2013: Adaptations

© Redshinestudio - Fotolia.com

© Redshinestudio – Fotolia.com

Here we are, this year coming to a close and staring down the barrel of a new one.

2012 was a great year. Many good things happened. I won some awards both for academics and for writing. I didn’t publish as many short stories, but I feel like the ones I did publish were better stories. I got paid for my first story, Nowhere Land, and that story got some great reviews. I had my first reprint: my story The ABCs of the Apocalypse was reprinted in The Best of Friday Flash, Volume 2. I had a vampire story, The Bloodletter’s Tale, published in the Flashes in the Dark e-zineI have a story called The Apprentice’s Mother, being published in the Sunday Snaps anthology soon.

I ventured into journalism, writing a story for the school online newspaper about President Obama’s visit to one of our campuses.

I was nominated by my school for the All Florida Academic Team. I had a short story win two academic awards.

I did not do everything I planned to do in 2012. I’m still working on getting my book of short stories finished and out there in the world.

That being said, my list for 2013 contains some items of old business.

There are also some major changes in store for me in 2013, some life adaptations that I’ll be making. But as a friend of mine, Sophie Solitaire once told me: “You have to adapt or you will die.” Sophie is a character in my post-apocalyptic story Sophie Solitaire: Confessions of an End-Time Girl. 

2013 Goals:

Writing/Publishing Goals:

Kill the Crow — Get the stories that are going in it finished, get them all assembled in anthology format and find beta readers for the book. Find out how I can publish to both Smashwords and Amazon. If anyone reading this can help me with beta reading or publishing suggestions, please comment. I need all the help I can get.

Quellseek: Army of Empaths, Book 1 — This is the novel I started for NaNoWriMo this year. I want to finish it and let it sit for a bit before I start editing. I’ve also begun note-taking and planning the second book of the series: Blood War. 

Blood War: Army of Empaths, Book 2 — The second book of Army of Empaths. I won’t give too much away, but Quellseek ends with some cliffhanger stuff. I want to start work on Blood War right way, while the momentum and juices are still hot and flowing.

Army of Empaths, Book 3 — I want to begin planning what’s going to happen in the 3rd book while I’m writing the 2nd book, taking notes as I go along on anything that might be a loose end that would need wrapping up. We don’t like loose ends.

Short stories  — I’d like to get some short stories written, I don’t know if I’ll have time. If I get invited to write another eMergent story, I’d definitely say ‘yes.’ I love working with Jodi Cleghorn and the eMergent crew.

I’m also planning a children’s fantasy about a dragon princess, but it’s just in the beginning/tinkering stages right now. And I’m playing with the idea of putting  a volume of poetry together.

The Were-Travler My first year as a fiction magazine publisher went pretty smoothly. Ever since the mag was listed on Duotropes, the submissions have been pouring in. It may be that I’ll need someone to help me with it eventually, but I’m having a lot of fun with it and definitely plan to keep it going.

Academic Goals:

Find a new school. In May, I will receive my Associates degree. I need to make up my mind about what university I’m going to attend to get my Bachelors. I need to make this decision soon. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve applied for some scholarships, we’ll see what happens. 

Awards. I’m trying to get another short story ready for Phi Theta Kappa Regional Awards for this year. I’m also entering a poem.

Survive Spanish 2. I need to pass this class in the Spring. It will count toward my BA. I haven’t been able to practice my Spanish much since I took Spanish 1 in the summer, so this will be hard. I may have to get a tutor. 😦

This is what I hope to accomplish for 2013. If I can achieve a fraction of it, I’ll be happy.

I wish everyone a successful and happy new year ahead!

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Series-ously: My Best Reads of 2012

kitty readerI gave myself a reading challenge with Goodreads this year. I set a goal of reading 50 books (that’s 1.04 books per week). Even though that was a daunting figure, and I did not succeed, I did manage to read 43 books! Only 7 short of 50, and the year is not over yet. I plan to challenge myself to the same goal in 2013.

