In Which I Have Actual News

It’s past time for an update here. First of all, anthology news. My publisher seems to be a little behind, which has given me the chance to maybe write one more story for the anthology. I have started it, but this has been a very busy month so it is not yet finished. I think it’s a pretty good story premise though.

Secondly, I recently signed a contract to write a high school literature guide for Jane Eyre. (In an intriguing twist of fate, I have an actual ancestor whose name was Jane Eyre.) I’ve made a good start on that also, and hope to dive into it with real enthusiasm next week. Possibly I might be writing similar guides for several other classic novels.

Thirdly, I received an email today which made my entire week. Years ago, I wrote a middle-school creative writing curriculum which I used to teach many kids from my home. The curriculum was picked up and published by the Institute for Excellence in Writing, but a couple of years ago they discontinued it without even telling me.

When I figured it out, I contacted them and they told me that all the rights reverted to me. My plan was to revise and update it and then release it myself through Amazon—but I hadn’t got around to it yet. Then today I received an email from the academic dean of a Catholic school in South Carolina. He wrote: “Several of our middle school teachers used your Story Quest text for several years but it seems it is no longer in print through IEW.  Is there any place where we could still purchase these books?  They have had an incredible impact on our students.”

You have no idea how much that encouragement meant to me, sir. And now I am highly motivated to finish revising that curriculum so that your school can have it. Stay tuned for a notice that it is once again available!

National Novel Writing Month

All my writing ambitions were put on hold due to illness for the last few months. Today, the first day of NaNoWriMo, I am feeling much better and able to write—but I’m not writing a novel. I’m back to writing short stories for my anthology, because that’s a project I committed to.

I am currently working on my tenth story for the anthology. I had originally thought that ten would be “enough,” but I feel like I need a total word count of at least 50,000, and I’m not there yet. I believe I will need at least two more stories after I finish this one—which I’m struggling with, to be honest.

What I really need, to be honest, is a road trip. Hours of driving alone in the car are the absolute best thing to dredge up potential stories from my well of ideas. But thanks to the pandemic and my own serious health issues, I haven’t been on a solo road trip since May. I’m hoping later this month I will be able to hit the road!

My Idea File

I am patting myself on the back right now for maintaining a file folder on my computer for story ideas. I went through it the other night and found ideas I had totally forgotten about. At least two of them I think I can use for the basis for new short stories to go in the anthology.

I’ve already picked the first one I want to work on. It’s about a girl who’s cursed.

Fall Back Five and Punt

That’s what my husband always says when we have to come up with an alternate plan. I don’t even know what that means, since I don’t watch American football, but I imagine most of you do.

Turns out, it just wasn’t realistic for me to write 50,000 words in July when I was gone for a third of the month and also had a presentation to prepare. I got over 20,000 words written, and that’s not nothing—just not what I’d hoped for.

However, that particular novel is going to have to wait a little longer because my top priority now is getting short stories written and/or revised for my upcoming anthology. Last night I dived back into a story I started in March but have really struggled with. And you know what? It was almost finished. I finished it. Whew!

Today I went through a few of older stories and revised them, bringing them up to a higher standard (I hope). Having done that, my only option is to come up with some new ideas and write some new stories—at least three more, I estimate. Usually not a problem for me—but a road trip would help!


I’m Back!

My writing has really suffered due to my “real-life” commitments over the last few years, but after an incredibly stressful school year I am taking a break from teaching and plunging back into writing with a vengeance. I plan to chronicle my adventures here as a way to keep myself motivated.

In the past, July was always my “writing intensive” month, where I tried to write a full novel—as many as 80,000 words. The last few years I have been teaching too much to make that possible, but guess what? I’m back, baby! This year I’ve joined Camp NaNoWriMo and am hoping to write the second book in my middle grade series this month.

But that’s not all! I have a publisher who wants to publish an anthology of my short stories. Huzzah for that! But, ahem, he doesn’t have enough to fill an anthology yet. So I’ll be “cheating” on my novel project this month to write more short stories, which I find much more challenging than novels, to be honest. I have written two new stories in the last few weeks and am almost finished with a third. I have two older stories that I can expand/revise to bring them up to my current standards. And I figure I need to come up with at least two more killer story ideas to round out the collection.

So, lots going on here. My creativity is surging and I am so ready to get back to work!

Something for Everyone

A few months ago I had the honor of being published in a new anthology, Mythic Orbits Volume 2 (I also had a story in the first Mythic Orbits You should read them both!).

So anyway, I thought you’d like to know what to expect if you decide to get the book—and of course you should. All the stories are speculative fiction tales by Christian authors. The stories themselves may or may not have Christian content, but they were all written by Christians, including yours truly.

First up is “Living History” by Steve Rzasa, set in the future where humans have been subjugated by aliens and the main character works as a historical re-enactor of Earth’s past. It’s a fascinating glimpse of what it might be like to be the losers in a contest with alien invaders.

