English Adjunct — Sara Codair

I was interviewed about my day job on my friends blog. The interview was done by audio and what you see in the blog is an abridged transcription. Check it out!

Artemis Savory

As we begin our interview, Sara skims through her sliding phone. Taps her fingers on her laptop. We are sitting in her large screened-in porch by the lake in Merrimac, Ma. It is mid-August. She is wearing a black T-shirt that reads: “I stand with standing rock.” Her hair is cut in a cross between a pixie and a bob and there are a pair of new tortoise shell glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Sara is an adjunct, and this semester she’ll be teaching 2 classes, tutoring for 20 hours a week, and proctoring exams wherever necessary.

The one I make money at. That would be working at Northern Essex Community College, and I do a lot of different things there. I teach writing classes, I tutor in their writing center, and I help out in the testing center by proctoring and scoring the tests…

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Book Review: Phaethon

PhaethonPhaethon by Rachel Sharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Holly Black to Jim Butcher, I read a lot of books that involve Faeries of one kind or another. Still, this one felt fresh. It had the folklore grounding of a Holly Black novel, but a tone and humor more likely to appeal to Butcher fan’s.

The characters were cute and believable – people I could picture myself being friends with.

The plot was fast paced, and for the most part, I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride.

As far as flaws go, sometimes things seemed a little too easy. I laughed a little when one of the characters said humans were fixing Earth, but reminded myself that the political climate may have been more…optimistic…when this book began.

The rest of the story was fun and well thought out, so I can forgive those flaws.

If you like a good blend of science and fantasy, then you will enjoy Phaethon.

View all my reviews

Bailing Boats and Books

Yesterday, as rain poured out of cumulonimbus, thunder rumbled, and lightening compensated for a lack of sunlight, I realized my bilge pump wasn’t working.

I spent the morning indoors, editing, tweeting, and exchanging feedback on #preDV tweets. When the rain let up and I went outside, there was about a foot of water in my old Boston Whaler.20170906_164649

Swamped boat + broken bilge pump +broken hand pump = bailing boat out with a bucket.

Bailing a boat with a bucket is tedious. You scoop the bucket, dump it out, and repeat.

After the first few dumps, the water level hadn’t changed. I was damp. The dog had slid off the dock while barking at ducks and was staring at me, all scruffy, wet and smelly. I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me or back in the lake. I wanted to chuck the bucket out to the water.

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I took a deep breath, tied the dog to his run in the yard, away from the dock and the lake, and then I went back to bailing.

Eventually, I did notice the water level going down. Before I knew it, there wasn’t enough water left to scoop with my bucket. The boat was as empty as it was going to get.

After the first few tries, I wanted to give up, but I kept going even though it was damp, cold and I was being eaten alive by bugs, and eventually, I achieved my goal.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to bail this boat out by hand, and I doubt it will be the last. Every time it happens, it makes me think of my barely existent writing career.

Whenever I start a new book, I feel like I am never going to finish it. I switch back and forth from being super excited to so overwhelmed I want to chuck my draft across the lake, but I don’t chuck the draft. I keep writing.

This cycle of excitement, frustration and despair repeats through each revision and edit, but I always keep going, and I always finish the damned the book.

The same goes for publishing the book. Right now, I’m in the despair phase. One novel has gotten about 110 agent rejections and a handful from small publishers too. However, whenever I seriously feel like scrapping it, I think of the boat.

No matter how much rain gets in it, and no matter how broken it is, I never let it sink. I bail it out, and make sure what is broken gets fixed, usually via unspoken trade offs with my dad (i.e. pet sitting in exchange for replacing my spark plugs). Afterwards, when I’m speeding across the lake feeling the wind blow what’s left of my hair, I know it was worth the hard work.

The same goes for my books. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep revising. I’ll keep submitting.

I’m not one of the those fluke success stories who gets their first book agented and published right away, but I will get published, and eventually, I will get agented, and published by bigger houses that get can my books to more people.

I will never let my writing career sink.

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A Review of Wings Unseen

Wings UnseenWings Unseen by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an early copy from NetGalley for a fair, honest, review.

Wings Unseen got off to a slow start with a first chapter that almost made me put the book down. However, I am glad I kept reading. I loved watching how a character that repulsed me on the first page transformed into someone I was rooting for, and she was just one of many fascinating characters.

Characters were one of many things I liked about this book.

The juxtaposition of two opposite realms was a fascinating way to explore gender roles, the relationship between the people and the government, and what people can come to accept as normal.

