The State of Things - Update

Well, PITCH WARS was a bust.

Submitting was worth a shot, however sitting around sulking about not getting picked is not productive. It's time to move on.

I still have query letters out for several of my books, and even a FULL REQUEST to one agent, but I'm moving forward with self-publication of FALLEN KNIGHT anyway. If something positive happens I can always change my focus, but to avoid becoming stagnant I need to maintain forward momentum and self-publishing FK gives me that.  I'm still getting feedback from my critique partners and my plan is to send the manuscript off to be professionally edited in January (which is when I should have enough money saved). When that is process is complete I'll lay out the rest of my launch plan/schedule.

While I'm doing all that I've also submitted one of my short stories to a contest being hosted by Booksie. If you have a moment to read it and leave some feedback, it would be greatly appreciated.  You can find the story HERE.  The title of the story is ITINERARY.

That's what's going on with my writing-life right now. Staying busy...and positive!

DL



Pitch Wars


I've decided to hit the pause button on self-publishing for right now and take a run at this instead.

Pitch Wars. 

This has been on the periphery of my interest for a while and after seeing a couple tweets about the upcoming season, I looked at it closer.  This could be something that really gives me the boost I need. The concept is simple. The organization matches published authors and other industry professional (Mentors) with writers seeking guidance to help them improve their manuscripts (Mentee's). The catch is only 3-4% of the writers submitting get matched with a Mentor, so in a way its a lot like querying agents, the difference being Mentors will be looking more at potential as opposed to something that can be put on submission to publishers right away.

Although the probability of getting matched with a Mentor is low, I'm going for it anyway.  Submissions open next week and the match-ups will be announced on November 3rd.

Wish me luck!

The State of Things


It's been a while since I've updated anyone following along about where I stand in regards to getting published - so that's what I'm going to do today. This will brief because unfortunately there's not all that much to report.

Almost a year ago I announced my intention to write what I considered was going to be the book that finally legitimized my efforts to become a traditionally published author after all these years. It was a story that had been festering inside me for quite a long time and I thought the topic was timely. I finished that book (Apollo's Ghost) earlier this year and after soliciting feedback from my CP's and some beta's, I immediately started sending out query letters, expecting numerous requests for FULLS to flood my inbox. That didn't happen. I didn't receive a single request. I'm not going to sugarcoat it - I was crushed! Still am, actually.

So I've started down the path of my endgame. I wasn't going to end this journey without something to show for it, so I decided to self-publish one of the five books I've written. But which one? To answer this question I turned to social media. After posting a short summary of four of my books on Facebook and asking my followers which one they felt had the best chance in the marketplace, they chose (by a pretty good margin) my mystery/thriller book Fallen Knight.  So I've tweaked the story to bring it up to date (I wrote it almost eight years ago) and right now I'm waiting for additional feedback before I send it to an editor. Then I'll look for a cover designer. There is no set timeline for its release as of yet.

I haven't totally abandoned writing new material - well not exactly. If FK sells exceptionally well I've outlined a follow-up, but I won't put word to paper until I see how FK is received. If the book tanks, then that'll be it. Story over. But if it shows even a glimmer of life, then I'll be more than happy to churn out another story because I believe in these characters.

 That's it - that's where I'm at. Not where I hoped I'd be, but not without a pulse either.

I'll keep you updated as things move along.

DL

WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Path to the Podium

As we do every year at WRiTE CLUB, we asked our winner, Wendy Cross, to tell us what the experience was like for her. When we link back to this post in years to come, hopefully future contestants will be able to glean some insight from her words.  


I heard about WriteClub from a friend who suggested I enter. After reading about it, and learning the prize was admission to the 2020 DFW Writers Conference, I was in. Not having much experience with flash fiction, I decided to take an excerpt from the first chapter of a story I had finished and change it up a bit. I submitted it, and then the wait began.

When I saw my story posted, I was thrilled, but also nervous. The piece that was pitted against it was excellent, and one I would have voted for if circumstances were different. I spent a lot of time refreshing the page, reading comments, and tallying votes. Probably too much time. I was relieved and ecstatic when the voting closed and I had won.

When I saw the writers I was up against during the cage bout, my nerves were once again high—both pieces were excellent and deserving of a win. I told myself I wouldn’t track the votes since it piled on the stress, but I was still refreshing the page, reading the comments, and trying to keep a mental tally. When the voting closed, I knew it was close and was absolutely thrilled to see I had made it to the next round.

Now it was time to write a new piece for the playoffs. I decided to go with a story about a friendly, lonely ghost who was looking for a friend. However, as I worked on it, it quickly turned more creepy and sinister, and I had fun playing with the words and emotions and trying to get everything just right in 500 words.

