Posts Tagged ‘Middle Grade’

I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do set goals. And now it’s the time of year to look back and see how well I did. So here are my writing goals for last year and the results

  1. Prepare to query THE BARD’S GIFT. I did. I got it polished up and ready. I queried widely. And the only positive thing I got out of that was four personalized rejections variously praising my writing and the story. Rejections like that are not supposed to exist. Agents just don’t have time. I got four. If four agents took the time to do that, I can only conclude that they saw something good, but just didn’t think the story was commercial enough. THE BARD’S GIFT is now up next to be e-published, early next year.TheBardsGiftCoverSmall
  2. I also set a goal of getting my rewrite of MAGE STORM ready to query again. I met this goal, too. MAGE STORM is currently a first alternate in Pitch Wars. Wish me luck.
  3. Last year, FIRE AND EARTH was a first alternate (with a different mentor) in Pitch Wars. Ultimately, I decided to e-publish it.Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)
  4. I set a goal to e-publish BLOOD IS THICKER and met that one.Blood Is Thicker Cover
  5. I intended to enter Writers of the Future at least once, but I didn’t. I just don’t write that much short fiction. The one I attempted this year turned into a novel.
  6. Write two first drafts. I guess I met that one, too. MAGIC AND POWER was a completely new first draft and I did a complete rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, too.
  7. Learn and improve. Well, that’s an ongoing goal and a little too vague, really. I met it, but for next year it might be nice to specify some target areas.

Next post, I’ll start looking ahead to next year’s goals.

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Well, life is still crazy. Some things are anticipated–and then there are the surprises and unexplained phenomena.

I expect to have some work to do soon on my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM because I made it to first alternate in one of the Pitch Wars teams. (I’m on Team Jen Downey.) Yay! So now I can stop being on pins and needles about that. Which is good, because I’m still waiting for a couple of other things, including word on THE BARD’S GIFT. The submission guidelines say twelve weeks. Twelve weeks have passed and still nothing.

Meanwhile, I’ve mostly settled down at this point to finish this pass through of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I’ll take the other revisions/rewrites one at a time. That way, I might actually make some progress.

Also, a post by the wonderful Susan Kaye Quinn  along with my ongoing reading of L. Frank Baum’s stories have given me an idea of how to unstick myself on my Weird Oz Story.

And one or two things are moving forward in real life, too. The pace is slow, almost glacial, but progress is being made.

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Another reason for using orphan heroes, especially in middle grade or young adult fiction, occurred to me. Sometimes it means the hero has nothing to lose. This is certainly true for Harry Potter. Did anyone seriously doubt that Harry would go with Hagrid to Hogwarts rather than stay with the Dursleys? What did he have to stay for?

But isn’t it more interesting when the hero, like Frodo, has a real choice to make? When they are giving something up to follow the call to adventure?

Of course, there’s still another reason for using an orphan, abused, or misunderstood character–when it’s central to the plot. For example, I mentioned Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Song series in my last post. If Menolly hadn’t been misunderstood and neglected, she would never have been in that cave to find and impress the fire lizards and the story wouldn’t have been even vaguely the same.

Harry Potter, too. If Voldemort hadn’t killed Harry’s parents and failed to kill Harry, then Harry would not have been the chosen one who could ultimately kill Voldemort.

That, of course, is a horse of a different color. So, I guess the lesson is, if you’re going to use an orphan hero, don’t just use it as a starting point. Make it important to the story.


For another month or so, the omnibus edition containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER is the same price as either one alone.

Also, another chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is now available free on wattpad.


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Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. Lots to do.

But, I’ve been thinking about something lately, so I’ll talk about it here. I’ve recently finished (yesterday, as a matter of fact) an interesting indie book (FLEDGLING by Nicole Conway). This made me think of the prevalence of orphan and/or abused and/or seriously misunderstood protagonists, especially in middle grade/young adult stories.

Harry Potter immediately comes to mind, of course, but he was far from the first. Anne McCaffrey’s Menolly in the Harper Hall trilogy. Taran in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Even Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy. I could go on and on. The trope of the orphan boy or widow’s son who makes good goes all the way back to fairy/folk tales.

