Tag Archives: life

What I Wish I Knew About Writing Conferences

Back in 2016, I made a shift. I decided if I was ever going to become a writer, I needed stop buying “how to” writing books, fancy pens, and themed journals and actually write. I know. Revolutionary idea.

people-at-work-1459248-1280x960

Don’t get me wrong, “writing swag” is great, but at the end of the day, the supplies gave me the illusion of productivity. I needed to write to become a writer.

Now in 2018, with one completed novel under my belt and a net of query letters out to a sea of agents, I decided writing wasn’t enough. I needed to learn more about the craft of writing that books couldn’t teach me.

That’s where the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference came in.

Now, I thought I was pretty prepared for my first conference. I picked out what classes I wanted to go to, signed up for special discussions, and headed out at 5:30 in the morning to be there by the time the doors opened. But here’s what I wish I knew, that I didn’t see anywhere online.

Writing conferences are less about the classes and more about the connections.

Maybe this isn’t true for all people, but it was extremely true in my case. While the classes were amazing, I realized I was woefully unprepared for the amount of networking I was going to be doing.

How do you make the most out of your networking and socializing experience? 

 Get a hotel near the conference center. Mine was 30 minutes away, to save money, and I missed out on so many fun get togethers.

If someone’s planning to do a dinner, go eat with a group.

If you find one group, don’t be afraid to go and hang out with other people, but know you might feel left out if your first group you hit it off with goes and does something else.

Order business cards and keep in touch with people after the conference is over. I’ll talk more about this in my “making friends” portion of this conference series I’m doing, but definitely do this.

Reach out to people before the conference. I met some wonderful writers online through facebook and online contests so when I got there, I already knew who to touch base with. In fact, if I hadn’t had so much fun talking to D.L. Hammons I probably would’ve been lost for the first hour.

And lastly, if you can pitch to agents or editors, DO. I was only going to use my free agent pitch but decided to buy two, and I learned more in those 20 minutes about the pitching/agent process than I did reading any book. Both people I pitched to eased me into the situation and asked me to email them my work. Come to find out, one of them was only accepting work through that conference, so trying to pitch to her online would’ve been impossible (or at the very least rude).

 

These are just a few things I wish I knew about the whole networking deal. I’ll go over what I learned about classes, making friends and the downsides to conferences (there are some, albeit small ones) in other up coming posts, so keep an eye out.

 

Is there something you want to know about writing conferences? This was my first one, so I’m not all knowing but I can definitely give you tips if you’re a newbie! Comment below and let me know.

Advertisements

Book Review #6 – The Voice of the Night

After realizing I’ve been buying way more books than I’ve been reading, I decided to start doing reviews for older books on my shelf to encourage me to clear some space. I wanted to start with something easy to get through that would still be enjoyable, and since I like Dean Koontz for the most part, I started with The Voice of the Night.

Oh boy. This book. Let me tell you. This freaking book.

51NJgf6t9rL._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_

I know this was one of Koontz’s earlier works, but he’s always been a little hit and miss with me. This one was a big miss. In fact, have you ever read an author and thought, wow, they are trying REALLY hard to be like another author? Well that was The Voice of the Night for me.

What happened. . . .

Colin is a shy kid who befriends another boy name Roy. Roy happens to be a sociopath who encourages a darker side in Colin. We learn about Colin’s messed up home life, Roy’s obsession with death, and a murder suicide that happened in the town they live in. A girl named Heather gets involved, Roy tries to kill Colin, and Colin and Heather finally take Roy out by luring him to the murder suicide house. Colin has the chance to kill Roy, but decides to show mercy, and winds up calling the cops instead.

All pretty formulaic for Koontz, but that wasn’t what bothered me the most about this book. I can handle an author who writes by a formula, and sometimes you need something like that just to tune out the world for a while. The problem was the psychological horror.

Now, I’m all for psychological horror. In fact it’s one of my favorite types of horror, right after science fiction horror, but the way he tried using it in this book just left me bored. I found myself skipping the chunks of conversations, tuning out, and I even put it down with no intention of picking it back up again.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I liked the characters, but I didn’t. Colin was one dimensional, and Roy talks about raping women, torturing animals, and killing other kids. Even when you find out why he is the way he is, at that point, I just didn’t care. It felt lazy, like I was reading the script to a thrown out idea of a Criminal Minds episode.

The worse part is, it was like he was trying to mimic Stephen King. I know this is some people’s problem with some of Koontz’s work, but this time it really showed. It was lazy story telling, and at the end of the day, he’s told better stories than this one.

If, by some off chance, you’ve never read anything by him, don’t start with this book.