When my piece went up and I read the competing story, I had a sinking feeling. I knew the first piece was going to win, there was so much to love about it. And win it did. At that time, I didn’t know the wildcard was the person with the most amount of votes amongst those of us who lost, so I thought I was out of the contest. It wasn’t until about two days before voting closed on the last set of entires that I learned I had the chance to be the wildcard. I started exploring ideas in case I was the wildcard and came up with the story of an English-style hunt not being what it appeared.

During the semi-finals, I was up against one of my favorite authors whose pieces were exceptional. I spent more time than I’d like to admit refreshing the page and looking at votes. My opponent’s piece was as great as I expected it to be, and it looked like it would be close. When I did win, I was surprised, happy, and, to be completely honest, had some feelings of dread because I was up against the same writer I’d lost to in the playoff bout.

I had two story ideas in mind for the final round—one was creepy and twisty and the other was a comedic piece I’d been messing around with as a potential manuscript idea. I decided to take a risk and go with the comedic piece. When I read my opponent's story, I once again knew I was in trouble. Their story was beautiful and perfectly captured a snapshot of a teenage girl trying to learn who she was. When some of the comments came in regarding my story, my feelings of dread intensified—the piece was not received as well as I’d hoped. However, I decided to be proud of myself for making it as far as I did.

The day the winner was announced, I was in the mountains and my reception was spotty so checking twitter was useless. But on the drive home, my friend who suggested I enter called to let me know I was the winner. It was a fantastic moment because my kids were with me and we were all yelling and cheering. I still can’t believe I won.


I want to thank everyone who left feedback on each of my pieces—I read it all and took note of the things that worked, didn’t work, and areas where I could improve. Your thoughts are invaluable. I also want to thank DL and his wife for all they do to put on this contest. I know there’s a lot of time and effort involved, and it is greatly appreciated. I look forward to meeting some of you at next year’s conference!

We look forward to meeting you as well, Wendy. See you in Dallas!

One Million



One Million page views.

That’s the achievement my blog surpassed a week or so ago when we were bringing WRiTE CLUB to a close. One million page views. That averages out roughly to one-hundred thousand per year – seeing that my blog has been in operation for ten years. Since I’ve posted 859 times it also averages to just over eleven hundred views per post.

WOW. Who’d have thunk it? Certainly not me. I started this blog because a character in my first novel was a blogger and this was more for research than anything else. My writing still hasn’t taken off like I hoped, but the blog is doing okay for itself, despite some stumbles along the way.

I’m certain WRiTE CLUB is responsible for the majority of the traffic I’ve been blessed with, but there were some other good posts-initiatives that moved the needle as well. Here are a few of the big ones.


I guess this is the year for successes, of a sort. In February we celebrated the blogs tenth year of existence, and now this. Doubt I’ll reach 1,000 posts this year, but it’s on the horizon. I can only hope that the trend of positive feats will carry over into my literary aspirations as well.

Either way, me and my blog will keep on plugging away. That’s how we started, and it has worked okay so far.


WRiTE CLUB 2019 - A New Champion Crowned

Let me introduce you to Wendy Cross...aka Sicaria, our WRiTE CLUB Champion for 2019.


Wendy resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is a mom to three fantastic girls and is married to the most amazing man who supports her in everything she does. She was a copywriter for ten years and is an expert on many random things, like composting toilets. She hopes to be traditionally published one day. Wendy now has a free pass to the 2020 DFW Writers Conference and a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card.  CONGRATS Wendy!



Our 1st runner-up was IshYouNotIshMe, which is actually Dannie Olguin Morris.


Dannie is an introverted writer who gets through busy days by pretending to be an extroverted character. She's been married to her best friend for more than half her life and has an awesome teenager. Two dogs and one cat share her office and encourage her to write when she'd rather hide in a pillow fort. Dannie is a member of both online and in-person critique groups and attends writers conferences regularly.  As the runner-up, Dannie took home a $75 Amazon Gift Card.  CONGRATS Dannie!

Both of these ladies have proved themselves to be extremely talented writers and I predict nothing but good things in their writing futures.

We also had other winners announced at the conference this weekend. They were - 

J-Dub - won the Random Voting prize of a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. (Please contact me)
Bokerah Brumley - won the Voting In Every Bout prize of a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card.
Laura Maisano - won a DFW Conference T-shirt for being a contest participant.
Melissa Embry won a DFW Conference T-shirt or being a contest participant.

