Tag Archives: writers life

Death of a Young Mage (Preview)

Before I get to the teaser

The full story of “Death of a Young Mage” is being printed in an upcoming anthology, called “The Lost Legends”. If you’d like to read more, you can Pre-Order it here for only $2.99, or for free on KindleUnlimited. You’ll also be able to get a hard copy soon!

I hope you like it!


Continue reading Death of a Young Mage (Preview)


Write Club DFW Submissions Open!

Hey all! I’ve been super busy lately, but I wanted to let y’all know there’s a new writing contest going on where you can win a chance to attend the 2020 DFW Writing Conference.

Write Club Soap 2

“Here’s the ABC’s of how it works. When the submission period opens (Mar 18-Apr 14), you simply send in a 500-word writing sample using a pen name (details on how to do that below). Once the submission period closes, all the entries are read by a panel of twenty volunteers (I call them my slushpile readers). The slushpile readers are a diverse group of avid readers and they each will select their top samples. Their selections narrow down the contestant pool to the thirty writers picked by the most judges. Over the course of the next eight weeks, we’ll hold daily bouts (M-F) right here on this blog – randomly pitting the anonymous 500-word writing samples against each other. The winners of these bouts advance into elimination rounds, and then playoffs, quarter-finals, and then ultimately a face-off between two finalists to determine a single champion. The writing sample can be any genre, any style (even poetry), from a larger piece of work or flash fiction — the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, receive a ton of feedback, all without having to suffer the agony and embarrassment of exposure. How cool is that?

~ D.L. Hammons

Check out DL Hammons’ site for more information!





Self Care for Writers

Writing is almost exclusively a solitary act.


While yes, some writers collaborate with others, some rely on the help of family and friends, when it gets down to the nuts and bolts, it’s usually just you and the page.

For many, this is a blessing. Many authors are okay with spending hours at a time alone, but sometimes we forget that humans need a break from their work and take care of themselves.

Here are some ways you can refresh yourself before heading back to your novel.

  • Check your posture
  • Take a five minute stretch break
  • Go outside first thing in the morning, and take a deep breath.
  • Eat breakfast before you start working, make sure you’re full.
  • When you get to a stopping point, make a cup of coffee or tea and just sit to enjoy yourself while you drink it.
  • Already drank something caffeinated? Drink a glass of water instead.
  • Set your manuscript aside and pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read.
  • Go for a walk or run, take up yoga, or start lifting weights.
  • Close your eyes for thirty seconds and clear your head, try and maintain this “clear head space” for five minutes.

Have any other tips? Comment below and I’ll add them with a shout out to your blog.

JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people) – Guest Author Rebecca Paddock

Today’s guest post is continuing my theme of writer’s conferences but I decided to host a few other writers’ opinions. Rebecca Paddock attended the 2018 DFW Con and wanted to share her experience. Enjoy! 



JK Rowling is Wrong (and so are a lot of other people)

By Rebecca Paddock


JK Rowling is wrong. That’s my takeaway from DFWcon 2018. Not on everything, she’s undoubtedly right about a great many things. Maybe even most. But she’s definitely wrong about one of them. During an interview, she described writers as “observers.” I disagree. Writers are engagers. Or maybe questioners.

Other people are wrong too. That’s part two of my takeaway. Prior to the conference, I heard (and, via Facebook, saw) a whole lot of noise about writers being introverts. No way. No how. Not at DFWcon. At least, not from what I experienced.

You want to experience introverts at a conference? Go to one of the International Council of Systems Engineering events and use your ears. They’re half the volume for twice the people.

One step into the venue and the overall lack of introverts was apparent. Before I even made it to the credentials table, I’d been greeted (with smiles, no less!) by every person I passed. Anything from a simple “Hey, there” to a hearty “Howdy!” People were talking everywhere. If these folks were introverts, they were really loud, really animated introverts. People stood in small groups, twos and threes. Maybe a group of four, here and there. If these were introverts, they were introverts with a lot of very deeply established cliques.

Only people moved from one place to another. Which isn’t very cliquish at all. It’s not very introverted either.

No one had their face buried in a cell phone, laptop, or any other form of electronic distraction. No one was standing alone. No one had that wide-eyed get-me-out-of-here look. No one.

Might as well have been a cocktail party.

I would have done some more research on the phenomena, tested a theory or two, but I was waylaid by the person next to me.

“This is my first conference. I’m so excited,” she said, practically bubbling over. “What do you write?”

That was the common refrain: what do you write. Kind of like being in college and folks beginning every conversation with: “what’s your major?”

What do you write? And, the thing is, these folks really meant it. They really wanted to know. It wasn’t a polite lob into a conversation they’d rather not be having. It wasn’t an excuse to fill an uncomfortable void. It wasn’t trying to eek through a stressful situation before finding solace in some alone time. Each word was filled with interest.

“Satire. I write political satire,” I’d respond.

Then the questions came in earnest.