And it made me wonder. Why? Why do so many stories start with this kind of hero? I think there are several reasons.

For one, at least as far as middle grade stories are concerned, I think we all go through a period around those years when we believe no one understands us. It’s something the readers can relate to, at least as far as the misunderstood protagonist goes.

Another reason might be that it builds in some initial conflict while the story gets started. While the narrative is building to the inciting incident, the character already has something to fight against. And it can even be a further complication–something, perhaps, that makes the hero doubt himself–once the real story problem is in full tilt.

But sometimes I think it’s just done to build sympathy for the main character, like having him pet the cat. And that just makes me want to break type. Someday, I’m going to have to write a story in which the orphan is bitter and becomes the villain. Just because I can.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis...

The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I don’t know about other writers, but my output definitely slows down a bit around this time of year. There are too many other things that need to get done, too. (To all my writer friends doing National Novel Writing Month right now, trying to write 50,000 words in the month of November, more power to you.)

This year, Thanksgiving will be at my house for the first time in almost 15 years. Eep. It’s not that I can’t handle the cooking. I cook a turkey every year anyway. And I don’t have to do all of it this year. I’m only responsible for the pies (as always), turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and rolls (with help from Pilsbury).

But there’s a lot I need to do before then. I mean, despite my somewhat lackadaisical attitude toward housekeeping, the place has to look at least minimally picked up, dusted, etc. I’m going to have to find another chair or two somewhere, too.

Meanwhile, I’m working on revisions to three different novels, as the mood strikes me. The rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE needs a second look-through to work out a few structural issues (like losing the main conflict for several chapters). The rewrite of DREAMER’S ROSE needs some new scenes to replace places where I used telling in the original. And, of course, the revisions to MAGIC AND POWER that I outlined in my last post.

Oh, and Christmas is less than a month after Thanksgiving.

Yeah. No pressure.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

Meanwhile, a new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is available free on wattpad. And don’t forget there are still a few stops on my blog tour tomorrow.

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Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality. I’m working on so many different things at the same time (well, not at the some minute, but you know what I mean). And that doesn’t even count, you know, my ordinary life.

Querying MAGE STORM, trying to promote both FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD IS THICKER, getting feedback on DESERT ROSE (MAGIC AND POWER), and trying to write the first draft of my Weird Oz Story (no title, yet).

I wonder if that’s why I’m having a hard time getting started on Weird Oz. I’m only on Chapter 3. (Here’s a teaser, Chapter 3 is titled “Pixie Spiders”.)

Could be that, or it could be that this is a bit of a departure for me. It’s the first novel I’m attempteing in first-person point of view. I’ve written a couple of shorter pieces (“Heart of Oak” and “Becoming Lioness”) in first person, but never a novel. It’s also a very different story to what I’ve been writing recently.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t completely built this world in my own mind yet. I’m a discovery writer (somewhat modified), so I’m generally okay with that. I can fix anything in revision (except the empty page I’m staring at right now). And sometimes the only way the ideas will start to come is when I start to write.

It’s also occurred to me that this may turn out to be a middle grade story instead of young adult, as I’ve currently envisioned. Well, I can fix that, too. But only if I get the story down first.

Well, once I get it well and truly started, hopefully it will start flowing better. Forward, ho!

In other news: Check out Clean Romance Reviews on Tuesday, September 10th for my first ever author interview. I’ll try to post a direct link on Wednesday. She did a very nice review of FIRE AND EARTH.Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

Also, a new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is up on wattpad. Or, you could just buy the book.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

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It’s much better than moving backward, in general.

Joking aside, this seems to be a week for making decisions. I decided earlier in the week to go for a blog tour for BLOOD IS THICKER.  There are still a couple of things I need to take care of before I attempt to finalize that.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

This morning, I decided to go ahead and send THE BARD’S GIFT to a small publisher (as in, not an imprint of one of the big six–or is it five, now. I’ve lost count.) I thought of one I trusted and that could be right for it. (With smaller publishers, you have to weed out the well-intentioned start-ups that might not be around long enough, the ones that are already on shaky ground, and the ones that are just thinly disquised rip-offs. There are good small publishers out there, but you’ve got to do the research. This particular press has published titles and authors I recognize and is listed as a qualifying market for SFWA. Good enough for me.)