The contest was a rousing success once again, setting records everywhere you looked. The most writers submitting (132), submissions (189), average votes per bout (76), and page views while the contest was running (41,000).  I also need to tip my hat to the quality of the critiques left for the contestants in our bouts this year. Exceptional!

Now that the contest is over we encourage the other writers who made it into the bouts to reveal their true identities in the comments below. People who have read your work really want to keep in touch with you and your work, so why not remove that mask? No pressure though. If you want to remain anonymous, we respect that choice.

I also encourage everyone to leave me idea's on how the contest can be improved. I've already received quite a few thoughts while I was at the conference, but I want to hear from you as well. What works, what doesn't work, what would make it more interesting? The contest is always evolving – trying to make it more satisfying for both the contestants and the reader/voters – and this year will be no exception.

We'll be back again next year, bigger and better than ever. Hopefully, you're looking forward to it as much as I am! If you want to be notified via email when things kick off next year, send an email to writeclub2019@gmail.com or leave it in the comments below and we'll add you to the list.



WRiTE CLUB 2019 - The Finals


This journey began for 30 writers seven weeks ago and now as it draws to a close we should take a moment and reflect on all of the wonderful writing we've seen. To reach this point in WRiTE CLUB - having your work read and judged by a conglomerate of industry professionals - is no easy task. But then again, it's not supposed to be. Writing is a gift, perfected with hard work, and this contest plays only a small part in drawing that gift out into the light. A hearty WELL DONE to each of the contestants that made it into the ring this year.

The readers/voters have spoken and decided that IshYouNotIshMe and Sicaria will face off again (they went against each other in a very close bout during the Playoff round) for the opportunity to be crowned the 2019 WRiTE CLUB Champion. An interesting side-note, these are the two contestants our Slush Pile readers picked as the top two submissions in their voting as well. The winner of this final bout will be announced at next weeks DFW Conference in Dallas.  Both of our finalists have had their 1,000-word samples forwarded to our celebrity judges (listed below) and those samples are also displayed below. Although the votes/comments will not carry any weight towards deciding a winner, everyone is welcome to leave a vote/critique in the comments. Comments in this round do not count towards the gift card giveaway.

Chuck Wendig Author, comic book writer, screenwriter, and blogger. New York Times & USA Today bestseller.
Lisa Regan USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author
Riley Sager International bestseller and New York Times bestselling Author 
Tiana Smith Copywriter turned novelist & 1st ever WRiTE CLUB Champion
Barbara Poelle Agent - Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Kristen Nelson Agent - Nelson Literary Agency
Shelly Stinchcomb Editor - Acorn Author Services
Melanie Newton Submissions Supervisor & Social Media Trailblazer - Clean Teen Publishing
Jennifer Grimaldi Agent - Chalberg & Sussman
Savannah Brooks  Agent - Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Ann Rose Agent - The Prospect Agency
Weronika Janczuk Agent - D4eo Literary Agency
Sandy Lu Agent - L. Perkins Agency
Eva Scalzo Agent - Speilburg Literary Agency
Trodayne Northern Agent - Prentis Literary
Kaitlyn Johnson Agent - Corvisiero Literary Agency
James McGowan Agent - BookEnds Literary Agency
Margaret Bail Agent - Fuse Literary
Lisa Dunn Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Aden Polydoros
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Solange Hommel
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Dan Koboldt
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
“Tex” Thompson
Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner
Mark Hough Previous WRiTE CLUB Winner

We will also announce the two winners of our random voter giveaways at the conference as well.

Without further ado, here are the last two submissions from our finalists.

