Category Archives: Skill Development

My Pod People Talked me Into Going to Class

Wow! I sort of took a dive off the deep end after retiring. I’m having a blast, but somehow, I’m using my brain more and busier than ever. The old cliché is true! How did I ever find time for work?

So, I went to class. My characters (aka pod people seeded in my brain by aliens) talked me into taking on more ambitious goals. And I did. After all, they’ve done me lots of good and deserve to have me at my best; making them shine, bringing them to life.

Art by Edgars Soiko

Starting with orientation last Friday, then commencing Day 1 Sunday, every day since has been packed full of exercises from a workshop I stumbled onto on Facebook (okay the advertisers stuck it in front of my face, but sometimes that’s a good thing), and boy! I’m so glad I did. The value has been phenomenal. If you ever get a chance to catch Getabookdeal101‘s Pitch Perfect Masterclass, 5-Day Query Letter Challenge, grab a spot! It’s only $17! A generous offer by a team who really cares about the struggling writer. It’s packed with insight into the publishing industry, and you get hands on practice building valuable skills.

I’m using a draft of a historical fantasy I have in the works as my practice pitch. I’ve truly learned to “mine for the gold” and pull out the nuggets of my story, as Kathy Ver Eecke likes to say in one way or the other. Quoting Kathy again, “it’s all that and a bag of book deals.” She is super fun, and so is her team.

Even if it takes me a while to get a book to the point I want to pitch it to an agent, the skills and inside industry knowledge will come in handy for so many things. Like book blurbs and story submissions to anthologies and magazines. And I now have a better way to look at my story for those nuggets that are the most desirable to my readers, then craft it even better.

Next on my list is AutoCrit’s Penning Passion romance writing class. Yay! It starts next week and you can still sign up.

I’m also in the middle of Writing Battle‘s micro fiction contest, and AutoCrit‘s annual short story challenge (my story Priss Starwillow & the Wolf made it into the anthology last year, which was super exciting, I must say). If you haven’t checked out AutoCrit as an editing platform option, take a moment to do so. They’ve recently done an overhaul of their community website giving you better access to tools and resources.

Writing Battle just so happens to have also undergone a website design overhaul, so check them out if you’re looking for new and fun ways to challenge your writing.

Yep! Deep end!

Art by Theo Durrant

“But that’s not all” I finished a short story and it’s off to my readers. I’m getting the feedback I expected, which is that it’s probably a bigger story than the 15,000 word limit I was going for. More on Giving it up for a Vampire soon!

I’m still working on my relaunch goal for this month for my Starlight Chronicles series. What!!! Yep. I’m working hard and this month is going way too fast.

And, I still have two fabulous interviews coming your way on my Creator Spotlight. First one’s up… this Sunday!

So like I mention in my previous musings about my pod people, they won’t let me retire!

My 250-Word Bomb

As In It Didn’t Even Make it Through the First Round of a Micro Fiction Competition

So, I’m just releasing my thoughts about this into words. Thanks for allowing me to indulging in this exercise with you.

At the very least, it has been a huge learning experience participating in the NYC Midnight writing challenges. The prompts and random genres are hard! But I was bit by the competition bug and have been compelled to torture myself in a few of these events where you only have a day or two to write according to prompts. I managed to score points for two stories in the flash fiction contest, but not enough to go to the third round. So, failing to even get an honorable mention in my latest endeavor put a big dent in my day yesterday.

Why am I whining? I’m not really. I have learned so much from these competitions, and the feedback from the judges is detailed and well thought out. I had the idea that I could share this with a few readers (if anyone is willing) to shine some light on what the judges say was lacking.

I was assigned Action/Adventure, Catching an Insect, and the word Clean to use in my story.

Now I admit, Action/Adventure is not my thing, though I had fun with it in my short story, A Leap Through the Elder Oak, which I shared for winter solstice. But I gave it a shot because I do love a challenge. I was pretty happy with the plot that popped into my head as I mulled over the prompts. 

The main issue was that the story failed to have a direct action scene. Oops. I’m fairly certain Action/Adventure needs a direct action scene. I thought dodging between skyscrapers in a squirrel suit was pretty direct, but that’s just me. Kenji might have been a little too contemplative for an action story. At least the judges said it was a compelling story despite the lack of direct action, and Kenji was a compelling protagonist. I’ll take it! 

Then they said I needed more backstory for the brothers. I get that. The judges were confused about the purpose of the story, was one brother good, one bad? Both bad? But backstory in 250 words? Hmmm. And I think my main theme was pretty clear. It was about family, so it didn’t matter if either of them were good or bad. One brother was desperate to save the other, and he risked himself to do it. Again, 250 words… how do you give them both a backstory plus the story in 250 words? Sorry. I’m repeating myself.

They discussed the idea that the omen of the moth could be bad, or it could be good depending on the reader. I’m okay with that. It’s what I intended. This lovely moth in fact represents portents both good or bad depending on the culture. I wanted to leave that up to the reader, whoever you may be.

Finally, they said the paragraph where I use the required prompt word “clean” could have been shorter, less descriptive to allow room for more backstory. But how the heck would “clean” fit in without Kenji looking around his environment? That’s a stumper, but that is probably the main reason why I need to work more at writing good micro fiction.

I asked a couple friends. One thought I’ve been mulling over is that my point of view might be confusing. It felt like it was always Kenji, but let me know what you think about that.

Well, here it is for better or worse. And thanks again!

I’d love any feedback to help me make it better because I never let my losing stories just die, and you might have the perfect idea how to get that backstory in. That would be a fantastic thing.

The Death’s Head Omen

Kenji suited up, knelt on one knee, propped his elbow on the other, then used his mini scope to confirm the coordinates. His target was locked in.

Jumping from a high-rise balcony in the dark to land on the roof of a warehouse three miles away was crazy. The wingsuit flight might kill him any number of ways. An accurate parachute landing would be a miracle. Doing it in the middle of a drug deal raised the stakes impossibly high.

But he would arrive unseen, and it was his best option to save his brother. Kaiyo would do the same for him.

Still, prickling sweat mocked him. Made him doubt his abilities. Kenji needed an omen. As the thought entered his head, a shadow flitted across his vision. A death’s head hawkmoth. Up here so far, and all alone? Like Kenji in his desperation.

Swiveling, he scanned his surroundings one last time. It was beautiful amid the tops of the gleaming buildings. Muted, like the outer reaches of space. Pristine. The glass wall behind him was so clean he could see through to the east end of the hundred and first floor.

He captured the portentous insect between cupped palms, absorbed its fluttering life, then spread his hands. It flew free. He aimed his body and did the same. Familiar excitement took hold, and the air currents gripped him as he hurtled twenty-five miles an hour between gleaming skyscrapers and flashing neon, zigzagging towards the only family he had left.

I’m Down for the Count, but I Won’t Leave the Ring

Writing contests… What compels me to set myself up repeatedly for an emotional one-two punch? That is my initial reaction anyway, after the rejection comes, or the silence when my beloved story is knocked senseless to the mat after all the arduous work.

Eventually, after much moaning… ahem… soul searching, reason returns, and I take away the valuable lessons and start my next story.

How about you? Do you submit to writing contests to hone your skills? Are you a writer who thrives in that environment or shuns it? Share your highlights, successes, and best lessons in the comments.

Artwork by 0Q . at