Would You, Dear Reader, Pick Up This Book?

If I’m being honest, putting today’s post out in cyberspace makes me a tiny bit nervous. If I’m being super honest, I should drop the ‘a tiny bit’.

I’m starting to work on the little steps I need to take to get my first novel published. Little step #1: Summarizing my story in a paragraph or two (i.e. set up for the query letter). So I thought I’d post an intro to the story up here on my blog to 1) see how well I could introduce its basic premise and 2) see if anyone is actually interested in the story. If anything tickles your fancy, please (pretty please ;_________;) comment!

A little background before the intro…
Title: Tangled Webs (yes, the allusion to the Sir Walter Scott quote is intentional)
Genre: Fantasy; YA or NA (I like to think it’s NA but…)

With no family willing to take them in, Holly Ambrose drags her little brother on a job hunt to the town of Nowhere. And why not move to the middle of Nowhere, if it means working beside witches and ghosts in a hotel guarded by enchanted suits of armor with vampires right around the cor–okay, she could do without the vampires, who thirst a little too eagerly for her blood. Luckily, any darkness they bring to her new doorstep is brightened by Nate Pierce, a co-worker as eager to please as he is to teach her about the world of magic she so desperately wants to join. But as dire warnings stack up, Holly is forced to consider that her confidant is a bit more sinister–and a bit more involved in her parents’ demise–than he appears.

So there’s the intro. Any thoughts? Comments Criticisms? Does it make you want to read more?

So cover art is not a decision I need to make any time soon, but I'd love to have something like this spanning the back and the front. The image is from Educational Technology Clearinghouse.
So cover art is not a decision I need to make any time soon, but I’d love to have something like this spanning the back and the front. The image is from Educational Technology Clearinghouse.



365 WP #8: Writing and Grad School Goals

Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompt: Ebb and Flow –  Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog — but three years in the future.


Image by Karen Creftor, from Goal Setting, Achieving Goals.

Yesterday I was planning on skipping today’s prompt in favor of getting grad school work done, but I read ahead and realized this was an important prompt. I’m supposed to have a five year plan for grad school (in which I have three years left) so what’s my five-year plan for this blog? Or for writing?

Knowledge time! My field of study is school psychology (mini-rant: It’s one of the oldest areas of psychology and yet no one knows about it). We’re the ones that give IQ tests, among other things. One of those other things we study is motivation and goal attainment. I recently worked on a project that focused on Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII). There are two parts to MCII. The first, mental contrasting, involves thinking positively about a goal you want to achieve it, how you will achieve it, and the realistic obstacles you will face. Pretty standard goal-setting stuff. The second part, implementation intentions, involves creating If-Then plans where you describe precisely what you’ll do (the Where, When, How) in order to overcome those obstacles. Studies have show that MCII is far more effective at helping people achieve their goals than only positively thinking about goals and the potential obstacles.

What’s my point with that lecture? First of all, I don’t think psychologists do enough to get all their great research findings out to the public, so I just thought I’d do my little part in putting MCII out there. Secondly, 5-year plans are important, and ideally they should be paired with realistic ways to systematically overcome any obstacles you will face.

I’m going to forego writing a post from three years in the future, in favor of developing a three-year MCII plan. Some of these If-Then statements are kind of awkward, but whatever. That’s the way you’re supposed to word them and they get the job done:

Goals to attain by 2017:

  • Receive my Ph.D in School Psychology
    • Possible obstacle – not having the time to complete my dissertation
    • If my schedule becomes insane and I struggle with writing and researching my dissertation, then I’ll work with my adviser to create a weekly/bi-weekly check-in schedule so he can hold me accountable for doing my work
  • Secure a job as a school psychologist near Baltimore City (no more insane commutes!)
    • Possible obstacle – no jobs near to where I currently live
    • If there are no school psychology jobs with the Baltimore City or Baltimore County school districts, then I will 1) also look into possible non-traditional jobs (e.g. NPOs) in Baltimore City or County, and 2) look for positions open in the surrounding counties where my commute would still be tolerable.
  • Have a literary agent
    • Possible obstacle – getting discouraged from hoards of rejection letters (hopefully it won’t be hoards! ;____;)
    • If I find myself receiving many rejection letters, I will 1) commiserate with my writer’s group to keep my spirits up, and 2) re-vamp my query letter (e.g. asking for critiques from writer’s group peeps) because clearly something is wrong.
  • Publish a novel
    • This one is a lofty goal. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll have the energy or focus to traditionally publishing my novel until after my dissertation is out of the way (from what I’ve seen and heard, dissertations are beasts). I’ve mulled over self-publishing because my novel is almost 100% ready to go, but my instinct is to be patient and pursue a traditional publisher.
    • Possible obstacle – no literary agent
    • If after three years I have no literary agent to help me shop my novel to publishers, I will 1) start seriously considering self-publishing by investigating the cost, avenues for self-promotion, and comparing available self-publishing platforms, and 2) increase the amount of network (e.g. writer’s conferences?) that I’m doing since I’ll be out of grad school.

