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Writing Conference

This weekend I am attending WorldCon 76. This is a writing/fan con, and the first that I’ve attended as an author. I’m looking forward to classes like

  • Writing About Fighting
  • Self-Publishing 101
  • Young Adult: Looking at the World Through a Skewed Lens
  • Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts
  • New Ancestral Myths
  • Deep Dive: Idea Versus Story

I won’t have a post Friday or Monday because of the convention, unless there’s some downtime at the con.

This con is aimed primarily at Science Fiction writers, but it’s only twenty minutes away, and I can easily transfer the lessons to romance. And who’s to say I might not want to turn my head that way? I’ve already had a sci-fi story published in Coming Together: Among the Stars. So I’ve learned to never say never about a certain genre.

Signing up for this con and looking at the classes makes me so sad that I couldn’t go to the Romance Writers of America convention this year, and makes me determined to go next year.

 

Submission Call

Jayhenge Publishing, whom I have worked with on several occasions, has put out a story submission call. I highly encourage you to work with Jayhenge–the editor, Jessica, is amazing and will help you develop as a writer.

Hey, all you women writers out there! Let your pioneering spirits soar! Whether exploring new vistas or encountering ancient ones, the call of unknown places and unseen sights is strong in many of us. Our planet has so many wild places—jungles, deserts, mountains, and more, and the cultures that go with them—the type of “wild” that you might have found on the steppes of Mongolia, the dusty heat of India, the blowing sands of the Sahara. Imagine all that wild, difficult nature wrapped up in speculative fiction. Then consider generational ships, as well, bringing life not only into the world as women, but spreading it across the galaxies as well; that’s also pioneering. And what about the wild “west” surface of Mars? Gene Roddenberry once described Star Trek as “wagon train to the stars” and so much has come from the imagining of those potential frontiers; where will your imagination take you? Show us!

Payment for stories will be $5 USD per 1000 words

We’re looking for speculative fiction across all anthologies (unless otherwise specified). That includes everything from high fantasy to hard scifi and anything in between.

We do accept reprints, simultaneous submissions, and multiple submissions, though these will slow down our response time.

Story lengths should be anywhere from flash-length to about 20k words, but we have at times made exceptions. We know a story is complete when it’s complete, and arbitrary word count requirements are not always helpful. If you have an amazing story that exceeds 20k words, let us know. We may be able to make special accommodations. 🙂

With regard to copyright, we request the non-exclusive right to publish your story in the anthology to which it was accepted. You retain the rights to your individual story to do with as you wish. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Formatting a manuscript for submission is a pain. Every publication has its own rules–headers, spacing, font, file format, required information, and so on and so forth.

The truth is, it’s just a means of separating those authors who are genuinely serious from those who are just inundating publications with their as-yet unappreciated epic.

We want to make it simple. Our submission guidelines are:

Send a short query describing your work to:

editor@jayhenge.com

If we like what we read, we’ll ask for more info. If we don’t, we won’t.

Just keep the following in mind:

  • Make it clear. You’re a writer, so that’s the easy part, right? 🙂
  • Include your name. (You’d be surprised how many forget.)
  • A “short query” is probably fewer than 500 words, but use your best judgment.
  • A full plot summary (including the ending) is helpful. Please don’t send marketing copy.
  • Word count is also helpful.

We won’t/can’t read anything in a format we can’t open or a language we can’t read.

Microsoft Word doc files are always a safe bet, and Apple’s Pages is also good. If you’re an Open Office user, please save as a Rich Text File or similar.

We reserve the right to reject a manuscript or query for any reason, including but not limited to criminal neglect of creativity, first degree murder of the English language, adverbial abuse, possession of cliché with intent to distribute, and pathological telegraphing.

Usually, however, it’s just that we didn’t think your work was a good fit, and that’s all. Nothing sinister.

Story Acceptance!

I have had a long, hard drought for me since my last story acceptance. I had even reached a point where I had started questioning myself–Had I lost my talent? Had I ever really had it in the first place? While rejection is part of #writerlife, there’s a certain point where my imposter syndrome kicks in and it’s hard to keep sending stories out.