Which is not usually the case. If I tell the average Joe that I write political satire, they usually get that deer-in-the-headlights terrified look, take two steps back, and do their best to change the subject post haste – preferably before limbs are lost. Not these folks. They’re writers. Writers dig in.

Is there much of a market for that?

How do you handle the biting humor?

Is there a specific format (or set of rules) for satire?

What’s the expected word count for that genre?

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Even when the person wrote Romance. Or Thrillers. Or Suspense. Or even Westerns. No matter their genre, people were interested. Even better, they were fascinating in their own right.

No one word answers to be found. Everyone was happy to share, explain, and provide insight into their perspective. I ran into a couple folks who write Science Fiction. Asking questions about how they develop their backdrop netted me some great tips for worldbuilding. Asking questions of Romance writers got me a neat little trick on establishing the closeness of an emotional connection without ever having to talk about it directly. And one of the Suspense guys was a hoot. He gave me some interesting insight into how he weaves comedy into suspense. Which means I could use the same technique to weave suspense into comedy.

That’s just the attendees. The classes were much the same. People breaking things down. Not spending an hour talking about why something was important. They spent five minutes on the why, maybe another five on the what, and the remaining time was spent on the how. Giving specific techniques for actually making a manuscript come to life. Practical. Expedient. And, even better, something for everyone. Even experienced/published authors came away with useful techniques to tackle their tantalizing terrors.

The instructors didn’t go away and hide either. They talked to anyone who came up and asked a question. Or they tracked you down and ask a question themselves. (I heard you write political satire…) They  attended classes. They participated, offered advice, listened, asked questions … you know, do stuff that non-introverted people do. Only … drum roll please … they’re writers.

There were even translation classes. Where knowledgeable agents and authors got together to translate rejection speak into actionable bullet points. Not something the average introvert would sign up to do especially since there was no way to prepare. The best part was, the non-observers did more than translate, they gave tips on how to approach the modifications. A couple of which helped solve an issue or two in my current manuscript.

And so, in spite of all the hype prior to the conference, I found that writers aren’t different. Writers are like any other group of passionate people. They engage. They might not engage by stepping up to a mic, kicking a soccer ball, or screaming at a ref, but they engage nonetheless. They ask questions. They pursue information. They search for cause/effect. And they consider.

Writers are always considering. Is there a better way? Can I be more succinct? How do I make this passage come alive? What’s the best way to increase the tempo, change the cadence, or create a flow? What would happen if…

Writers aren’t introverts. And they aren’t observers.

Sorry, Ms. Rowling. You’re wrong. You didn’t observe, you engaged. You tested. You pursued knowledge, built a world, played with the tension in relationships, explored cause/effect, questioned humanity, and discovered unplumbed decency in someone thought to be irredeemable. You, Ms. Rowling, are an engager. A questioner. Maybe even an explorer.

And so are the people who attend DFWcon.

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.


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.

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.


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.

Writing Conference Reflection Month – July Schedule

It’s been three days since I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth Writing Conference, and the more time that passes, the more I look back and go “Wow, did I really just spend 48 hours surrounded by other writers?”. It went by way too fast.


To make up for missing the time I spent with my fellow writers, I decided to turn July into a “Writing Conference Reflection” month. Since this was my first conference, I’m going to talk about what I learned, what I wish I knew, and what I’ll be doing differently for my next conference.

I’ll be making posts every Monday, but will also be adding up one on Friday for suggested topics, if I find the time.


Here are some things I’ll be posting about. If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask me to add it!

  • Talking to Agents
  • Making New Friends (suggested by JoAnne Turner)
  • Your First Pitch
  • What Classes Should You Take
  • Importance of Self Care


Look for these topics and more this July!

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 ❤

Tips for Commissioning Artists for Writers

The relationship between an artist and a writer can be a beautiful thing.


Writers write, and artists come up with amazing fan art, or can be commissioned for stunning book covers. We work hand in hand with one another more than we realize, and in return, many of us can get well known through the others’ work. In fact I didn’t start reading Sarah J. Maas’ work until I saw the beautiful character art put out by Coralie Jubénot.

But sometimes, like all relationships, things can get a little hairy.

Maybe this shouldn’t be directed just at writers, but since I’ve noticed quite a few writers doing this type of stuff, I’m singling us out. If you’re not a writer, and you want to commission an artist, you should probably remember these things too.