My MCII plan has given me two questions:

The main reason I’m hesitant to go the self-publishing route is I don’t know anyone who’s done it successfully. Has anyone self published, and would you be interested in sharing your story in the comments?

How valuable are writer’s conferences? Every now and then I get emails about one or see information about an upcoming event on sites like Writer’s Digest, but I don’t have the time/money to attend right now. Am I missing out on something important?


Wish Me Luck!

I had to add a new category to my blog because of this post. As of about ten minutes ago, I have officially sent in my first manuscript for potential publication. YAY! It’s a science fiction short story that I’m hoping will find a wonderful magazine home.

Here’s the basic plot of the story: Marlin, a bi-racial teenage girl is struggling to figure out her identity and place in her family. After her Icelandic mother’s death, Marlin is sent to live with her estranged father and his new family on Hawai’i. There she befriends a family of sea-dwelling alien refugees who are trying to hide on Earth. Just as Marlin is beginning to feel like she can reconcile her Icelandic and Hawaiian culture, everything falls apart.

Up until about a year ago, I wasn’t big on writing short stories. When I get one idea, I tend to get a thousand more, which is really great for things like world building and character development, but is really bad for things like keeping your story within a strict word limit. Then last year inspiration hit me and I knew I had to pen (or type) something that would be short and to-the-point.

Last summer, I took a multicultural psychology course. Hearing everyone’s experiences with their cultural identities was extremely interesting and enlightening. One of the women in the class talked about her experiences as a bi-racial woman who had even felt racism from her own blood relatives. At the same time, I read an blog entry by a bi-racial woman recounting the experiences of her childhood. I wish I still had the link. I’ll keep looking for it. What struck me the most was how her appearance dictated the way onlookers viewed her relationship with her parents. Her father is white, her mother is black. She looks like her mother. Her brother looks like her father: blond hair, blue eyes, lighter skin. She talked about when her mother would take her brother to the park or anywhere in public, people assumed she was his nanny because of course there’s no way a black woman could have a white child. I can only imagined that created many uncomfortable situations for that family, if not outright problems. (I’m sure you can see how these women’s experiences influenced my story.)

These experiences got me thinking: if we treat other humans as poorly as we do, how will we respond when we finally meet aliens? I sat down and started to write. The story  came so naturally that I didn’t need to edit much of the plot or characterization later on. I was ridiculously proud of it, but I wasn’t sure I could publish it.

I returned to the story a few months ago and decided it needed to be published. My original word count clocked in at 9,000 but by tightening my descriptions and eliminating superfluous words I whittled that down to 7,000 words. Then I sent it to a few reviewers to get feedback. Several of them mentioned there were a few unclear points, so I added material for clarification. Unfortunately that brought my word count up to 8,000. While I was waiting for feedback, I had been researching the magazines I could submit the manuscript to and most of them wanted stories between 5,000 to 7,5000 words. I knew there was no way I could do justice to the story with only 5,000 words so I aimed for 7,500. After a lot agonized editing to figure out what had to stay and what could go, I eventually got the manuscript down to a little under 7,500 words. Woo-hoo!

The magazine I submitted it to has the longest wait for hearing back from the editor, but I felt they would be one of the best bets for accepting my story. When I was investing the types of stories they’re looking for, I realized mine was right up their alley. Their website description for the stories they want almost perfectly described what I’d written. So hopefully, they’ll feel the same way and accept it! If not, I’ll keep trying until my story finds a home.

PS. This is partially a note to myself. I’ll have to write a blog entry specifically on how I got reviewers since I think that process would be helpful for other newbie writers in the same boat as me.