As for the rating, I wouldn’t even check  it out from the library.

 

Have you read The Voice of the Night? What were your thoughts? Disagree with my review? Comment below and let me know!

 

You Can Never Go Home

Once a year, from the age of five to seventeen, I escaped the Texas heat and traveled to a magical place. The trees were taller, the air was a sweet mix of cool rain and wet soil, and every night was lit with fireflies.

This magical place was Michigan.

sunset-over-clouds-on-lake-superior-1330327-638x426

I know. Not exactly what most people would consider to be a gateway to another world, but as a child, there was magic across the Wolverine State. I used to think there were mermaids in The Great Lakes, fairies in the never ending forests, and when we went up to my grandmother’s cabin, the loons were singing to me and no one else. I loved, and still love, Texas, but there was something about Michigan that made me feel like I was home.

And then I went back as an adult.

As I rode from the airport to my grandmother’s house, I waited for that magical feeling. Even into my late teens, I felt it the second I was on Midwestern soil, but the more I looked around this time, the more I felt like I was seeing through the glamour. The sidewalks were cracked, the roads covered with litter, and worse of all my grandmother’s smiling face, a face that never seemed to age, was worn.

I thought maybe the dread would go away the longer I was there, but it didn’t. The places of my childhood were closed, or replaced with something new. The cabin now could only be visited once a year, and they had gone earlier without me. The magic was gone.

It was like someone ripped away a blanket I had been hiding under. I realized that the feeling of home I longed for in my adulthood was gone, and in that moment, I saw things for how they really were. The map of my childhood had been thrown away, replaced with the reality that those roads had changed and now I was lost.

I guess everyone goes through this in their late twenties. You begin to realize that the way you saw things when you were younger, while maybe not a lie, was a beautiful retelling of the truth. You become more aware of the family politics, of why people are the way they are, and you realize your heroes and idols are just as flawed as you are.

Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I was a child who saw things that weren’t there, and now I’m finally having to face reality? But one thing I know is that sometimes you can never go home. You have to build it elsewhere, and hopefully the foundations are stronger. Your walls need to be made out of stone instead of gingerbread, and the next time someone or something tries to knock it down, they’ll stand firm.

Or maybe that’s all life really is? One knocking down after another, and learning how to grow from it? Home is, after all, just a construct we build to make ourselves feel safe. Once that’s gone, and the net is pulled away, maybe that’s when we can really start living?

Write Fight Club Reflections

When I first started writing, I wasn’t scared to submit to contests more than I was to submit to agents.

Agents are less intimidating to me. While people consider them the gateway to getting published, I always saw agents as people who are looking to create a business partnership. Submitting to contests, however, was someone actively judging my work. And not just judging. In my imagination, the organizers were gods, scrutinizing every word, looking down on my poor unfortunate writing and laughing as they sang a song about how stupid I was to even consider submitting.

come_on_you_poor_unfortunate_soul_by_arielfan90-d9auywm.gif

Then I found Write Club, and my thoughts on the subject changed.

What is Write Club?

As a quick explanation, Write Club was started by D.L. Hammons, loosely based off the movie Fight Club. You anonymously submit a 500 word story with a pen name into a slush pile. From the slush pile, it gets narrowed down to 30 writers, and then other people online vote for their favorites in 15 bouts. Over time it’s narrowed down to finalists, and the winner’s announced at the DFW Writer’s Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

This is a very bare bones definition of Write Club, and if you want a better idea of it, check out the link above.

Why did this contest change my mind about submitting to contests?

The idea that no one would be able to associate my writing to me took some of the stress out of it. I always saw contests as being judged as a good or bad writer. Instead it turned into “this work isn’t as enjoyable to me”. If someone didn’t like my work I didn’t think it would reflect on my abilities, it was just a matter of taste.

Then when I saw the entries, I realized it really WAS a matter of taste. I would read a piece and think, “This person is clearly the winner!” but then I’d see other people voting for the other person. I was baffled at what they saw in the other piece, but that was just the nature of the game.

And that’s when I realized that ALL forms of submissions were a matter of taste. There are some books I can’t stand that get published and hit top of the sales charts, and there are some books I love that never get noticed.

Write Club cured me of my submitting to contests fear, and I have to admit, I’m already editing my piece for next year’s contest.

Write Club
Host, D.L. Hammons, with a few participants /raffle winners at the 2018 DFW Writer’s Conference. (From Left to Right, with Twitter screen name) Mike Hilton (@5hourninja), Wanda Woodworth (@wandawoof), D.L. Hammons (@DL_H), Dannie Olguin (@DannieMOlguin), and myself (@aemcauley)

Would you like to join in Write Club?

