ISWSP October Question: #ownvoices?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeOctober 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

My answer:

Yes, but sometimes it is more intentional than others

While none of my characters are directly based off of my self, many of them share my non-binary gender identity. They struggle with similar mental health issues, like anxiety triggered by crowds or touch. Occasionally, they even like the same things as me, like Star Wars and vegetable gardens.

Of course, there are instances where I write characters that are opposite of me and have almost nothing in common. Sometimes I need to escape my world and truely become someone else while I am writing.

Yet more often than not, it’s hard to fully filter myself from my creations, and when the ones with bits and pieces of me sewn through are more authentic, why bother filtering?

Authenticity is important. Representation is important. My experience with mental health and gender may not quite be like someone else’s, but that is kind of the point, isn’t it?

People do read for entertainment, but they also read for education. Ideally, both happen at the same time. If my book can keep people entertained, make them feel things, keep them turning pages and teach them a little something at the same time, then it was success.

Advertisements

Celebrate Every Victory, No Matter How Small

NSP-Halloween2017-HalfBreeds-f500.jpgIn an industry full of rejection, it is important for writers to celebrate every victory, large or small. Today, I’m celebrating because my novelette, Half Breeds, is available for pre-order.

It may not really be a “book” or full-length novel, it may not even be available in print, but it is a standalone piece. It’s not me and twenty other authors sharing a virtual container. It’s my story, carefully edited, polished, and proof read, by the editorial team at NineStar Press and myself.

It’s the first time one of my stories has ever been for sale by itself, and I am ecstatic! I’m posting it all over social media, emailing my critiques groups and trying very hard not to dance around the tutoring center at work. I’m eating ALL THE COOKIES!

Some people might look at me think, “What’s the big deal, it’s not really much longer than your short stories, and it’s only $.99. You aren’t exactly going to make much money off of it.”

They wouldn’t be wrong. The piece is short. It’s not expensive. I’d have to sell hundreds of copies to make the $.08 or $.10 a word I got for some of my best short story sales. But what if I do sell that many copies? What if, a couple years down the road, when I’ve published more books, people come back and buy this one too?

While I eventually need to make more money of writing if I want it to be my job, not my hobby, right now, its not so much about making quick money as it is about getting my name out there and building up my list of published works.

Publishing is a slow thing.

Writing becomes a career when an author continuously publishes books. It takes time, patience, and persistence.

This little Halloween novelette isn’t going to make or break my career, and it doesn’t have a ton of monetary value, but it is a start. It’s a story that found a good home with a good publisher, and that makes it a success worth celebrating.

Today, I’m not going to worry about the rejections that have come and will come. I’m going to focus on this victory and know that one day, it will be a novel up I’m announcing.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36308341-half-breeds

https://ninestarpress.com/product/half-breeds/

©2017 Sara Codair

Guest Post: Six Local Writing Centers and Events By Artemis Savory

My friend and critique partner, Artemis Savory, compiled a list of writing centers and events in the New England area and asked me to share it on this blog. If you are local and interested in writing, these events are definitely worth checking out! 

DSC_0723.jpg

Like dogs, writers need to get away from the humans and just play with each other.

 