I’m really excited by this acceptance as it is a story unlike any I’ve written before. While I’ve done paranormals, I’ve never written a vampire story. Nor have I ever written erotic horror.

For as Long as You Need Me

A vampire who only hunts men.

A war veteran with PTSD.

Will she be his death or his salvation

Here’s a sneak peek…

Felicity pursued her newest prey. He hadn’t done anything wrong, yet. But if Felicity had learned anything in two hundred years, it was that with men, it was almost always yet. She just had to wait for him to fail her test.

So she followed Sam, and waited for him to slip up.

Why wouldn’t he give her a reason to kill him?

He was helping a woman with her groceries. Surely he’d make a pass at her? He didn’t. He called his mother. He always said please and thank you. He called women “miss” and “ma’am.” He tipped shoeshine boys and newspaper boys. He was irritatingly good.

He didn’t fail the first week. Or the second. He’d passed, so by the rules of her game, she should move on. Instead, she persisted in watching him—three weeks, four weeks—daring him to slip up.

Felicity was following Sam down a darkened street when a car backfired. Sam shrank down, covering his head, and let out a cry. Without thinking, Felicity shot forward, wondering what had happened.

“Are you okay?” she asked him.

I hope you’re excited to see where the story goes!

Book Review–Untouchable by Talia Hibbert

I received an ARC of Untouchable in exchange for an honest review.

What happens when a bad boy becomes a man?

Nate Davis didn’t plan on returning to his hateful hometown. But then, he didn’t plan on being widowed in his twenties, or on his mother getting sick, either. Turns out, life doesn’t give a f$*k about plans.

Hannah Kabbah thought her career in childcare was over. After all, no-one wants a woman with a criminal damage conviction watching their kids. But when her high school crush returns to Ravenswood with two kids in tow, she gets the second chance she never dreamed of.

She also gets to know Nate – the real Nate. The one whose stony exterior hides aching vulnerability. Who makes her smile when she wants to fall apart. Who is way, way more than the bad boy persona he earned so long ago, and way too noble to ever sleep with the nanny.

So it’s a good thing she’s completely over that teenage crush, right?

Untouchable is the third book in the Ravenswood series, following A Girl Like Her (2.99 on Kindle to buy) and Damaged Goods (1.99 on Kindle to buy), both of which are also on Kindle Unlimited. You don’t need to read the previous two to read and enjoy Untouchable–it is a self contained story, but I do recommend them as I did really enjoy them.

One of my favorite things about Hibbert’s work is that she creates three dimensional characters, which is a must for me. Hannah is bi and has anxiety and depression. Hannah is also a social pariah, having smashed the beloved town son’s Porsche with a bat in the prologue to A Girl Like Her. Nate is stressed out about his mother’s illness and related depression as well. The kids are not perfect angels–they have their quirks, like the little boy’s allergy to pants (which I can relate to as one of mine was like that at that age).

Nate hires Hannah to be his nanny. He soon begins to fight an attraction, and Hannah goes through the same thing. It’s more than halfway through the book before they give in, while Hibbert ratchets up the tension piece by piece.

Then he crushed the image ruthlessly and with no little self-disgust. He was back in the real world, where his utterly untouchable nanny was staring at him as though his head had fallen off his shoulders. He wondered if she was about to ask him why the fuck he was still holding her. Hopefully not, because he didn’t think his answer–“Sorry, you just feel really good” — would cut it.

I’m a sucker for a relationship where there is a power dynamic. The nanny/employer dynamic is a real problem that Nate and Hannah must deal with and overcome.

Something I wish had been developed further was Hannah’s blog. There’s a few quotes from it. There’s talk about her writing it, but we never see enough of it to get really invested, and I got the feeling I was supposed to be.

Overall it’s a fast enjoyable read and I look forward to visiting Ravenswood again.

Pre-order Untouchable here (2.99 on kindle, free on unlimited)

Seven Books I Love, part seven–Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book seven–Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

“‘You are sharing the Dark Lord’s thoughts and emotions. The Headmaster thinks it inadvisable for this to continue. He wishes me to teach you how to close your mind to the Dark Lord.'”