Submissions are open March 12th until April 1st or just check out DL Hammons’ page and follow his blog.

Best Creative Advice I’ve Ever Received

At the time I’m writing this, it’s almost one in the morning and I can’t sleep.

creative

I can hear the sound of the AC unit on the outside of my office wall and the mumbling of my husband’s audio book he fell asleep listening to. There’s a faint smell of pencil shavings and dusty feathers, and even though I’m wrapped in a blanket to fight the chill, my toes are still frozen.

I’ve been sitting like this for close to an hour now, sketching while listening to the white noise of my house, unable to get the voice of an old coworker out of my head as I erase the same part of a drawing I’ve already done fifteen times.

“Don’t be scared to erase your mistakes. If you erase it and try again, you’re learning how to get it right. Even if it looks worse the second time, you at least tried something new, and found out it didn’t work.”

The man who told me this was one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met. I haven’t seen him in years, but I think about this advice all the time, and not just for drawing but for life in general.

So many times we go through out our day to day, struggling to get things right. We try to write the perfect book, draw the perfect picture, or just try to be someone we’re not for the world around us. We feel kicked and beaten, and often times having to try something again can feel like you’re failing, when this isn’t the case at all.

Every time you stand back up and submit that manuscript, or keep creating, you’re making yourself stronger. You’re learning something. Even if it’s wrong, you’re still becoming better for it.

So, keep on trying. Even if you mess it up over and over again, you’re learning something each time you do. I hope it helps you with whatever you have going on in your life as much as this advice has helped me.

 

What was the best advice you’ve ever been given, either about creating or just about life in general?

Write Club Update

Well submissions are closed.

Write Club Soap 2

I only got one in, mostly due to my own poor time management around the holidays, but I’m a little hopeful. Not entirely optimistic, but hopeful. Of course I’m still glad I did this. It’s already encouraged me to start submitting my writing to smaller contests, and I’ve gotten back into actively writing, as opposed to passively jotting down a few lines every day.

I can’t say that this year had a good start for me, creative wise. If I’m being more accurate, it really hasn’t been great since my move back at the end of October. But looking at my personal timeline, I will say every time I change states, I always get thrown out of sorts for three to six months. With this being the beginning of April, I’m right at that cut off, and can already tell my stamina is back up to create again.

I guess that’s one bad thing about constantly having to move no one really warns you about. Sure, you get to see new places, meet new people, and have different experiences, but at the end of the day, I’m still an introvert at heart. My personal time and space is very important, and when I have to uproot what feels comfortable, it’s hard to get that back right away. This isn’t a complaint so much as an observation. I’m grateful to have the life I do, and I know I’m extremely lucky, but it still takes some time to get back to normal after a big change.

Write Club helped me a lot, however. I feel a little more confident, and the thrill I got from even participating in the contest this far lit a fire under me. Even if I don’t make it to the top 30, I’m still happy with the experience.

 

As you might’ve been able to tell, this was a little bit more of a conversational post than normal. I know it’s a tad bit rambling, but I felt more casual tonight. Thanks for sticking through for this long though! If you liked this style more, let me know. I’ll gladly do more updates like this if it’s preferred.

 

Hope you all are having a good start to April. Keep writing lovelies ❤

Author Interview #10 – K Kibbee

If there’s one author on Twitter that’s stood out above others, it’s K (Kristine) Kibbee. When I first got involved with the #amwriting crowd, her work in progress bits caught my eye, and I knew I wanted to interview her for my blog.

notes-on-wood-3-1315481

After reading one of her books, I finally was able to reach out to her! Enjoy.

Q. To start out, tell us a little bit about what project you’re currently working on. What part of the writing process are you in?

  • Goodness gracious, it’d be easier to tell you what I’m NOT working on! I’m presently launching book three in the Forests of the Fae series (Lang’s Labyrinth), prepping book #2 in my Theodore and the Enchanted Bookstore series (The Tale of Robin Hound) AND working on a new, hush-hush project that I hope will be the biggest yet!

 


Q. I’ve only read one of your books, Devlin’s Door: Forests of the Fae, and I love the use of the Pacific Northwest mixed with fairies. What was your biggest influences for your Forests of the Fae series?

  • Interesting you should ask, m’dear! I was inspired to write FotF after reading about an old, abandoned ghost town across the bay from Astoria. The city, named Frankfort, was left for dead back in the 60’s and has become an inhabitable, unreachable place overtaken by the wilds of the Northwest. It provided fodder a’plenty for this ole’ writer brain to get going, and my childhood fascination with Faeries took over from there! I’ve long been a fan of all things Faerie (think Brian Froud, Jim Henson, etc.), particularly the darker ilk. 😉

 

Q. If you could have dinner with any of your antagonists which one would it be?

  • Wow, that’s an excellent question! I think I’d love to have dinner with Aunt Claudia…just to see the glower on her face.

