I am pleased to announce that Shell S. Has added a wonderful review of Legio Damnati, including an important trigger warning, over on Goodreads. Find the review here:
So, I did a thing. I wrote a collection of short stories about an alt-history Roman supernatural squad in the Gallic Wars battling monsters and magic under Caesar’s command. I may be biased, but cool, right? Almost as cool as the publisher, Air and Nothingness Press, who always puts out high-quality books. I can’t be more thrilled with the job their director, Todd Sanders, did with mine. Todd also not only overlooked a writer faux pas, but took advantage of an opportunity when I broke the rules of writerly etiquette.
What are writers absolutely verboten from doing when receiving a rejection letter? Responding. Like, at all. Not even to say “thank you” in that concise a format. I won’t go into the reasons why; suffice to say, it’s super annoying for editors. Well, when Todd rejected a story of mine with favorable comments, I couldn’t resist. I let him know I had more of these stories. Truthfully, at the time, I had exactly one more story finished.
There were no guarantees at any point until late in the process. Feedback consisted of, to summarize, “Cool, I’d be interesting in at least reading more.” So it began. The researching, the outlining, and, eventually, the writing. Aided by some false-alarm COVID off time, and by continued encouragement in the progress of the overarching story, I banged out the words. And, somewhere near the end of the first draft, the book was green lit. A day before falling and breaking my leg, I signed the contract. Recently, I received my contributor’s copies. I checked out the art, felt the material beneath my hand…I smelled the new book smell. And, let me tell ya, folks, I’m over the moon!
Now, full disclosure, I had rapport with Todd already, having worked with him before. I wouldn’t advise doing this blind with a stranger or just any editor. Speaks to how important networking within the writing and publishing community is, really. Also speaks to how breakable a lot of our writing rules are, under the right circumstances. Show don’t tell? Sound advice, often enough, yet certainly not universal. Don’t change tenses? Sure, don’t do that, until you’re comfortable with tense rules and unless you want to experiment, then go ahead and swap those tenses according to your cunning plan. Sometimes it’s worth taking a shot; sometimes risks pay off.
Another disclosure: Todd informs me he is full up right now on books and is not looking for or accepting unsolicited manuscripts.
You can buy the book here, at Air and Nothingness Press:
air and nothingness press – our catalog of books (aanpress.com)
A few of my writer friends, Jacob and Kathleen, have put out their first podcast with the Archetypist, a wonderful setup of the deep dives they’re going to take into genre fiction. You can check out the Archetypist Patreon or go directly to the Genre 101 podcast. You can also find them at their Archetypist Podcast Twitter page. You can find Jacob and Kathleen individually on Twitter as @Prof_Bogs and @kunderscoremons. Enjoy!
Truth One: To say writers often feel anxiety is to say water is wet. Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes for writers. Small things, like figuring out a title for your WIP proving to be elusive, to major issues, like imposter syndrome, can crop up on any writer at any time. Imposter syndrome is, loosely defined, the idea that you as a writer aren’t good enough. I won’t go into names, but a major, awarded author I’ve met always suffers from anxiety and specifically imposter syndrome. What can we do about it? Stay grounded, do your best to work through it, and find good coping skills to deal with your anxiety. The last bit is your best bet.
Truth Two: Anxiety affects a large segment of the populace. This anxiety can range from being uncomfortable around people you don’t know to getting full-blown panic attacks that feel like heart attacks. Without involving medication talk, it’s fair to say that deep breathing exercises often helps, as can meditation. Grounding techniques are excellent coping skills, too, that help distract us from anxiety. Mental grounding can be as simple as listing favorite shows or can have you think about different sensory inputs. Physical grounding, like running warm or cold water over your hands, helps other people. Soothing grounding, engaging yourself in self-talk, may sound corny to some people, but it is essential for some folks to encourage themselves in this fashion. As grounding works to combat anxiety in mental health, so it works for writers experiencing anxiety, too.
Ten Things (about the past week):
1–I’ve gotten into a fantastic Australian show on Netflix called Rake. I think it started in 2010? Anyway, some great Australian actors make appearances in…odd roles.
2–I’ve been reading Station Eleven, which just about everyone has recommended. It’s good, although it is also highly purple. Having a hard time chunk reading with it for that reason.
3–Chugging along at a decent pace in my WIP. Got through a major scene, and the next chapter’s major emotional scene that followed.
4–Believe it or not, I researched Emily Post for a flash fiction story last week.
5–Big (non-writing) news may be in the pipeline. Sorry for the vaguebooking!
6–Sometimes not getting to do what you thought you were going to do on a given day or evening can turn out even better.
7–For something less vague, having a clean apartment is a relief and good for the soul.
8–Having an audiobook going as well as a hard copy of a book gives great “reading” options for when you can’t normally read–I just started The Rage of Dragons on audio, and so far, so fun.
