Women’s Fiction No Longer

I never really thought I’d start my writing career with ‘women’s fiction’. My favorite author was Terry Pratchett, my favorite mangaka Kaori Yuki and I loved magical girl animes and Princess stories. When I wrote my first sixty-page novel in fifth grade, it was a dragon story. In high school I became fixated on vampires and the occult, and recently went into a fascination with faerie lore.

But the story I got out first was women’s fiction- a story laid out in the ‘real world’ that revolved around a female character and some major events of her life. Even as a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, I intentionally left out magic because the story I wanted to tell involved how fairy-tale relationships would play out in real life.

Now with two books in that series published, and the third coming out this July, I’m beginning to wonder why ‘women’s fiction’.

Not ‘why write this instead of fantasy’ but ‘why women’s?’. And not ‘why write female characters’ but ‘why not just say you write general fiction?’. When I was convinced as a child that I was going to start right out the gate with dragon stories with big heroines, I didn’t think of them as ‘women’s fantasy’ just because the characters are female and might, on the off chance, appeal to women more. So why shortchange myself as a writer now?

Sure, the Once Upon A Reality series focuses on women. And it sometimes focuses on primarily female issues, such as childbirth, and female puberty. But so what? I spent many years in high school reading male coming of age stories or mid life crisis regarding manhood and those were never designated ‘man’s fiction’. And i learned from those stories, regardless of the fact that I was born female and identify as a woman. Men and women alike can find something to learn from Jolee, Lyn and Ann. Both men and women can relate to the likes of Adam, Gage, Phillipe and Hunter.

So I’m done personally designating the installments of the Once Upon a Reality series as ‘women’s fiction’. From now on, I will refer to them simply as ‘fiction’ and welcome all kinds of readers to delve into my characters’ lives.

And don’t forget- when you read, leave a review for me on Goodreads or Amazon, or email me or comment on the blog. I love to hear from my readers, no matter who you are or what you have to say!

Entering Advent

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Since getting engaged, we’ve been working through every weekend making sure that we get everything ready to send out Save-the-Dates, setting up all the wedding preparations, and figuring out everything that needs to get done, and when it needs to get done, in 2016. On top of that, the fiance and I have been looking for our first house together. As of right now, we are under contract on a house, but the inspection didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Pending whether or not some of our issues can be fixed by closing, it looks like we might have to start the whole process over again and our dream of closing on a house before the end of the year goes out the window.

It’s easy at times like this to become discouraged. You build up all of these expectations for yourself and the moment that something goes wrong it feels like nothing will ever go right again. It happens in my writing career all the time- a short story I love doesn’t get published, a book release doesn’t have me reach any best-sellers lists, a beta reader tells me that they hate my favorite character in one of my projects-in-progress, I get stalled in my edits. It’s so easy to let myself take these things as proof that I’m not cut out for these kinds of things- to be an author, to be an adult.

As a Catholic, I’ve just entered in to the season of Advent. These four weeks before the Christmas season begins symbolize the period of waiting before the birth of the Savior. They symbolize desire, waiting, patience, preparation and readiness. I feel like I could learn a little from Mary, here, to apply to my own unease- as a consecrated virgin she was suddenly told she was going to have a baby that no one had planned for, that she was going to have to rely on Joesph to protect her, and then because of the census they were going to have to travel a long distance, while she was pregnant, so that she could have birth far from her family. And in between that she even went to visit her cousin who was also pregnant. That’s a lot of ups and downs in preparation for a pretty big up that wouldn’t come until nine months of anxiety and suffering.

So this Advent, I’m going to practice my patience. I’m going to pray for the Virgin’s help in calming the storms currently raging in my heart. I’m going to pray that she helps me both stick to my plans as best I can, but also be able to let them go when I need to.

Whether or not you are Catholic or Christian, I do think that this time before Christmas, before the end of the year, is a good time for this kind of reflection. Take a look back at all the plans you made for 2015. How many of them worked out for you? How many of them fell apart, only for better things to fall together? How many were you unable to recover from? How could you better enjoy the moment in the coming year? To go with the flow both in your daily life and in your career? The truth is that we can make all of the plans we want, and life is still going to go the way it’s going to go regardless of whether or not it fits into your plans. To be prepared without being unmoving, to be patient but not overly stubborn is a gift. One that I think is imperative to both living as a good, well-centered person and to having a good, healthy career.

What do you think, readers?

Updates: Finishing Up, Starting New

As of today, I am done with 110k words (404 Word pages) of my current project, a fantasy re-imagining of the world of Wonderland titled ‘Painting the Roses Red’. I ended up going straight into editing rather than beginning my next project, and have been steadily editing the ever-loving spit out of this project (with the help of some extremely patient and passionate beta readers) for two months. At the moment I have about two or three more chapters left to finish up- but they are the ending chapters, which in beta reads needed the most dramatic overhaul, so they’re taking the most time. My plan is to finish this project by mid-week next week, and then begin the process of letting the project go to submission.

Which couldn’t come soon enough- I’m itching to really be able to fully dedicate my attention to The Thing About Apples. I have all of the characters hanging out in my head, fully fleshed out and ready to go, and I feel like they at least deserve a plot at this point in time. It’s going to be a nice, refreshing thing to be writing a brighter coming-of-age story to go into the Once Upon a Reality series, especially one that speaks so clearly to my own coming-of-age experiences. Now that I’ve settled in to my new house, new full-time job and volunteer work, I’m looking forward to being able to get back into a good routine with my writing work.

Make sure you head on over to my website to check out the first two books in the series, ‘Till the Last Petal Falls and To Dwell in Dreams. If you already have your copies, don’t forget to leave a review or send me a picture of you with your copy!