Six Local Writing Centers and Events

By Artemis Savory

  1. (Writing Center) Grubstreet is a truly amazing place for writers. They offer classes, workshops, and free brown bag lunch and Happy Hour Writing sessions. In fact, this month on Friday, September 29th they have an evening writing session—for free! They have another next month. In the heart of Boston, getting there can be a little tricky for us out-of-towners, and the parking garage isn’t cheap, although I think you get a discount if you are going to Grubstreet events. They also run the amazing Muse & The Marketplace. https://grubstreet.org/findaclass/#/events
  2. (Event) Muse & The Marketplace is a fantastic weekend event taking place in this really tiny, but beautiful hotel in Boston. Run by Grubstreet, the workshops are interesting and everyone is extremely kind and understanding. It’s expensive, but if you’re a volunteering kind of person, you could work your way in if you play your cards right. This is definitely a great place to learn more about writing, meet other writers, and pick up further inspiration from people who are going through similar things that you might be. Next year it runs April 6-8. http://museandthemarketplace.com/
  3. (Event) Boston Book Festival is a free event happening on Oct. 28th in Copley Square. I’ve only been to one of their classes, and it was really more of an author discussion about writing YA books. It was interesting, if very full with people, and the Boston Public Library was breathtaking. There is food and lots of booths at this event, as well as discussions and I’m assuming signings. My favorite part of this event is the booths, where you can chat with other writers and learn about all the writing- and reading-related things happening in our area. https://bostonbookfest.org/
  4. (Event) Arisia takes place every January, and this year it’s January 12-15 in Boston. The entry fee is not a lot (it’s usually around $60 for the whole weekend) and the offerings vary from dancing (blues, fusion, swing, etc.), to writing classes, to geeky classes about Star Wars and how things work, to making your own costumes and more. It’s an amazing place filled with creatives—there is no way that you will ever suffer writer’s block at Arisia, although you might be so busy taking notes or socializing that you’ll never get really anything done. http://www.arisia.org/
  5. (Writing Center) New Hampshire Writers’ Project sounds like a really awesome place. They have a ton of writing groups and workshops, and they also have writer meet-ups on the first Monday of every month in various towns throughout New Hampshire: Portsmouth, Derry, Concord, Nashua, and more. They have a calendar that is up-to-date and looks very official. I’m really excited to engage in some of their events and start getting to know other local writers. http://www.nhwritersproject.org/content/events-0
  6. (Writing Center) International Women’s Writing Guild sounds like they’re in western Mass, but offer some retreats and workshops throughout the country—in New Mexico, Niagara Falls, New York and beyond. They seem to have day-long as well as week-long courses and workshops, and some of the offerings aren’t wicked expensive. On April 28th they’re having a “Boston Writing from your Life Retreat” with workshops in Metrowest, Ma. I have no idea how much it costs, but it’s worth looking into, and it sounds like one day, so it shouldn’t cost too much…I hope. http://www.iwwg.org/events/

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.

DSC_0835.jpg

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.

DSC_0843.JPG

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.

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.

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.

Why Earth Reclaimed?

Earth Reclaimed.I’ve written a few posts about why I choose Publishizer as a platform to launch Earth Reclaimed, but I’ve written very little about why I am writing Earth Reclaimed.

So why am I writing Earth Reclaimed?

I love nature, especially the ocean, lakes, rivers, and estuaries. I’ve always had a sense that the earth is more than just a big ball of rock floating in space, but sleeping organism.

Nearly all my writing is speculative, answering some kind of “what if?” question. In this case, it was “What if Earth woke up and wasn’t happy with what human’s had done? What is she reclaimed herself and the being She shelters? What would the lake I live on look like if this happened? What would become of New England? What would become of the whole planet?”

Speculating about those questions gave me a world. I populated it with non-binary characters who like myself, do not conform to binary gender identities and with people who would have a problem non-binary folks. My main characters have a connection to the Earth and respect her, but other characters are bitter and angry. They want revenge against Earth for killing so many people in her attempt to take control.

I have questions to explore, characters I can relate to, and conflict – three ingredients I need to make a novel. This one is closer to my heart than some of my other projects because the world was inspired by some of my favorite places. It even features the Boston Whaler that has been in my family for three generations. It’s a story that screams “Sara!”

So far, I am loving the freedom that the secondary world gives to invent new towns and make my own maps instead of being limited by existing geography.

Even though I’ve planned out specific plot points, I’ve had plenty of discoveries as I wrote. There are giant jellyfish that visit harbor’s just before dawn, salt marshes that are sentient and can manifest their spirit in almost human form, some forests won’t allow humans to pass on foot, and the bay really cares about the people who fish in his shores.

The plot is building, I’m getting to know the characters, and having a blast with the description.