9–My NFL team put in a “Same old Cardinals” type of performance in an atrocious loss yesterday.
10–But my English Premier League soccer team Newcastle United snatched a very undeserved point from a very undeserved tie with Tottenham Hotspur, so yay!
Truth One: Self-care is an integral part of mental health treatment. Being seen by a mental health professional can be hugely beneficial, but you’ll only be seeing them for a small fraction of your lives, an infinitesimal amount of time. Unless you learn to take care of yourself and exhibit good mental hygiene, no amount of therapy will put you on an even keel. Positive self-talk, healthy coping skills, a support network, and setting good boundaries are all things you need to do for YOU in order to achieve and maintain good mental health.
Truth Two: Positive self-talk, healthy coping skills, a support network, and setting good boundaries are all things you need to do for YOU in order to write effectively. It’s easy to see the momentous tasks you face as a writer and think that blunt force hard work is the only way to achieve your writing goals. Don’t get me wrong–it ALSO takes tons and tons of hard work. You also need to keep yourself and your mind healthy in order to achieve those goals. How will you maintain any kind of writing output if you don’t believe in yourself? By support network, I don’t just mean a critique group; it can be other writers, your family, anybody that supports you. As for boundaries? Well, we all know how social media and the internet can distract a writer 🙂
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–I’m reading Gideon the Ninth and hoping the denouement stays firmly in Gideon’s POV.
2–Yellowstone is the show du jour. Too expensive to watch old seasons on demand, but…BUT…now that I have to get Peacock Premium to watch soccer, I can catch up for free!
3–Back to my WIP and fully caught up in re-working the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the manuscript. Onwards and upwards!
4–For my WIP, I am researching the ancient Persian grappling technique studied by none other than the Iron Sheikh, believe it or not. It will be crucially important for a few astral fight scenes.
5–While it can be difficult dealing with health problems, hearing about friends dealing with them can suck just as much.
6–Playing a 4-hour game to a tie can be loads of fun.
7–It’s almost here. Fall. I feel chilly sometimes now. Guys, I FEEL CHILLY SOMETIMES NOW!!! How awesome is that?
8–I’d better not hear any Christmas songs before Halloween. Bad enough we have to endure the heresy of Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.
9–The thought of actually getting to clean up at a hoarder’s house that you’ve been harping on to get cleaned up? Daunting!
10–New beginnings are exciting, but having to put new beginnings on hold through no fault of your own is frustrating.
And, without explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EErSKhC0CZs
Truth One: Writing groups are amazing, IMO. I freely admit my writing was…raw, to be kind, before I attended my first writing group. I did so without any real knowledge of the group, and was nervous it wouldn’t be a good fit, until the first person walked in and had a bunch of fantasy books. Now I not only attend, but I run the group! Except, there IS no group right now, because ‘Rona. I’d be lost without my many writing friends, and their awesome input, critique, and overall support. Not having this group hurts, true, although I still attend an online writing group to this day. Woo technology!
Truth Two: Group therapy is a powerful recovery tool for people suffering addiction issues–folks, please don’t call them addicts. While a person may know in their head that there are others going through the same or similar things as they are, it may not make an impact without hearing from others, or learning from the group’s collective wisdom. Listening to “war stories,” swapping coping mechanisms, and just getting things out in the open can help a lot. That’s above and beyond what the group therapist has to offer, too. Group therapy can be useful for everything from addiction issues to trauma, but it isn’t for everyone. The same goes for self-help groups like NA and AA, although they can be a powerful recovery tool as well.
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–I just wrapped watching Netflix’s Trotsky, which was fantastic.
2–Finished up writing a Roman-era fantasy story, which is off to critters.
3–Still kind of reading Lovecraft Country, but to be honest, the DIS-honest characterization of it as a novel has put me off. It ISN’T a novel; it’s a collection of novellas/novelettes/short stories. The publisher just slapped the novel label on it, without even offering a table of contents. Pish!
4–I’m researching more for the day job recently than for writing.
6–Re-connecting with old friends ROCKS!
7–Hearing bad things about former friends who suck, whom you had to cull from your life, can cause some guilt. I try not to wish bad things on anyone, but…yeah, if you suck, then karma.
8–Hope is mighty.
9–Even the most conservative of family members can shock you in a good way
10–Getting off to a start of your car not starting on Monday morning doesn’t have to destroy your day and/or week, although it does stink. I’m just thankful it just needed a jump–so far.