Some of the best reads I’ve had in 2012 (most of which have been series):

  • A Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R.R. Martin.
    • Series-ously, these books are freaking fantastic! Like Tolkien for grown-ups. Sex, war, dragons and these strange creatures called the Others that create zombies out of the dead. So good it’s an HBO miniseries. Can it be more awesome? Oh, and there’s a wise-cracking noble dwarf. So good, I’m in the process of reading them all again. And this time, not from the library, but spending my own bucks on them. That should tell you how good I think these books are. Here’s a listing of the books in their proper reading order, though I warn you, if you haven’t read the books, you WILL become hopelessly addicted. Hopelessly. Did I mention the dwarf? Tyrion Lannister is the coolest wine-swilling, whore-mongering dwarf ever!
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
    • I always include a healthy helping of classic reading in my intellectual diet and this book is one of the best classic gothic scary stories I’ve consumed in quite awhile, with one of the scariest protagonists. Jackson’s writing is superb, and if you’re a writer, you should read her just as a study of the craft, never mind the enjoyment you’re sure to receive in her exquisite storytelling. But I’ve been a fan of her work for awhile.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1), by Ransom Riggs
    • A fantasy that contains all of my favorite elements (except dragons). Creepy kids with supernatural powers, a hero discovering himself, horrifying monsters, and time travel. There is also the fact that the author scoured the world for weird photographs and then wrote this strange and surreal novel around those photographs. It’s a favorite of Tim Burton, who is considering making a film of it.
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    • This is my top post-apocalyptic series of the year it beats out the one following just by a hair, mainly because the hero in it is a girl. I like strong female characters and Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorites. The fact that she’s not perfect and seems to become more emotionally scarred as the series progresses only makes me love her more, because the struggle she endures makes her stronger, and more sure of herself in the end. Here is the reading order for those who haven’t indulged in the Games:
  • The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness
    • I loved the premise of this series. Mankind has journeyed to other planets. A religious group founds a planet where they can escape the craziness of the technological world they came from, live in peace, and get back to the basics in life: farming, worshipping, living simply and purely. Sound idyllic? Think again. Due to the Noise Germ, animal thoughts can be heard aloud…and so can men’s thoughts. But not women’s thoughts. This leads to mistrust between the sexes and eventually war, war against each other and against the indigenous species known as the Spackle. Interesting and sometimes infuriating to read (the POV character is the illiterate boy hero and Ness writes in his voice, complete with spelling and grammar faux pas that normally would send me into fits, but somehow seems right in this book). Also has one of the most despised villains I have had the joy of hating in awhile (Mayor Prentiss—he’s even more despicable than Cersei Lannister and would even give good ‘ol King Joff a run for his money, too). This series is also being considered for a film. The reading order:
  • Temeraire Series, by Naomi Novik
  • Anathem, by Neil Stephenson
    • This book is not for everyone. It’s a hard science fiction book that takes place on another world, but a world that shares similarities with Earth. They have convents (on this world called ‘concents’) but the monks are not the religious. They are the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers. Secreted away and kept a close watch on by Warden Regulants and the Inquisition. The story is told through the first person point-of-view of one of the ‘avout,’ a young man named Erasmus who is with the astronomy branch of the order, the Edharians. When Fraa Erasmus’ superior, Fraa Orlo sees something strange in the night sky, Erasmus’ sheltered life comes to an end. There is a spaceship from another world orbiting Arbre, and soon Erasmus and his friends will play a pivotal role in dealing with the alien visitors to their world. I really dug this book. I dig science and I kind of dig math, and those bits are good, but I really enjoyed some of the philosophical interactions between the fraa’s and suur’s (female members of the avout). The “nerve-gas farting pink dragon” scene where Erasmus gets “planed” by his mentor is hysterically intellectual. My brain thanked me for reading this book! Stephenson demonstrates spectacular world-building skills. I totally believe in the possibility that an Arbe-like planet could exist out there. And if it does, it may well be the Hylean Theoric World.
  • Must Love Dragons, by Monica Marier
    • Last, but never least. I love to read Indie authors, and Monica is one of my favorites. I’m not saying that because she’s an online buddy of mine, I’m saying it because she writes some kick-ass stories. Monica takes fantasy elements and blends them like an artist. Like Dali, all funky and stuff. Toss in humor and adventure and you’ve got Must Love Dragons. The hero of the tale is a Ranger named Linus Weedwhacker (hows that for a name?), a half human/half elf who has gone back to work because his wife (a feisty red dragoness) is pregnant. Again. Linus gets caught up in a caper that involves killing an ice dragon. His Ranger co-workers on the quest are an elf, two spoiled elf kids, and a giant man who is more than he appears to be. I wrote a review of this book earlier in the year. I’m currently reading the second book in her Linus Weedwhacker series, Runs in Good Condition, and her Madame Bluestocking’s Pennyhorrid is on my To-Read list for 2013.

I wish you great reading joy in 2013!

Igniting Creative Spark: Going Outside the Comfort Zone

Photo courtesy of Zachary Tomlinson.