 

Who inspired you the most in your writing life?

  • I suppose that my Mom was my biggest inspiration. Ironically, she’s also been my loudest critic . . . but it’s ultimately made me a better writer.

 

Q. You’re extremely active online, and participate in numerous hashtag games. What advice would you give to people who are trying to build their online presence?

  • Another well-timed question on your part! I actually just participated in a podcast/Skype-style interview that is geared towards up-and-coming writers who are seeking to gain a foothold in the literary community. As my portion of the presentation, I offered a 30-minute “Tweetorial,” which will be available online next month! I don’t have a link at present, but Sage Adderly, with “Sage’s Blog Tours,” is the driving force and should be posting it in the coming weeks.

 

Q. What writer do you look up to? Do you find yourself emulating their writing style?

  • If I were to pick a recognizable face to look up to, it would probably be J.K. Rowling’s. I’m sure this is an answer often given by indie authors, but I suspect my reasoning is different. I fancy Rowling for her activism and for what she’s done to improve the writing world (and the world at large!) with her sizable royalty checks. I do, also, admittedly, admire her dedication to research and world building… although I don’t find myself emulating her work.

 

Q. I noticed you went to college at Washington State University. Were there any professors who influenced your writing or inspired you on your journey?

  • Honestly, my memory has the consistency of Swiss cheese. Unless you’d reminded me that I went to WSU, I’d have plum forgotten! So…that’s a hard no. I can’t even remember my professors’ names!

 

Q. When writing Devlin’s Door, was the main character, Anne, inspired by anyone in your life?

  • Anne was more inspired by everyone than anyone. I tried to make Anne your ordinary, everyday girl. She has no magical powers . . . no royal ancestry . . . she’s just a girl with pluck, cleverness, and an enduring spirit.

 

Q. What was the first writing project you worked on and what did you learn from it?

  • Again with the Swiss cheese memory! I could no sooner tell you how many bottles my Mom typically gave me in a day! I do recall piecing together little stories about dogs, using clippings from various magazines I had laying about. I was young enough . . . the most I learned from that experience was probably not to eat glue.

 

Q. What’s your favorite thing about writing for the Middle Grade age group?

  • I feel like MG readers still have enough youthful innocence that their imaginations are malleable, and willing to stretch a bit further than those of older readers.

 

Q. E.L. Doctorow once said, “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” What have you learned from the past few books you’ve worked on?

  • I’ve learned that there are no shortcuts in the writing world. I think everyone wants to be this overnight sensation. They imagine the Hollywood version of a writer–where a book deal is lain your lap by some publisher heralding your praises. If you believe that, I’ve got some magic beans to sell you! This is W-O-R-K…a mountain of it. So much, in fact, that no sane person would ever seek it out.

 

Q. If there was one fairy tale you’d like to rewrite for a modern audience, which one would it be, and how would you write it?

  • I guess the idea of rewriting turns my stomach a bit. It makes me ill to see things copied over and over and over and over again. There are so many amazing, creative new ideas. Why do we keep rehashing the old ones? Naw, my mind wants to create something new. I have far too much imagination to mimic someone else.

 

Q. Everyone always goes on about what they love about writing. What do you dislike about writing, and how do you overcome this?

  • I’ve come across it a few different times and can’t tell you who the original author was/is….but the quote that comes to mind is, “I hate writing. I love having written.” That’s me, in a nutshell. It’s always difficult to get myself to just SIT DOWN AND WRITE. But when I do, I always walk away feeling immensely satisfied. There’s nothing like it. Well, short of cake. 😉

(edit – Thank you to alamlovespoetry via twitter, for letting us know that Dorothy Parker is the source to this quote)

 

Q. Are there other art forms you find yourself taking part in?

  • I do a bit of sculpting, but the kiln keeps blowing my stuff to bits. I feel like someone is trying to give me a hint.

 

Q. Writing is an exhausting process, and it’s always good to take a step back before attacking the page again. What helps you the most when it comes to taking a break from writing?

  • I do a lot of walking. A LOT. 10 miles a day. It’s very therapeutic and meditative.

 

Q. Which character of yours do you find yourself thinking of more than others?

  • Curiously, I think about the animal characters. It’s so difficult to interpret what animals are thinking, because they can’t tell you. I always worry that I’m not portraying them correctly.