Because I’m feeling good despite some stressors in my life, let’s go with something goofy fun from Garfunkel and Oates:
Can’t Always Compartmentalize
Truth One: A writer’s personal life definitely affects their writing. Whether it be such a hectic schedule that the writer has no time or energy to write, or negatives bringing them down and making all the free writing time seem too intimidating to even start. Like writer’s block, often we need to work through it, to press on to conquer the problem. What I like to do is channel negative energy into productivity. Maybe it means I write something darker than I intended, or I start a side project instead of pressing on with my current one. Sometimes it fails. Compartmentalizing can work, too, but you can’t always compartmentalize.
Truth Two: A therapist’s personal life definitely affects their professional life. Countertransference is something for a therapist to be aware of. Don’t want to project your own issues onto a client/patient/individual. Don’t want to see them as someone there to help YOU. There are costs to be in a helping profession. Usually it’s obvious what your ethical responsibilities are. Sometimes the lines get blurry. While no human can completely compartmentalize their life, therapist have to do their utmost to avoid countertransference.
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–What I’m reading: Lovecraft Country. They say it’s a novel, though it isn’t. It’s a series of stories/novellas/novelettes in a shared literary world. It’s intriguing.
2–I’m watching Lovecraft Country–some changes from the book, but I’m tentatively hopeful–and Designated Survivor. Way too predictable at times, but definitely fun.
3–There’s a wild hunt story in the works–I’m focused on writing the first draft.
4–Not much research happening right now, because I’m up to speed for my current projects.
5–Bureaucracy can be…frustrating.
6–Deciding to ride out the rest of the summer without working AC in my van is seeming like a dumber proposition by the day, but I’m kind of all in by now.
7–Friendly fire isn’t lol
8–I’ve got to lay off the late-night snacking.
9–The thought of having to leave good people behind, no matter how necessary, is daunting.
10–Waking up, putting on TV in the background during the morning routine, and finding it tuned to the start of Shatner’s famous Twilight Zone episode is WINNING!
And, for all my fellow Army vets out there, I’ll leave you in training:
No need to beat a dead horse on this blog’s topic. You get the idea 🙂
TWO TRUTHS TUESDAY
Truth One: Querying is icky. It sucks. Unless you’re self-publishing, it’s necessary. Writing the query letter is hard. Cold emailing agents is hard. Waiting is hard. Writing synopses is hard. Folks, querying is HARD. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many of us are struggling with it, and many more will in the future. Together, we writers can support each other and be there for the community, through the good times and bad.
Truth Two: Mental health disorders are hard to diagnose, and difficult to treat. Even in a perfect world, with providers who are constantly on the ball with your best interests at heart, and with insurance systems designed only to help people, this would be the case. In an imperfect field, it’s incalculably harder. Patience is key, as in so many things. Patience with providers, your own body, your family, yourself. And patience, too is hard. I won’t offer useless platitudes like “hang in there” or “knuckle down.” I will, now and always, offer empathy, my services as a professional, and my help as a friend.
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–I’ve been reading We Are Legion (We are Bob) [audiobook], which is a delightfully twisted tale, with a great narrator, and Lovecraft Country, which is hot in media and in literary criticism right now. So far so good, but a little too light on the supernatural for me so far.
2–I’m working on tightening up some parts of Collateral Healing.
3–Research-wise, I’ve gone into a deep dive into Caesar’s actions late in the Gallic Wars.
4–Tacoma FD. Because I didn’t realize there was more to the second season out, and yay!
5–Umbrella Academy did NOT end with the lousy ending I expected, but rather ended on a cool twist. Sadly, the finale was otherwise awful, IMO. Bad writers. You should be chained to your typewriters (or computer desks) until you learn the basics of avoiding gaping plot holes.
6–A friend mentioned the idea of Caesar as Vader marching through Gaul murdering millions. It…wasn’t far-fetched.
7–So much board game therapy!
8–With friends in need, just being there and hanging out with them can be massive.
9–C’mon, USPS. C’mon, Mr. President. You can, and should, do better.
10–Squirrels are so cute–that’s for you, Mom. Squirrels can be tasty, too–that’s for you, wild game eaters. Mm, squirrel gravy!
This week marks the second of what will be many TWO TRUTHS TUESDAYS. I think it’s time we settled in to a nice, familiar format. Two truths, followed by TEN THINGS. Short, sweet, simple. So, without further eloquence…
Truth One: Setting. It’s an important part of fiction writing. Whether your story needs a short, pithy jest about the color of the floor tile in the asylum, or your doorstopper novel demands paragraph upon paragraph and scene upon scene of setting, measuring how much to expand or how little to dribble out is key. That’s why you must know your audience. If you’re playing to Tolkien lovers, the more the merrier. Writing YA romance? Three pages of exhaustive setting infodumps is probably not going to work out.
Truth Two: Therapists sometimes need the same help as the people they’re helping. Whether you’re like me, and you experience empathy drain, or like other therapists who experience secondary trauma, you might need therapy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Whether it’s having someone to spew life’s burdens to, or a mental health professional to delve deep into personal issues, the helpers are allowed to need help, and not be stigmatized for it.