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors’ attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord’s return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the Dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort’s savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time…

I know in general I’ve been doing the entire series (In Death, Jewels), with the exception of Magic’s Pawn. But besides the fact that I’m currently reading it with Athena, it has always been my favorite of the Harry Potter books. Big spoilers ahead, but it’s been long enough–the books have been out for over a decade and the movies have also been out for ages.

The reasons I love Order of the Phoenix include that it’s the point where the books really grow darker, we have our first truly traumatic death (I’d argue that Cedric Diggory wasn’t all that traumatic because we barely knew him), and that the big evil of this specific book is both political (the Ministry’s efforts to discredit Harry via the media of the state) and banal (Umbridge is both a political tool and that totally evil teacher we’ve all had who hates children).

This is where all of the world building and character driven plot really pays off with regards to the darkening tone. Many of the adults we’ve come to know and love turn out to be in the Order. The way that the children are cut out of the Order’s business both makes sense as a mom of almost 40, but is also an injustice given that we know exactly how capable these children are. I have to wonder how things would have been different had they just not have tried to keep Harry etc at arm’s length. This is especially a problem because of how it negatively impacts Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship. On the other hand, we see Sirius fighting to allow Harry a seat at the table.

Which leads me to Sirius’s death. We went from hating him to discovering he was Harry’s godfather and was set up–he didn’t betray the Potters. His and Harry’s relationship has deepened ever since. Sirius even wants Harry to stay with him rather than return to the Dursley’s. But then comes the scene in the Ministry vault–and Bellatrix kills Sirius. I sobbed, feeling Harry’s grief. This is also a scene where the movie did a good job showing the tragedy of Sirius’s death.

We see a Voldemort with real power. We see a corrupt Ministry that would rather pretend that Harry has cracked than the truth and one that is willing to discredit someone they see as a threat. The Ministry installs Umbridge as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to be their tool and to further divide the student body.

Umbridge is a great example of what an intentional tool of the state can do in terms of creating an authoritarian state. From the punishment of I must not tell lies to teaching DAtDA as a philosophical rather than practical class to her usurpation of Headmistress of Hogwarts and the dictates she passes as the leader of the school. At the same time she is banal evil–she’s that teacher who had it out for you. She’s that teacher who hates children and everyone knows it. She’s that teacher who looks harmless but is really sadistic. We’ve all had that teacher or that boss–we can all recognize the type of evil that she is. As a side note, while I don’t really approve of how the movies changed plot lines at times, when Umbridge begs Harry for mercy that she’s really a kind person or whatever, Harry responds with “Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies”? That’s fucking great and I loved that change.

Her totalitarian state creates the resistance in the form of Dumbledore’s Army. Even Hermione, the consummate rule follower knows that sometimes you have to break the rules. When a rule is unjust and evil is being perpetrated in your midst you fight back.

These two points seem especially relevant in Trump’s America. You have the state media of Fox News, and even supposedly liberal papers like the New York Times and Washington Post can’t seem to stop running articles about the poor white voters that have been left behind. Today WaPo ran an editorial that said even if you hate Trump you have to vote Republican to save our country. We also have a very active resistance led by women, particularly women of color. Women are running for office at a never before seen rate. There are constant protests and speaking truth to power. There is an active resistance. In some ways, it’s a good thing to be reading this with Athena at this moment in time because it’s giving me that language to talk about current events with her.

The prophecy is revealed and we learn that Neville could also have been the Chosen One, but that Harry really only is because Voldemort focused on him, which subverts the Chosen One trope. But Voldemort is also prevented from hearing the prophecy.

And of course, Order of the Phoenix introduces Luna Lovegood, one of my favorite characters and not just because I’m a Ravenclaw.

Order of the Phoenix is free on Kindle Unlimited, 8.99 to purchase, or one audible credit to listen to it in the car.

 

So that’s my seven…or seven of my favorites. I’ll be doing a post (or several) with some Honorable Mentions although we’ll never get to all of my favorite books because then we’d be here forever.