The world was exquisitely developed and describe with language that was beautiful and readable.

Once I got past the first quarter of the book, the pace picked up and suspense made me want to keep reading. The romance subplot was not what I expected, and near the middle of the book, when combined with the pacing the way the writer alternated between pov’s, made me want to cry, yell, or throw the book across the room.

Even though I wanted the characters to take different paths, but the end, the author convinced me they had made the right choice, and the emotions I experienced mid book were probably just a smidgen of what the characters would feel were this real.

Overall, it was worth read, and I would reccomend it to anyone who likes epic fantasy and has patience for a book that burns slowly.

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Professional Reader

Problems with Word Count Quotas

While writing my first two books, I didn’t pay too much attention to my word count until after I finished the first draft. My first draft of Song of the Forest came close to 200,000 words and my first draft of Power Surge was around 130,000. When I revised, I went through a cycle of cutting and adding. By the time I got to my final drafts, they were 83,000 and 78,000 words.

My third book, Like Birds Under the City Sky, was different. It was national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), so I had set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. I successfully added 50,000 words to a document that started the month off as a 4,000 word short story. As I revised, I cut and added a few thousand words, but the changes were not as drastic as they had been for my first two books.

Initially, I didn’t see this as a problem. It was my third book, and in between it and my other books, I had written dozens of short stories and flash fictions. I polished the book up, and sent it out to agents and a couple publishers. I got about 20 rejections, but one publisher suggested I give the book a complete overhaul and resubmit. Afraid to make that drastic of a change based on one editors opinion, I sought out feedback from another beta reader and heard the same thing.

When time came to start Community Magic, a novel I had been dreaming for nearly a year, I thought Camp NaNoWriMo would be the perfect way to get it done, but instead of motivating me, the word count quote actually made anxious, and made me feel guilty about not writing. This would have been okay if the guilt motivated me, and/or it was the only problem.

The guilt made me write less. I also noticed other issues.

I was overwriting. I sent chapters out to a critique partner, and she kept pointing out all kinds of things that were not necessary and were just filling space – things I may not have written had I not been rushing to meet my quota of words for the day.

The word count was a distraction. Instead of living the story as I was writing it, my eyes kept drifting down the little numbers at the bottom of my document telling me how many words I had written. I was not as immersed in the world as I should’ve been, and as a result, the plot was rambling, the characters were a little flat, and the world contained inconsistencies. I decided that book wasn’t mean to be NaNoWriMo’ed and switched to a different work in progress – Earth Reclaimed – the story I just ran a rather unsuccessful Publishizer campaign for.

I’m waiting until I have a complete draft to start seeking feedback, but I can feel myself doing some of the same things – almost mindless typing to my word count gets closer to the one my campaign said it should be when the word count. At this point, I should be focused on building the word and getting to know my characters. If my word count falls short, I can expand the draft in revision. If it to high, then I can have a party cutting words while I edited.

Word count goals are great, but when they start to detract from the quality of the writing, then I know I need to revisit how and when I use them.

A Review of Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

Fortitude SmashedFortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimers: I got a free copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I don’t usually read romance.

I generally won’t pick up a book if I know it is just romance, but the speculative element of Fortitude Smashed, the Camilla Clock, got me curious. The opening was perfect — it had interesting characters, plenty of tension, and just enough world building to show this world was like the real with one slight difference — the clock that timed out when people met their soulmates.

The characters were complex and fluid. The prose were gorgeous. In fact, the description was so well done that it almost made me want to go to Laguna Beach, even though the southern parts of california are on my list places to avoid (its a pretty long list).

My favorite parts of the book were the ones with the most tension — when Aiden and Shannon’s past selves collided. However, I did feel like there weren’t enough of these, like it was too easy for Aiden to stop being a thief. Sometimes I got a little bored with all the kissing and biting, and would’ve rather seen a little more cop work and stealing (or trying not to steal).

The other area the writing shined was in the parts of the book showcasing friendships. They were real, raw, and emotional.

If you like romance, literary, and/or science fiction, then I recommend reading this. It’s lyrical and successfully crosses two genres. I’m glad I read it.

View all my reviews

Thoughts on the Last Day of my Pre-order Campaign

Today is the last day of my pre-order campaign on Publishizer. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. It motivated me to pick a WIP, stick with it, and focus on that one project for most of the summer. DSC_0784.jpgIf I hadn’t adopted a puppy, I would’ve a finished draft, but I am a week or two behind schedule now thanks to a complicated adoption process and an infinite amount of cuteness.