Sometimes you have to do things that make you feel uncomfortable when you make decisions to take your writing to a different level.

For me this involved a recent foray into journalism.

I normally adopt an “I’ll-leave-your-opinons-alone-if-you’ll-leave-mine-alone” stance when it comes to politics. I’m honestly very middle of the road. My philosophy is very much like Neil Gaiman’s: “If there was a party whose main platform was being nice to people, freedom of speech and supporting libraries I’d sign up for it.” I don’t get into virtual, all-caps-on, shouting matches on Twitter or Facebook over politics. I just don’t think that it does much good. I may occasionally repost a meme about teachers getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop or internet privacy or censorship. Those are my pet peeves, but I don’t do it very often.

But  when an opportunity of a lifetime emerges, a chance to also test myself as a writer…well some things are just too good to pass up.

I almost enrolled in journalism school ages ago…years before the major life change I made two years ago to go back to school at forty-something to get my Masters in English Literature. But life happened…I got a full-time job, got married, and didn’t do journalism school. So, recently, when the guys at The Sandbox news asked me to write some articles (book reviews were discussed at the time) I said I’d do it. Partly because my writing has been in an idle place and I’ve been looking for some way to rev it up a notch, but mainly because I always wanted to write for the school newspaper, and when I first started at SPC, they didn’t have one.

Then…an amazing thing happened. Just a few days later we received the news that President Barack Obama was coming to deliver a Grassroots speech at our campus in Seminole. And I was asked to go along with the other reporters and cover it. Me! See a president of the US give a speech! I was overwhelmed and more than just a little bit scared. I don’t do politics, remember.

After I calmed down, I reasoned that a chance like this doesn’t come along very often and it was not just an opportunity to see a US president make a live speech, it was also an chance for me to write a journalistic piece…write it to the best of my ability, all the while trying not to air my own political views. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, a challenge…and there’s nothing I like more than a writing challenge. We writers need to challenge ourselves, and sometimes that means stepping outside of our comfort zone and writing about things we’d normally steer well away from.

So I wrote this…my very first experience with writing for the mass media. I hope you enjoy it: The President Visits Seminole, Emphasizes Education. 

Image courtesy of Maggie Susens Livingston.

Breathing Fire…The Year So Far

Just before New Year’s Day, I wrote a bold as brass blog post. I laid claim to the dragon year 2012 and made plans to burn, burn, burn, with a passion and fire like never before.

I have to say after three months, 2012 has not let me down.

It’s difficult being both a scholar and a writer. Sometimes I’m not sure where one part of my dual life ends and the other begins, as the two seem intricately interwoven and dependent upon each other to make me a whole being. To teach my passion for literature and writing, I work relentlessly toward a Master’s degree, perhaps even a PhD. I write on the side for pleasure and profit when I can, and I write as part of my school work.

Sometimes the two join and become one thing, like when I won the “Best Fiction Short Story” award at the Phi Theta Kappa Florida Regional Convention in Jacksonville a few weeks ago. Hearing my name and story called was like nothing I’ve ever felt. It was one of the most euphoric things I’ve ever experienced. I want more of it.

Also, on the scholarly side of things, I was nominated by my school for the All-USA Academic Team. I get to go to Orlando in a few weeks and accept a medallion and certificate that’s the reward for the years of hard work I’ve put in to become a top student. I didn’t make the All-USA final team, but the benefits of being named to an All-State team are being made clear to me. I was getting emails and letters from interested transfer schools before, but now there are an increasing number of schools wanting me to consider them for my baccalaureate degree. Good things, I think, will continue to happen to me as I inch ever closer to my dream of being a professor.

Now for the writing side of my life.

What writer on earth doesn’t want their stories to come to life on screen?

I was notified about a week ago that my short story Sophie Solitaire: Confessions of an End-Time Girl was chosen as one of ten stories in Literary Mix Tapes Nothing But Flowers anthology to be included in a movie project.

Finally, late last year I posted a previously published short story to the Friday Flash community, which I’ve been involved in for about two years now, although not as regularly as I’d like these days. I then submitted the story for possible inclusion in the second Friday Flash anthology: The Best of Friday Flash, Volume 2.

I just received an email from Jon Strother at Friday Flash this morning to let me know that my story, The ABC’s of the Apocalypse, will be included in BOFF2! I’m wildly excited about seeing this story in print again. It is one of the best stories I’ve written, and it received a lot of great comments when it was posted for Friday Flash.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to what the remainder of 2012 brings!

My award for PTK Florida Region Best Short Story, Fiction.