Seven Books I Love, part six–Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book six…Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff

A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist.

Whether David Rakoff is contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core video shoot—where he is provided with his very own personal manservant—rarely have greed, vanity, selfishness, and vapidity been so mercilessly skewered. Somewhere along the line, our healthy self-regard has exploded into obliterating narcissism; our manic getting and spending have now become celebrated as moral virtues. Simultaneously a Wildean satire and a plea for a little human decency, Don’t Get Too Comfortable shows that far from being bobos in paradise, we’re in a special circle of gilded-age hell.

My first acquaintance with David Rakoff wasn’t on paper, it was through the NPR show “This American Life,” to which he regularly contributed.  I loved the stories he told there so much, I went out and bought Fraud (and eventually his other books).  Rakoff is a masterful storyteller and his essays, whether on the page or the radio often made me think as well as laugh.  Listening to him tell his stories and reading his work has made me a better storyteller.

I almost picked Fraud instead of Don’t Get Too Comfortable. “I used to bank here, but that was long, long ago” is about Rakoff’s early battle with Hodgkin’s disease which, when it came back years later, killed him.  You can here him tell that story here, or read a transcript of that episode of TAL, including the essay here.  I strongly encourage you to listen to him tell it rather than just read it.

I actually have all of Rakoff’s work as audiobooks as well as ebooks because he narrates them, and the way he tells a story is just…priceless.

Rakoff is the kind of storyteller who makes you want to sit at their feet and beg for another story, and another, and another. I try to savor each story, but find myself instead bingeing because his prose is so gorgeous. He’s also unashamedly cynical, but not cruel. Bring your dictionary–Rakoff doesn’t scrimp on the big words.

In the end, I chose Don’t Get Too Comfortable because it opens with his essay about becoming an American citizen (Rakoff was originally Canadian), and has several other gems that just barely beat out Fraud. In Love It or Leave It, Rakoff explores his ambivalence about US citizenship and why the Patriot Act in the wake of 9/11 and the suspicions leveled at foreigners have led him to bite the bullet and apply for citizenship instead of contenting himself, as he had for a few decades, with his green card.

Question 87 of the citizenship test is “What is the most important right granted to U.S. citizens?’ The answer formulated by the government itself, is “the right to vote.” As we file out of the room, I ask someone who works there where the voter registration forms are. I am met with a shrug. “A church group used to hand them out but they ran out of money, I think.”

I don’t go to the post office to them have to buy my stamps from a bunch of Girl Scouts outside, and if the Girl Scouts are sick that day, then I’m shit out of luck. A church group? Why isn’t there a form clipped to my naturalization certificate? It is difficult not to see something insidious in this oversight while standing in this sea of humanity, the majority of whom are visible minorities.

I haven’t voted since I was eighteen, when I cast a ballot in Canada during my first summer back from college. It’s not that I take voting lightly. Quite the opposite. Living down in the United States where the coverage of Canadian politics is pretty well nonexistent, I have never felt well-enough informed to have an opinion. But even if I had made it my business to stay abreast of things–going to the library to read the foreign papers in those pre-Internet years–after a certain point, I no longer felt entitled to have a say in Canada’s affairs, having essentially abandoned the place. I suspect this is going to happen for the next little while every time I have to do something unmistakably American, like cast a ballot in a non-parliamentary election or go through customs on my U.S. passport, but standing here on line, I am stricken with such guilt and buyer’s remorse, overcome with a feeling of such nostalgia for where I came from, with its socialized medicine and gun control, that it is all I can do not to break ranks and start walking uptown and not stop until I reach the 49th parallel.

This feels appropriately prescient as we endure an immigration crackdown under another, worse, president.

There is also a story about the last flight of the Concorde versus Hooters Air, an essay that starts off by discussing Martha Stewart’s arrest that really explores Rakoff’s own love of DIY and his visit to Martha Stewart Living, and in Whatsizface Rakoff asks two plastic surgeons to tell him what is needed to fix his normal face. He is underwhelmed by an all night scavenger hunt. He is consistently dry and honest as he shares his stories.