So, that’s what I’ve been doing this morning before I got around to blogging.

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A little of this and a little of that, today.

I have started  looking for potential reviewers for BLOOD IS THICKER. Not nearly enough yet, but sometimes just getting started breaks the log jam. It’s certainly the first step.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

I got my proofs for the paperback version. I might make one change before launch, but I haven’t decided, yet.

Meanwhile, my first review for FIRE AND EARTH went live. Check it out, here. There’ll be a giveaway on that site next week and an author interview in early September.

Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)

In other news, I’m extremely excited that my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM, got second place in the pitch+250 contest on Adventures in YA Publishing. I’ve just started querying this and I find this a very auspicious beginning. Besides, I get a critique from one of the judges. Who knows?

I’m almost finished with the paragraph-by-paragraph rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. If nothing else, this has been a great learning experience. I’m confident this story will see the light of day one way or another before too long.

As always on Sundays, a new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is up on wattpad for free. This one is one of my favorites. What if a couple of dragons in disguise arrived in our world just before Christmas, and had to go shopping for clothes? Well, take a look and find out. Or, of course, you could just buy the book. (Click on the pretty picture of the cover above.)

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It’s time to take a step back and figure out what I want to do next with THE BARD’S GIFT. This is a tough one.

When I first sat down to write TBG, I had a choice to make. I could either write the story as straight up second-world fantasy or I could do a lot of research and write it as historical fantasy or alternate history. I chose to stretch myself as a writer and go with the historical–a story with fantasy elements set in 14th-century Greenland.

On some levels, this may have been a mistake, but I’m not sorry I did it. I really like the way it turned out. And, frankly, some elements of the story would have been different–maybe not as good–if I hadn’t done that research.

However, it looks like a young adult story set in 14th-century Greenland is a tough sell, at least to agents. Since the very first book I queried, I’ve never had so little response to a query.

It’s odd, though. I’ve had half a dozen or so of those repsonses queriers will tell you that you never get–personalized rejections. These rejections from agents who read a part of the beginning along with the query have complemented the writing, the main character, what they know of the plot–and then gone on to say that they just can’t take it on. I have to conclude that it’s the historical setting.

So, here are my choices:

  1. I could shelve it. But my gut and those peronalized rejections are telling me that’s not what I need to do.
  2. I could rewrite it as a second-world fantasy and try again. See if that gets any better response. I’m thinking about this one, but it doesn’t quite feel right.
  3. I could try sending it directly to some small and medium presses that accept unsolicited manuscripts and see if I get the same response from editors, but–wow that could take a very long time. Unlike agents, editors generally want exclusive submissions. And they may take months to get around to reading an unsolicited manuscript.
  4. Or, in today’s digital marketplace, I could just go ahead and epublish it myself. I’m leaning towards this one.

Meanwhile, following WriteOnCon, I’m ready to start querying MAGE STORM. Hopefully, this second-world middle grade fantasy will get a better response.

And, of course, I have to really dig in and start to prepare for the launch of BLOOD IS THICKER.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

Also, Chapter 8 is now available free on wattpad.

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Part of my plan for the launch of BLOOD IS THICKER is to offer a bundle of both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER at a discounted price. This will be helpful with some reviewers, too.

First thing I need is a cover. Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve got now:


It’s kind of a mash up of the two covers.

That’s the progress on launch preparations for now. I’ve also been working on my rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, although my forward motion on that slowed down a little last week.

Next week is WriteOnCon. If you write, or even think you might want to write, middle grade, young adult, or new adult you really should check this out. It’s online and it’s free. I’ll be hoping to attract some attention for MAGE STORM, so wish me luck.

The first seven chapters of BLOOD IS THICKER are now available on wattpad.

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