogue by Robert McKee, which was one of the first books I read about voice and it broke my world open. I’ll also be studying We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson because that book is so much voice it’s dizzying.

Thanks for reading about my writing life and all the work I do to keep the lights on in my writing tower. Next week, I will share a bit about what books, shows, games, and movies I’ve been consuming these past couple of weeks. Any questions about my writing life are welcome! Please drop a comment and say hey.

Stay up to date on where I’m publishing, what I’m working on, and more!

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