 

Q. Lastly, where do you see your writing career taking you in five years?

  • I’d love to say that I see myself skyrocketing to the top of the NYT Best Seller list, but if my past 15 plus years are any indication . . . I’ll just be slogging along, as per usual . . . sharing my work and trying to bring a bit of magic into this oft-dull world.

 

24294120_1562770180458529_2762387752237664607_n

Want more of K Kibbee? Find her here! 

http://www.Goodreads.com/KKibbee
http://www.Facebook.com/KKibbeewrites
http://www.Amazon.com/author/KKibbee
http://www.Incorgnitobooks.com/authors/K-Kibbee
Twitter @K_Kibbee

Earliest Childhood Memory

Wow! I fell way behind on my own challenge. Since my last post, I started a new novel, and it took hold like wildfire. I decided to stick with that, just to get the first couple chapters done, and it left little time for working on my blog.

Now day 14, I’m just now coming back on a day that’s probably one of my favorites.

This one really shouldn’t be a favorite. A lot of my childhood memories were of me falling off something, or tripping over something, and winding up pretty hurt because of it. You’d think after years of adulting, and countless dance classes, I’d have stopped this nasty habit of falling, but it still hasn’t gone away.

My earliest memory goes like most of my memories of my childhood. I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, in this case, climbing a huge rock, and then falling into a cactus bed.

In retrospect, the rock wasn’t probably as big as I remember, but because I was so small, it seemed like a mountain. This means the single cactus I fell into looked like a bush of spikes straight out of a nightmare.

My biological father was with me at the time, and I can remember screaming as he took me to the nearest gas station where he borrowed their first aid kit and pulled needle after needle out of my arms and legs. I vaguely remember being surrounded by men, each one trying to get me to stop crying, giving me an ice cream out of the freezer I was sitting on, and helping my dad hold my arm when I kept trying to pull away.

Why do I like this memory so much? It was pretty traumatic at the time, but it’s always stuck with me as something that taught me a valuable lesson.

One, when you’re experiencing something negative, things look bigger and badder than they really are. But as time passes you begin to realize it wasn’t as bad as you originally thought.

Two, you’re going to fall down, and sometimes it’s going to hurt, but rely on others to help you back on your feet. I didn’t have a choice as a child, I had to get help from strangers, but as an adult, I try to remember that the kindness of others can sometimes help more than you realize.

And lastly, if you do fall, and you will, always get back up and try again. Learn from that mistake, and do better next time. A tumble from a rock didn’t stop me from getting up the next day and climbing something else. It didn’t stop me from trying things to push myself a little harder. Again, I was a kid, but it’s still something I apply as an adult.

 

What was your earliest childhood memory and what did you learn from it?

Check out Tanja’s Day 14 here.

Want more January blogging challenges? Check out Tanja RamirezLily Couldridge, and Alexandra Burt‘s pages. They’re all taking part as well. It’s not too late for you to do the same! Just link me to whatever social media you’re posting your challenge on, and I’ll give you a shout out.

What’s in my bag?

Well I’m running late again today. I got caught up with conversations on Twitter, making a massive surprise project for my sister’s baby shower, and then got to talking plot with my writing partner.

But I’m here now, so welcome to day five of the January Blogging Challenge! 

I have a few handbags, but none are as important to me as one my husband picked up at a military surplus store. What used to be an old gas mask bag is now toting around my wallet, keys, pencils, pens, loose change, and almost always a book or two. It doesn’t look big, but it must have some TARDIS/Mary Poppins magic, cause I keep everything in here.

20180105_230418

Occasionally I’ll have a random curio tucked away in the bottom, like a worry stone, or a pendant to St. Christopher (my current odd thing out in my bag), and I almost always have one or two tubes of chap stick, even though I rarely use it.

It’s not expensive, and it looks ragged, but I love my bag. It’s sturdy and is probably the most “me” thing I own.

 

Want more January blogging challenges? Check out Tanja RamirezLily Couldridge, and Alexandra Burt‘s pages. They’re all taking part as well. It’s not too late for you to do the same! Just link me to whatever social media you’re posting your challenge on, and I’ll give you a shout out.

Day 4 – It started with a sketch

Talking about my first novel is always something I’ve wanted to do, but was never sure how to go about. The fear of offending someone or bringing up old wounds always stopped me.

I wrote a book about people with wings, for Pete’s sake! How do I even begin to talk about the amount of loss I felt before I put pen to paper?

 

 

somethings_just_can__t_be_fixed_by_jackofalltrades0097-d5bz9o4

This post contains sensitive subject matter. I’ll be discussing suicide and miscarrying, so viewer discretion is advised.

Continue reading Day 4 – It started with a sketch