The draft is coming along quickly, and should be done in two weeks when my Publishizer Campaign closes.

I wish I could say my campaign was going as well as the novel. I’ve only gotten five pre-orders, and have less than two weeks left. My goal is 500, but not meeting that goal won’t stop me from publishing this book.

The more pre-orders I get, the more likely I am to attract a good publisher. If I don’t get an offer from a publisher I like, I will self-publish, and use the funds I raised to hire a professional editor and designer to make it look good and pay for advertising so the project can reach as many readers as possible.

My ultimate goal as a writer is to succeed through traditional publishing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t travel other paths in the process. Self-publishing will give me a lot more creative control with this project, and frankly, that is not bad thing.

Either way, I need more pre-orders to make it happen!

 

Micro Fiction: What Comes Out of the Ground

Here is another bit of micro fiction inspired by Cracked Flash’s weekly prompt. This one was a runner up.

What Comes Out of the Ground

By Sara Codair

“My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt,” I said, shuddering on the doorstep. The open door loomed over me, black and peeling, like the mouth of an ancient monster waiting to swallow me whole.

“Stop being dramatic,” muttered my mother. “Just make sure you wipe your feet before you go inside. I don’t want my floor ‘clothed’ in that shit.”

I brushed the flecks of brown off my clothing, pulled a wriggling worm out my hair, and rubbed the soles of my sneakers on the emoji door mat. I stepped inside, staring at immaculate white tile and paint, so clean it glowed. The floor creaked behind me. The door slammed shut.

“Please shower before you touch anything.” She shuffled past me, putting more weight on her cane than I remembered during my last visit.

Taking baby steps, I made my way to the powder room where I washed my hands, stripped out of my  muddy clothing, put it in a trash bag, and got in the shower. I covered myself in a lather of soap and let the water rush over my skin until it looked like it belonged to a living human, not a zombie.

I got dressed, brought my soiled clothing to my car, and found my mother sitting on her front porch.

“Thank you for helping out,” she said. “We got good harvest. Those potatoes should last until the spring.”

Book Review: The Dying Game

The Dying GameThe Dying Game by Asa Åvdic

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

This one is going to be hard to review without spoilers, but I’ll do the best I can.

I received an ARC of The Dying Game through the First to Read program. I initially chose it because I thought it might eventually be a good comp for one of my novels. It was thriller set in the near future and it had a female protagonist trying to get over something bad. That part of the concept seemed neat. The whole set up with people disappearing from a secluded house filled with secret passages was cliche.

Overall, the book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I get part of the thriller genre is to keep people guessing, but some of the details the author choose to leave out were downright distracting. For example, I never quite figured out the main character actually did at her job. I was constantly thinking about this instead of the story, and as a result, found myself constantly getting pulled out of the story. While the author skimped on details that seemed important, there were large swaths of back story that was just told, and more info dumps than I could count.

I kept thinking that all this was going to be relevant when I got to the end. Some of it was — but the end would have been far more surprising had the backstory been woven through in a more subtle way. Because of the info dumps and long, told, segments of flashbacks, the end was pretty much exactly what I was expecting, though, I admit, there were a few times in the middle where I thought I was wrong, and found myself hoping in vain for a more optimistic ending.

I also felt most of the characters were unnessarily sexist and binary. After reading two books with intersex and genderfluid leads, this felt like a slap in the face. I can see a female writer making the men seem a bit misogynistic to make a point, but there could have been at least one female character who wasn’t a stereotype of one kind or another…

Despite the many flaws of the The Dying Game, I did keep reading until the end, even though I considered giving up a couple times. The prose were pretty — there was good literary scenary that made it a little less painful. I also wanted to know if I was right about where the plot was going, and really hate to leave a novel unfinished (House of Leaves is still siting on my book case, mocking me. It doesn’t need a friend.) So I kept reading, and got to the ending I really wished I had been wrong about.

I my head, this book is 2.5 stars, but Goodreads and Amazon don’t give that option, so I’m rounding up when I review on those sites.

View all my reviews