“Her Majesty’s Guardian” by Donald S. Crankshaw comes next, featuring a more medieval setting and a protagonist who works as the queen’s guardian. I can’t say much about the plot because I don’t want to reveal the twist at the end! It’s a short little gem of a story.

Following that is my own story, “Dragon Moon,” which you will have to read for yourself to decide if you like it. It involves a tattoo.

“The Other Edge” by C.W. Briar comes next, a relatively hard sci-fi story about astronauts who are the first to board an alien ship and who get a lot more than they bargained for. A gripping read.

“Seeking What’s Lost” by Cindy Koepp is set in the world of video gaming, where a bereaved mother is doing a final run-through of her game program and grieving for the loss of her children at the same time. Touching and relatable for anyone who’s had kids.

C.O. Bonham’s story, “Recalled from the Red Planet,” is probably the most overtly Christian of the stories in this anthology. A teenage boy living on Mars is forced to evaluate his life when a stunning Biblical prophesy fulfillment occurs, changing his world forever.

“The Workshop at the End of the World” by Kristin Janz is a fresh take on the lore surrounding Santa and his elves. A fun holiday read.CC

William Bontrager’s story, “They Stood Still,” is much longer than most of the others and will require more investment from the reader. A combat vet suffering from PTSD experiences the surreal sensation of being the only living, moving being in a world where time has frozen. This one also has a Christian message, one that many will be able to identify with.

“The Memory Dance” by A.K. Meek starts with a car crash during a blizzard, leaving a man and his young daughter trying to find shelter before they freeze to death. What they find is rather unsettling.

Keturah Lamb’s story, “Unerella,” asks the question, what if you were one of the girls in “Cinderella” who went to the ball but didn’t get the prince? I love stories like this with a fresh take on a familiar tale.

And finally, “Mark the Days” by Kat Heckenbach is another heavy-hitter and one of the longer stories. This one also has a Christian theme, and an intriguing premise. I struggled with the ending, though. I felt like I was too stupid to understand it. I don’t normally think of myself as stupid, so I will probably reread this one and see if I get it the second time!

All in all, this collection of stories is well worth your time. Everything from medieval fantasy to futuristic sci-fi and magic realism are represented here. Some of them will no doubt spark your own imagination—and that’s the point, isn’t it?

Genre Jumping

In my last post I mentioned a poetry project, and also several short stories that have been published or are about to be. I focus on fiction a lot, because I love it, but here’s the thing: what I really love are stories. Stories and words. So I don’t just write one thing.

I write poems, and that particular activity feeds a part of me that nothing else can satisfy.

I write short stories, and for some reason that I don’t know, my short stories almost all fall into the category of “magic realism,” though there are a couple of science fiction tales in the bunch.

I write novels, all of which are either fantasy or science fantasy.

I write essays, many of which incorporate a true-life story and what I learned from it, because stories are such a powerful way of learning something about yourself or about your world.

Finally, I write memoirs, because I am arrogant enough to believe that I’ve lived a life worth remembering. I don’t want my memories to be lost. I want my descendants to know what kind of technology-free childhood I had, growing up in rural Africa. I don’t think I’ve mentioned lately that my Africa memoir is still available. This particular book deals just with my life at a small mission boarding school in Zambia, but it’s also ultimately about being a kid and learning (one hopes) not to be jerk. Treat yourself for Christmas!


Bad News, Good News

I haven’t updated here for a while. The last few weeks have been insanely busy, so rather than report on every detail of my writing life, I’ll just hit the highlights.

  • I attended the DFW Con (a writers’ conference) for the second time late in April. I had three agents request my work. Two asked for the novel I was officially pitching, and the other for a novel I asked for help with. One agent rejected me within hours and I have yet to hear from the other two, but it hasn’t been ridiculously long yet.
  • One of the fellow writers I met offered to critique the beginning of a novel I was having trouble with, and she gave me some very helpful feedback which made revising so much easier. Furthermore, she got back in touch with me recently to ask how things are going. I really appreciate that.
  • While waiting to hear from the other two agents, I decided to send out some short stories a week ago. One was rejected quite quickly—but I was invited to submit again, so I believe that means the quality of my writing was acceptable.
  • Today when I returned home from church I found an email from the editor of a publication I had sent one of my stories to. She likes the story but asked me to make a tiny little change, which I was happy to do because she was right. She is seriously considering it and will let me know if I make it “in” sometime in the next few weeks. This is good news!
  • I have some teenage girls reading that new novel beginning I worked on, and am eagerly awaiting their feedback.
  • I am also working on improving the class I’ll be teaching at a local writers’ conference next month. My daughter is helping me put together an image that I dreamed up to help people remember the basics of world building.
  • I am gearing up to plunge into writing the rest of the first draft of the book I started during National Novel Writing Month. I am really jazzed about this story. I can’t wait to get back to it.

So, as you can see, although I might have been silent on this blog, I have not been idle! I am encouraged by the fact that I seem to be making at least a little bit of headway. I have several other short stories that I intend to send out over the next few days. I am going to try to commit to sending stuff out on a continual basis, in hopes that eventually some of it will be accepted.