Still, I will have time to finish, let it rest for a week, read it out loud and some edits to get it ready for a round with critique partners and beta readers. And while I’m waiting for feedback, I’ll back to community magic, and hopefully have that done before November so I can NaNoWriMo the YA space opera I got 10K words into this spring.

Anyways, my progress and delays on the WIP are not what gave me mixed feelings. It’s the campaign itself and the concept of crowd funding a book.

When the support staff checked in to see how I was doing, I was honest and told them my efforts to generate interest were not working. They told me to Facebook message all my family and friends and ask them to pre-order.

I thought about doing this. My pre-oders had been a mix of friends and acquaintances. My mother was the only family member who pre-ordered.  Perhaps I could’ve gotten my cousins to pre-order if I had messaged, emailed, called or even asked in person, but to be honest, I felt GUILTY doing that. I didn’t want to pressure people into ordering.

Plus, the goals were set high – five hundred pre-orders to have my project queried to traditional publishers that were really small or indie presses. I’d have to get 100 to even reach hybrid publishers. Even though the people at publishizer said to push family to order, I really thought Twitter, and my 668 followers would be how I got higher numbers.

I was foolish to think I knew better than them. My pre-orders came through Facebook friends, friends of friends, and coworkers. I should’ve tried harder to get my family to buy it and share it to their friends, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

In order for something like this to work, people need to shameless beg and bribe their friends and family to pre-order and share. They are the ones who are going back a project in progress. The rest of my network doesn’t know me, not really. Why would they give me money for a book that isn’t even done, one that won’t be released for a year or more?

Crowd funding, at least when it involves one newish author trying to get support to try self-publishing a novel, is about selling your project to the people closest to you and the people closest to them. That method doesn’t work really work for an introvert like me.

However, I do not regret the campaign. It taught me a lot about benefits of actually planning and plotting before I start writing.

If you were thinking about pre-ordering, today is the last day to do it until I have a publisher or have committed to self-publishing, and a scheduled release date. Here is the link: https://publishizer.com/earth-reclaimed/

If not, that is okay. Thank you for reading for my blog. I hope you keep reading as I share my thoughts on writing, teaching, food, animals and fiction.

Here is some cuteness so say thank you and hopefully brighten your day!

Flash Fiction:The Purrrfect Crime

Generally, when I write cat stories for Cracked Flash Fiction Competition, they don’t win. Sometimes, I write cat stories anyways.

The Purrrfect Crime

By Sara Codair

“I taught you to pick locks and this is how you use that skill?” Grandma gaped at me, gourd-shaped eyes enlarged by her glasses.

I shrugged.

“Our family has a reputation to uphold!”

My cheeks burned. I relinquished eye contact and stared at my sneakers. There was a hole in the tongue, and a piece of sole peeped out from under my toes.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?”

“She was cold and hungry.”

“A lot of people are cold and hungry,” spat Grandma.

“But she was so skinny, like her kittens were sucking the life right out of her!”

Grandma shook her head. “You could have at least taken something useful while you were in there. They have to keep all their donations somewhere.”

“But they need those.” The locked cashbox had been tempting. I’d even picked it up and gotten halfway to the door before a black tom ghosted out of the shadows and sliced my calf open with his claws. I stared into his yellow eyes forever before placing the metal box back on the ground. He nudged my hand once then purred over to the hungry mother and kittens I’d snuck into the shelter.

I left the cash box where it was, and placed a few coins and note on top of it, asking them to use my small donation to help the new mom and her kittens.

Grandma glared at the post on FriendlyFelineFriday. It read “You’ll Never Believe What Happened on this Break-in!”

“Your mom was the best jewel thief in the country,” muttered Grandma, “And you use the family trade to sneak cats into shelters.”

“Yup.”

Grandma continued to rant, and I endured it. Our reputation in the underworld could go to hell. I saved a family of cats.

IWSG Monthly Post: Writing Pet Peeves

 

Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) Monthly Post: Writing Pet Peeves

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeWhat are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

 Sound.

I can’t deal with certain noises when I am trying to focus on written words, whether I am reading them, writing them, or editing them. I need to be fully immersed in the story, and when I hear people talking or music playing, I just can’t focus. It pulls me right out of the story. Reality slaps me in the face.

Some writers go to café’s to write. I can’t unless the place is empty and there are no people talking in it. I can maybe think of one time I wrote in a café.

Other’s put music on while they write. Now, if I am driving or running, music can help me think of a story, but as a soon as I actually sit down the write it, the music goes off.