IshYouNotIshMe

Mother pulled a tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Put her in a poofy dress and heels, and she’d pass for a Stepford Wife. Never a hair out of place or a smudge of lipstick on her teeth. Always gorgeous. God, I resented her.
“S’up, Susan!” Mother’s name felt foreign in my mouth.
Mother set the cookies down on a rack and turned to me, Barbie smile glued to her face. “Hello, dear. How was your sleepover?”
She didn’t even glance at my hair.
“Leslie and I did each other’s hair.” How could she ignore that I’d cut it and colored it taffy pink?
“Well, perhaps Leslie can come over here tomorrow and help you study for your Lit final.” She put another tray of cookies into the oven. “Would you like one? They’re still gooey.”
“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled as stomped to my room.
I stood at my locker, looking through my texts. Kids shouted and shoved each other. Lockers slammed. A highschool symphony.
“Hey, Regina, nice hair!” Greg’s locker was three down, but he’d never said a word to me.
“Thanks.” Heat spread across my chest, up my neck, and settled into my cheeks. I brought my hand up to my head. I really did love it.
“Why the change?” He reached up, but stopped just short of touching my hair. I swear I felt electricity run from his fingertips to my head. When he moved his hand away, disappointment gnawed at my heart.
Be cool, Geena, be cool!
“I just needed a change.” I pulled books out of my locker and hugged them. “And I was trying to piss off my parents.”
“Regina Cabot, honor student, yearbook editor, and student council president wanted to piss off her parents? Why?”
anger swirled in my belly. Hearing my accomplishments reminded me how much energy I always put into pleasing my parents instead of myself.
“I guess I wanted to control something for once, even if all I could control is getting in trouble. But they didn’t even notice.”
“I bet going out with me would work.” A crooked smile raised one corner of his lips and his green eyes sparkled.
No way could they ignore Greg. With his leather jacket and motorcycle; his long hair and attitude.
“That’s a good idea.” The bell rang but neither of us moved.
“Does seven work?” His hand came back up, and this time he ran his fingers through my  hair. I shivered when his finger brushed my ear.
“Perfect.”
I didn’t bother telling my parents I was going out. I didn’t want the same old lecture, I wanted World War III. Greg rumbled up my driveway at ten after seven. I ran down the hallway, past the den where my parents sat reading the paper. No joke, they still read the newspaper like it was 1965.
“Bye,” I shouted.
“Just a minute.” Father’s voice was stern. “Come in here.”
“Where are you going?” Mother asked without looking up.
“Out.” 
“With whom?” Father licked his thumb and turned the page.
“Greg. He’s waiting. Can I go?” Disrespect always triggered them. I prepared for battle.
Father took a deep breath. Outside, Greg revved his engine and honked. I could practically see anger rising in Father’s chest.
“It’s a school night,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.” I put a hand on my hip and sighed.
“Okay, then.”
Was this a trick? Mother turned the page and didn’t say anything.
“You look lovely.” He sipped his scotch.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
“Then take your key.” Mother laid the newspaper in her lap and smiled. “Your father’s right, you look lovely. Now don’t keep your friend waiting.”
Greg wolf-whistled as I approached his bike. “You look—Wow.” He held a helmet out to me. “It’s a shame to cover up that hair, but better safe than sorry.”
 I slipped the helmet on and climbed behind him. As we roared past my house, I looked to see if my parents were watching. They weren’t. I don’t know why my parents suddenly stopped caring, but maybe it wasn’t so bad. If I didn’t have to worry about being perfect, I could live my own life.
Greg parked and helped me down. I handed him my helmet and floofed up my plastered-down hair.
“Don’t bother, you look great.” He tilted my chin up and kissed me lightly. My first kiss.
“Hungry?”
“Yeah.” My reply came out a whisper.
“This place has the best burgers. Let’s eat and figure out what to do with our night.” Greg wrapped his arm around my waist like he did it every day.
I wanted to skip the burger, get back on his bike, and take off. To be wild and reckless, but that’s not what I’d suggest.
“I have a Lit. test tomorrow. Will you take me home after this?”
“You’re serious?”
“Yes. Please don’t be mad.”
He smiled and took my hand. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do. But can we eat slowly?”
“My parents always complain that I’m a slow eater,” I replied.
“This was too good to be true, anyway.”
“What?”
“I’ve wanted to ask you out since I moved here, but I figured you wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
“What?” I studied him, looking for a crack in his lie. “Why would you think that?”
“You’re smart and busy perfect. I’m not the kind of guy your type goes for.”
“This is so weird.” I tried to hold back a giggle.
“What? Me?”
“This situation. I’ve been fan-girling over you for months, but you never even looked at me.”
He slid in next to me. “This is weirdly poetic, isn’t it? We could have been coming here for months if either one of us had taken charge and said something.”
“It’s weird, alright. But good.”
I looked into his green eyes and my heart soared. I lifted my face to his and kissed him.
“How’s that for taking charge?”