Becoming a Better Writer: Taking Breaks

I’m the kind of person that likes to go go go. When writing, I prefer to power straight through projects rather than do it little by little. For the most part, this works out for me. I write a little each day, force myself to at least get through a good chunk of setting or dialouge on days that I just have no desire to write, and edit in any downtime. The rest of my time is then divided up into day-job work, sleeping when necessary, a scheduled amount of social time, then plenty of reading and promoting my current works. I like to be busy. I take pride in being busy.

Even then, it’s good for me to take little breaks now and again. For me, a break period never goes beyond a month if I really need a breather. More often it tends to be a period of about two to three weeks. With the exception of jotting down a couple notes so I don’t forget about crucial brain-babies, I refuse to pick up a pen for creative writing. I put my manuscript notebooks up on a high shelf so I don’t even look at them. I stall on printing out the manuscript that needs editing. The only thing I have access to are my poetry book and my notes- both of which I will not open without a really good reason.

Since I’m the kind of person who needs to force herself to go on breaks, I still have to be productive somehow. I focus more on completing small, fun things. This can be powering through my book list and taking out more books from the library. This can be making a commitment to seeing one old friend a week, or having more get-togethers or girl’s nights for a couple weeks. At the moment, my break has taken the form of busting through all three Mass Effect games (happened to get a deal at GameStop where I got all three for fifteen bucks, whoo hoo, currently halfway through the second). I re-route my energy into these new goals so that I am capable of taking a break without neglecting my own mental health. Might not sound like the most common way to go about keeping myself at my mental peak, but I know how my own mind works. It needs to be constantly spinning or it begins to panic. When I take a break, I specifically do things that let my mind spin- but instead of having it spin on full speed, the way it does when I am actively creating something, I let it spin against itself, through accomplishing easier, pre-set tasks or re-acquainting myself with people I’m already familiar with. Accomplishments without too much challenge or with a much lower level of stress attached.

And yes, I think all these mental hoops are worth jumping through. No matter how you get to them, breaks are beneficial. Even if the point of the break isn’t being restful or really even slowing down the pace of general productivity. When I take breaks, I take a huge step back from my current projects. I don’t let myself think about the projects I want to be working on (sometimes can’t be helped, but at least I try). I think about other things. I consume the works of others. I pick up on points of views that the people I haven’t seen in awhile have picked up in their own life journeys. I allow myself to enjoy the little, usually even pointless, achievements and train myself to be content with all those little things. This helps me to recenter my own perspective, as well as recharging my sense of purpose and happiness with my choice of career.

So even for the super productive, going-all-the-time people like me, breaks are important. Whether it comes naturally or you have to schedule them, whether it entails lounging on a couch and marathoning Teen Wolf or getting out of the house and going dancing with your friends, they are crucial for your mental well-being, and thus beneficial for your dreams and aspirations. Make sure you’re taking them!

 

How do you like to take your breaks, readers?

Anniversary Giveaway: The Winners!

Can you believe that it’s been a full year since my first novel, ‘Till the Last Petal Falls, was published? I still can’t believe it- even though I’ve already even finished the second and have everything set for a summer publication.

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1114 people entered my anniversary Goodreads giveaway- that’s about twice as many people who entered my first giveaway more than a year ago! If you had told the me then that more than a thousand people would be requesting something I wrote, I would have laughed you off.

I’d like to take this moment to thank all of my supporters and fans for one heck of a year. It’s been exciting, jumping headfirst into this whole authoring thing- but  I wouldn’t have the strength or the will to keep pushing myself to become a better author, producing better stories for you, if I didn’t have such a wonderful network of encouragement and kindness.

Congratulations to the five winners of the giveaway:

JC Tenney

Candace Banning

Sharon Powell

Caryn Landreth

and

Paige Bryant!

 

Your signed copies of ‘Till the Last Petal Falls will be shipping out to you this week! For those of you who entered and didn’t win, you can still get your copies at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, through the Book Bar or requesting a copy from your local independent bookstore. If you’d like a signed copy, always feel free to contact me personally through my contact form here!

2014 Resolutions!

This year brings with it a lot of big changes (being out of school for the first time in almost two decades, beginning work, getting serious about my writing career, etc) and with that, I would like to hold myself to a couple of writing-related resolutions that I think will help keep me on track.

1) Blog no less than twice a month on the Once Upon a Reality blog

2) Write small reviews of every book I read on my Goodreads account to serve a dual purpose: 1) to help me consciously make better stylistic choices in my own writing by writing out what does and does not work for me in my own recreational reading and 2) to help my readers get to know me better through my reading choices

3) Dedicate one day a week to contributing more actively on the social media sites I’m on- LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc- and become a more active member of the author-reader community online. This includes listening and promoting the works/essays/thoughts of others as much as it includes contributing.

4) Finish Painting the Roses Red and start The Thing About Apples. Write for at least an hour every weekday. Try to keep a strict schedule for writing now that I’ve lost much of the schedule that I’ve kept during my academic career.

5) Keep myself in shape- mentally, physically, spiritually. Can’t be much of a good writer if I’m not being a good person, and I can’t be a good person if I’m not taking care of myself!

Hopefully I’ll be able to look at this list happily by the time 2015 rolls around!

Story Out: To Love a Forest Fire

My short story, ‘To Love a Forest Fire‘, is now up on Issue 88 of Crack the Spine. The story explores the friendship of Tobias Berry and Rebecca as Tobias stops over for a visit while on leave from the Air Force and asks the question of just how much you need to know someone in order to love them.

The title comes from a Good Omens quote about the avatar of War- “She was beautiful in the way that a forest fire was beautiful: something to be admired from a distance, not up close”.

Don’t forget to comment on the story if you like it- Crack the Spine publishes several ‘Best of’ print anthologies, and my chances of being included go up if people comment on the story saying that they like it!