The worst, though, is when I am fully immersed in a story and then someone walks in to the room and asks me a question. My brain just shuts down completely. I forget what I am writing, and have not clue what the person said. We both get frustrated. That person thinks I am ignoring them. I am mad that I lost my immersion in the story.

The conversation never turns out to be a pleasant one.

I have other pet peeves, but they have more to do with the stories themselves. I can’t stand it when dogs and cats die in books. I drive myself nuts when I catch my self switching tense five times one page. I hate it when I find myself aimlessly wandering I and stories world without any direction.

Still, even though these things annoy me, none are as bad as someone asking me if I fed the cat when I am in the middle of an epic battle, or worse, a love scene.

 

FAQ’s About my Publishizer Campaign

Family, friends, and online acquaintances have been asking some questions about my Publishizer campaign,  so I put together some questions and answers that might help you understand what I am trying to do.

If you get enough preorders, it gets…queried? What does that mean?

 Each time I hit a pre-order threshold (100, 250, 500, 1000), my book gets queried to publishers. The more queries I get, the better the publishers it is queried to. 100 gets my proposal sent to hybrid publishers, 250 gets it sent to small indie publisher, 500 gets it sent to small, traditional publishers, and if I get 1,000 pre-orders, it will get sent to “Big 5” publishers.

What happens to my money if I pre-order your book, but it doesn’t get picked up by a publisher?

 Thanks to the Internet, Amazon, and Createspace, I don’t technically need a publisher. If I don’t get an offer I want to accept, I can use Createspace to self publish. In fact, unless I get an really good offer, I probably will self-publish.

Why? Because self-publishing will give me full control over the project. I can use the funds raised to hire a designer who will make me a beautiful cover and an editor I am confortable working with. Self-publishing will allow me to make this really be the book I want it to be, not the book someone else wants it to be.

What if you don’t get an offer and decide not to self-publish?

That would only happen if my campaign went really bad. If I have less than 50 pre-orders, don’t get an offer I am willing to accept and decide not to self-publish, then you will get a full refund.

What, exactly, will my money be used for?

If I choose to self publish, your money will go towards the production costs, professional editing, design and marketing.

If I get picked up by a small publisher, they will be doing the editing, design, and some marketing, so I will use the money to supplement their marketing.

Editing can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and if you know me, you know how important it is for me to have someone edit my work before I self publish, or before I even let a potential publisher look at it. I may have the knowledge to edit, but I have reading problems that make it very difficult for me to catch my own errors.

What if I order a print copy and the publisher decides to publish it as an e-book only?

I will only sign with a publisher if they will make both print and e-books. If you pre-order a print book, you will get a print book.

What if the list price ends up being lower than the preorder price?

 Even on amazon and in a bookstore, prices fluctuate. I don’t know what the list price will be. It might be more than what you pay, but it could also be less.

By pre-ordering now, you are not just buying the book but also supporting my creative journey. You will also be among the first people to get the book.

When do I get charged? Is the print copy hardback or paperback?

You get charged right away. Whether it is hardback or a paperback will be determined by the kind of publisher I go with. 

Are you actually going to sign 5000 books if you get 5000 orders?

Yes, though I’m not expecting to get that many pre-orders for print books. I suspect most of my pre-orders will be e-books.

Who do I contact if any of the above doesn’t happen as advertised?

You can contact Publishizer and ask for a refund through this form: https://publishizer.com/about/contact/. You can schedule a phone call with them. You can direct message me on facebook or twitter.

But remember — writing is like breathing for me. I need to write, and I really want to share my stories with the world. If you pre-order, you will get your book. I might take a year, but you will get it.

I hope these answers help.

If you haven’t yet, please check out Earth Reclaimed!

Earth Reclaimed.

In a future where magic has replaced technology, 17-year-old Serena McIntyre must represent her people’s interest at a conference that is forming a new North East American constitution.

17-year-old Serena McIntyre grew up in a future where Mother Earth had purged most technology from the planet and crippled civilization. The surviving humans are reorganizing. Some want to live a simple life in harmony with earth while others, like the New Neo Nazis have darker plans for a new society.

When a conference is called to choose leaders and laws for the Newly Unified New England States (NUNES), Serena must travel inland to represent her people and their way of life: equality, earth magic, and harmony with Mother Earth. The opposing factions will do anything to stop her. TheNew Neo Nazis want to purge the region of impurities and make themselves kings. A secretive faction of scientists want to “take back the earth” with new technology.

Can Serena convince the people of NUNES to live in harmony with Mother Earth? If she fails, Earth will purge humans from her surface.