I believe, but am not 100% sure that these essays all appeared in other media before being collected together. I certainly heard several on This American Life before I read them.

There are four Rakoff books, and Don’t Get Too Comfortable is my favorite, followed by Fraud. If you too have a sardonic, dry wit, I can’t recommend him enough. Worth noting that a curious thing keeps popping up in reviews–if you like David Sedaris, you may not like Rakoff, while I am the other way around where I find Sedaris occasionally witty but have a strong preference for Rakoff’s work.

One caveat–some of Rakoff’s offhand comments, particularly about women have not necessarily aged well in the intervening 15-18 years since their writing and are somewhat offensive in the era of #metoo

Don’t Get Too Comfortable is 11.99 on kindle, but I’d almost encourage you more to buy the audiobook if you’re only going to consume it using one form of media.

 

Seven Books I Love, part five–The Blessings Series by Beverly Jenkins

There’s a Facebook meme going around where you list seven of your favorite books in seven days. I thought I’d do mine as a series of blog posts. I’m going to cheat and do a few series mixed in with single books. This is not an absolute list–this is my seven of many favorite books. I could do one of these for children’s books, YA, adult, romance, and I’d still never even approach naming all my favorite books.

That said, here is book (series) five…The Blessings Series by Beverly Jenkins

On Bernadine Brown’s fifty-second birthday she received an unexpected gift—she caught her husband, Leo, cheating with his secretary. She was hurt—angry, too—but she didn’t cry woe is me. Nope, she hired herself a top-notch lawyer and ended up with a cool $275 million. Having been raised in the church, she knew that when much is given much is expected, so she asked God to send her a purpose.

The purpose turned out to be a town: Henry Adams, Kansas, one of the last surviving townships founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. The failing town had put itself up for sale on the Internet, so Bernadine bought it.

Trent July is the mayor, and watching the town of his birth slide into debt and foreclosure is about the hardest thing he’s ever done. When the buyer comes to town, he’s impressed by her vision, strength, and the hope she wants to offer not only to the town and its few remaining residents, but to a handful of kids in desperate need of a second chance.

Not everyone in town wants to get on board though; they don’t want change. But Bernadine and Trent, along with his first love, Lily Fontaine, are determined to preserve the town’s legacy while ushering in a new era with ties to its unique past and its promising future.

summary of Bring on the Blessings, Blessings #1

Readers of Beverly Jenkins’ historical romances will perk up at the name “Henry Adams” because it’s the setting for a number of historical books. This is indeed the same town, which has become a run down dying town that put itself up for sale.

Bernadine is a no nonsense woman who takes her divorce settlement and buys Henry Adams. She wants to revitalize the town, and one of her projects is to create homes for foster kids who need a home and love because she’s a former social worker. The first few books deal with each of the families with a foster child, and then it begins to widen out. Family is always at the center of the books, though, and they qualify as sweet rather than steamy romance (read her historicals for steamy).

On paper this is not something I should love–sweet romance isn’t usually my style, nor do I read a lot of mainstream fiction. But Jenkins’ writing along with her as always well populated cast of characters draws you in. I bought the first book to read on vacation last December, and in two weeks I’d read all of the books and the novellas.

What I love best about the book are the characters. Each of the children has the sort of history that makes them suspicious but hopeful when it comes to their new parents. The different ages of the children also affects the way they interact with their new parents and the community. Their past also marks each child differently. The parents are also very different and each book addresses the relationship of the parents–one has a couple that is struggling with how to deal with the distance that has grown between them.

Bernadine is fabulously wealthy, so she has the magical deep pockets that allow her to buy a town, build a school, etc. But unlike your typical billionaire, she’s not white and she’s not a man. She also has a collection of equally fabulously wealthy female friends who have each other’s backs, share a private plane, and more. It’s a cool take on the billionaire trope.

These books are the kind of balm your soul might need in these trying times. A community that actually comes together and embraces these children feels alien at this point in time, and is the kind of place I aspire to live in.

The ninth books in the series–Second Time Sweeter comes out Aug 28th, so you have time to read them and catch up. Book one, Bring on the Blessings is 3.49 on Kindle.