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–What have I been reading? A lot of articles, blogs, and web content. I want to read Lovecraft Country before I see the show, and I don’t want to start-stop another book, so I’m waiting for that to arrive.
2–What have I been watching? Sadly, no more playoff hockey, but more Madam Secretary (no spoilers!), which I’m quite enjoying, and Umbrella Academy (no spoilers!), which I’ve slowly been getting into. (Spoiler warning! Read at your own risk or skip to #3) I have to admit, season 2 has some tropes I truly despise. The whole stuck in an asylum trope ended fairly quickly, but the HIDEOUS (not just in this show) “how we got here” trope almost made me stop watching. It’s been done to death, and I can’t stand it. I also don’t like that every season will be the team all scattered to start out and then dysfunctionally coming together. Still, I’m enjoying large parts of Umbrella Academy, and alternating between it and Madame Secretary.
3–What have I been researching? Fun internet finds like web comics and short reads, blogs and whatnot. Also, more fairy tale stuff.
4–What have I been writing? Not enough! I got down a few rough scenes in Collateral Healing, but simply haven’t had the time or energy to devote to making large progress. This must change!
5–Farmer’s markets are so crucial to my getting enough fruits and veggies.
6–Family is everything. Given a choice between all-day gaming and catching up with a cousin and his family, I chose the latter on Saturday. Got to see a lot of other family, too, including the kiddoes, and, hey, a swimming pool doesn’t hurt either!
7–Then again, gaming is important therapy for me, and a friend whose wife is out of town has some extra time, so card-driven war gaming was a welcome use of Sunday afternoon and into the evening.
8–I miss Mom. I usually get to see her every week, so a sucky side effect of a busy weekend is not getting to visit with her.
9–Fast food = not a good dinner strategy. On occasion, it won’t hurt you, but on multiple evenings, it’s a real killer. As if I didn’t already know that, but…
10–…if you can’t be smart, you gotta be tough 🙂
Talk about tough, this guy’s supposedly bad to the bone. I mean, his band is the Destroyers.
Welcome to the opening week of my new blog entry, TWO TRUTHS TUESDAY. Bet you can’t guess how often I’m going to be sending these out! Just remember, you can’t stop the signal. You’ll be getting a new blog post every week, rain or shine, come hell or high water. Okay, let’s not make you wait, as I’m sure you’re dying with anticipation.
Truth One: In publishing, writers fail more than they succeed. Unless you’re one of those big-name writers that gets solicited for anthologies or contracted for future books, you’re going to strike out more often than not. Like in baseball, where you’re considered a rock star for failing to hit the ball more than a third of the time, you’re going to strike out a lot. That’s okay. It comes with the job description 🙂 You just have to keep on swinging (submitting).
Truth Two: Depression is real. A lot of folks will tell you that depressed people just need to get motivated, put themselves out there, or–and this one’s the worst–“pick themselves up by their bootstraps.” Um, no. As a mental health professional, I can definitively say that that’s not how it works, That’s not how ANY of this works. If you know someone who suffers from depression, help them; lend them an ear or a shoulder or your time; be a positive in their life. Don’t stigmatize them; empathize with them.
And now (drum roll please)…
TEN THINGS (about the past week):
1–What have I been reading? The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)
by Aliette de Bodard. Started slow for me, but is picking up steam.
2–What have I been I watching? Madam Secretary (no spoilers) and Umbrella Academy Season 2 (no spoilers), which I hope is better than season 1. Also, playoff hockey!
3–What have I been working on? Collateral Healing, my work-in-progress about an Army vet with PTSD with dissociation who gets infested with, rid of, and fights a body-possessing demon. Sure, her mental health might have opened a door for the demon to get in, but it also gives her the necessary weapons to take that demon down!
4–What have I been researching? Background for two short stories: a fairy tale mashup and a wild hunt story I want to submit later this year.
5–I’ve had empathy drain, through my work as a behavioral health therapist. My clients are from the mental health and drug and alcohol domains, so I expend a LOT of energy at work.
6–I discovered that blueberries and grapes go great together, then realized it isn’t a groundbreaking discovery, because fruit salad.
7–I’ve been upsetting my mother even though I was trying to be helpful. That’s a whole “road to hell/good intentions” thing right there. Sorry Mom!
8–Dungeons and dragons to de-stress!
9–…And fog of war block war games to de-stress!
10–I’m the only one allowed to complain about this oppressive heat, because I never complain about how cold it gets in the winter. Low temps FTW!!!
With that, I will leave you with a song that reminds me of better days, when the words did flow, the queries wrote themselves, and we lemonade-ed life with pure ease.
Yep, I rickrolled all yinz right out of the gates 😊