#################################################################



Sicaria


Damnit. I stare at the message from Des saying she’s broken her leg and can’t be my partner for the Dreor Scavenger Hunt. Without a partner, I can’t enter the hunt. Without the hunt, I can’t win the prize money and possibly redeem myself.
I glance around the dingy duplex that always smells like cheese. I’ve hidden out here for six months, never planning on making it, nor Earth, my permanent residence. At least I look human. Mostly.
My phone beeps again. I’m sorry.
Anger and defeat rush through me. “No you’re not.” I tighten my grip on my phone so I don’t hurl it across the room, but none of this is Des' fault. I’m the one who ran away after starting that fire. I was going to use the prize money to pay for all the damage I caused. And maybe even convince my family to forgive me. But now…I sink to the floor, the rough wall digging into my back. There’s no one else I trust to be my partner—to keep my location a secret.
“Kit!” my co-worker, Chase, calls from outside. “You there?”
Unless…an idea, a wonderfully crazy idea, pops into my head. I bolt off the floor and fling open the door, excitement and hope replacing my misery. “Hey!”
Chase takes a step back, startled. “Everything okay?”
I step onto the porch and immediately start sweating in the summer heat. “Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
I dunno.” Chase studies me, confusion etched on his face. “You seem, uh, strangely excited.”
“I just had the best idea.” I hook my arm through Chase’s and guide him down the driveway. “I have a favor to ask.”
“You can’t have my shift at the store.” Chase pulls his arm free. “I need the extra hours.”
“It has nothing to do with work. In fact, it’s something that’ll help us both.”
Chase cocks an eyebrow. “The last time you said you had something that would help me, I ended up with two dead fish.”
“That wasn’t my fault.”
Chase gives me a pointed look.
“Well, not entirely. But they were only fish. It’s not like I killed your dog or something.”
“I don’t have a dog.”
“Exactly. And I promise no fish will get hurt. Or anything else that breathes.” Probably.
Chase eyes me, his expression guarded. Which is to be expected, I guess. Some of my ideas haven’t turned out exactly as planned. But, then again, Earth’s very different from my home planet. I flash Chase my most winning smile. “So…?”
 He sighs. “Fine. What do you need help with?”
“A scavenger hunt.”
“Sure. What do you really need help with?”
“Just that, a scavenger hunt. One with a cash reward.”
Chase straightens, obviously interested. “How much?”
“Twenty-five grand. Each.”
Chase lets out a humorless laugh. “You may find it funny to make fun of my money problems, but I don’t.” He turns to leave.
“No, wait!” I grab his hand. “It’s not your normal type of scavenger hunt.”
Chase hesitates and then swivels to face me. “Go on.”
“It’s a scavenger hunt…in space!” I throw my arms up in a ta-da sort of motion.
“I’m going home.”
“I’m an alien,” I blurt out in desperation.
“Right.”
“No really, look, I’ll prove it to you.”
Frustration flashes across Chase’s face. “And how are you going to do that? Pull out a laser gun? Maybe reveal a second head?”
“No, something much better. Well, maybe not as great as a second head, I’m not Andullian after all, but still really good.” I sit on the sidewalk and pull off my shoe and sock.
“What’re you doing?”
I hold up my foot, wagging it in the direction of his face. “I have seven toes.”
“What?” Chase does a double take, his mouth moving silently as he counts. “So? What does that prove? It could be some sort of weird…genetic…thing.”
“That’s six toes, not seven.” At least according to the internet. “Anyway, I can show you my other foot if that’d help.” I reach for my other shoe.
“It’d only prove you have fourteen toes. Is there anything else? Do you have two hearts I can listen to? Or something else I can see?”
“No, but I do have three stomachs and two livers.”
Chase snorts. “What are you, exactly? An alien cow?”
Indignation sweeps through me. “No. There’s nothing cow-like about me if you haven’t noticed. I don’t even eat grass.” Although I did try it once. It wasn’t very delicious.
I scramble to my feet. “I swear, I’m telling the truth. And I’d let you see, but then you’d have to eviscerate me and there’s no way we’d win the scavenger hunt if my entrails were sprawled along the sidewalk.”
Chase glances at my bare foot and then back at me. “Let’s say I believe you. Then what?”
“Then we get on my spaceship and enter the hunt.”
“And where does it take place?”
“All over the Bitali Galaxy.”
“There’s no such place.”
“Of course there is!” Before he can answer, I reach into my pocket and pull out a small ship transporter. “I’ll show you.” I grab his hand and push a button. A second later, we materialize on my ship.
“Told you I was an alien.” I can’t keep the smug satisfaction out of my voice.
“What the hell?” Chase turns in a slow circle, mesmerized. “Where are we?”
“Rannjana, my ship.”
He walks over to the view screen as though in a trance, staring at Earth. “Is that, like, real?”
“Yup. And,” I fiddle with the console, changing the image, “that’s the Bitali Galaxy.”
“Whoa!” He glances at me. “Why didn’t you show me your ship in the first place?”
“Because everyone has spaceships, but not everyone has seven toes. That’s much more impressive.”
Chase looks incredulous. “You thought—”.
“Never mind what I thought—are you in?”
He grins. “Hell yeah I’m in.”
#################################################################

I'll be at the DFW Conference next weekend and have a vendor table to promote next years contest, so if you have the opportunity to attend the fabulous writer event and you have a free moment, please drop by and say hello!


 

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