What not to do when commissioning an artist

  • Ask for free work.
    • And I mean ANY free work, including the “pay you later” type of work. If you can’t pay them when they ask for payment, you’re asking them for free art. None of this “Oh well, I can pay you after I make it big” or “I’ll give you money when my crowd funding campaign is over”. They’re still working for free. Some artists might say they don’t have a problem with this, but don’t just assume that an artist is going to be fine with waiting over a week for payment.
  • Ask to pay them in publicity.
    • This is still free. Can you pay your bills if someone asks you to write for them for free, but don’t worry they’ll tell a friend about you? No.
  • Tell them the last artist you hired did it for cheaper.
    • Artists charge different amounts based off many things. Skill level, time taken to produce the artwork, and personal value of their work all come into play. Someone who’s only been producing art for a couple years might charge less than someone who takes commissions on a regular basis for the past seven years. If you want cheap artwork, hire the other person, don’t try and haggle to get them to lower their prices to someone else’s standards.
  • Tell them you shouldn’t have to pay extra for digital art because there are less materials used.
    • This is one that I’ve heard a few digital artists over the years talk about. Keep in mind here, some digital artists have amazing technology to help produce their work, and sometimes that tech breaks down. Tablets break, tablet pen nubs need to be replaced, computers crash, and sometimes some software requires yearly updates that cost money, as well. Just because they’re not using a physical canvas doesn’t mean their work is worth less.
  • Think that because writing a book takes longer than drawing a picture, their work isn’t worth as much. 
    • This is something I’ve only heard from one writer, but it still completely confused me. Writing and art are two completely different mediums, that require different mind sets. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different. By saying you took longer therefore your work is worth more, you’re taking away the years of practice it took for that artist to get where they are today. Sure it only took an artist a week to complete their commission, but they’ve been perfecting that craft since grade school.

What do you do when you find that artist you want to commission?

  • First off, check and see if they’re open for commissions.
    • Most artists will have a disclaimer somewhere if they’re open or closed, or at the very least, a way to contact them to ask them. By not assuming they’re just going to jump into working for you, you’re already establishing respect with your artist.
  • Find out what they’re comfortable drawing.
    • As someone who has some NSFW situations in my novels and short stories, I always check the artist’s “will/will not draw” page. Many artists have no problem drawing violence, artistic nudity, or sexual situations, however there are a few prefer not to do this sort of thing. Some might be willing, but would prefer not to due to their skill level with the subject. If the artist doesn’t have a list of things they’re okay and not okay with drawing, and you know what you’re looking for is questionable, don’t be afraid to ask them how they feel about certain subject matter.
  • If you KNOW you’re a picky person, give details.
    • I’m a little different when it comes to my commissions, in that I like to give the artist a little bit of creative control. I’ll tell them what the scene is, or what the characters look like, but after that, I tell them to interpret the information however they see fit. This doesn’t work for everyone. If you have very specific ways you want a picture to be done, tell them up front. Don’t be THAT difficult to work with, but still fill them in you have a specific vision for the project, so they’re not blindsided later when you’re angry with how it turned out.
  • Establish what you want the art for in the beginning. 
    • So you found the artist, they finished the commission, and you’re ecstatic to have some beautiful art to accompany your novel. You start using it as a book cover, posting it everywhere on websites and social media, and then suddenly you get an email from the artist asking for more money, or saying you went against their copyright. Some artists don’t allow for commercial use of their commissions, if it wasn’t established when the commission was first placed. Others might not want their work posted up online without giving credit to them as the original artist. If you know you’re going to use the artwork for bigger things, disclose this from the get go, and it’ll save both parties some pain and heartache.

This may seem like a lot, but if all else fails, remember one thing.

Hiring an artist is a business transaction.

If you think of it as two people exchanging goods, instead of two creative people coming together, you’ll leave the experience a lot happier. Of course, there will still be a creative exchange, just due to the nature of this situation, but don’t expect there to be no business talk. Treat each other with respect, and respect will be given.

I’ve hired artists, from base line beginners, to well established in online communities, and I have to say I’ve always had a great experience. If you want to get involved with artists, but don’t know where to start, please let me know! I’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Biting the Bullet Journal

I was definitely late jumping onto the bullet journal trend.

I was never good at journaling, and even as a kid, I’d start one, give up and then go out and buy another only to have the process repeat itself.


When I finally sat down and bought some pens, washi tape, way too many stickers and pretty paper to count, and a journal, I thought that bullet journaling would turn me into the type of person I always wanted to be. Someone who wrote down their thoughts and dreams and treasured those memories close to their heart.

Unfortunately, that’s just not me. So I decided to do something else. I was going to bullet journal for my writing life.

Since I’m a perfectionist, I definitely wanted to make sure I was doing this right, but the problem was, there wasn’t a lot of “how to’s” out there. I was going to have to come up with my own bullet journal ideas.

Here’s what I’ve got so far –

  • Flightless Themed – This journal is for nothing but building the world of my series. It has everything from my alternate Earth timeline, important terms, and species information, along with any possible plot points that could shape future novels.
  • Character Bank – I’m the most excited about this one. Because I love coming up with characters, I have this character pool to skim from whenever I need to add a new person to a novel. I’ve posted a picture up on both my Instagram, and Twitter, if you’d like to see more.
  • General Writing Journal – This one is based off of the multiple writing journals I’ve seen out there, with a little bit of a reading twist to it. I keep what books I’ve been reading, or book challenges, as well as how many words I’ve written, inspirational quotes, and general ideas for future works. Here’s a picture of my March page.

I do have one more that’s more of a daily agenda, and money journal, but I won’t bore you with that.

Are you doing any bullet journals? Share below! I’d love to see them.