Write Life: What it means to be an ABNA Quarter-Finalist

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51BpdhlGzQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX318_SY318_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA318_AA300_SH20_OU01_As my alter-ego Inkster reported to you all, I made the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the Young Adult category, for my novel, WILDERNESS RIM. I was excited, of course.

 

Then I was sitting around with my writing pals the other day and they were all congratulating me and one of them, my dear friend, Vicky Bastedo, said, “Did you get your reviews yet?”

 

“Reviews?” and I tilted my head like a confused puppy.

 

Vicky and the rest of the table began to school me on exactly what this quarter-finalist title brought with it.

 

Reviews.

 

What?

 

From Publisher Weekly folks.

 

What?

 

Alex, another of the writers, laughed out loud and said, “I wished I’d had a camera to capture your face just then.”

 

Apparently I looked as horrified as I felt. Let this be a lesson to me to actually read stuff and not just go into happy-dance mode.

 

Then there was about 24 hours of gnashing of teeth, and had a flogging switch, I likely would have subjected myself to some self-pain, just so that I had physical wounds to go with the lamenting in my heart, while we all waited for the PW reviews to be posted.

 

The full reviews were not bad. In fact, they were pretty good. The points they made on where I need improvement, I can totally see and will definitely do. I would link them to you, but it’s not shareable, because it’s connected to my private createspace account. Bottom line, they enjoyed the book and seemed to give me some credibility to calling myself a writer.

 

Then today I learned that my entire an excerpt of the manuscript*  (typos and grammatical errors included) is available for a free download and up for review by Joe Q. Public.

 

Cue perusing Amazon for that self-flogging switch…

 

Yet, I thought on it further. I know to be a writer is to be bold and to be vulnerable. Normally it’s between me and an agent, or editor, or another writer. Rarely, save the stuff I post on my blog here, has someone opened up my work for public comment. I give props all the time to folks who put their work out there. It’s hard to do. Entering ABNA meant I would be putting my work, myself, out there. I made some progress (we all have to wait until June 13 to see if I make the next round). That’s something. I’ll take it.

 

After some thought, I calmed myself down (no self-flagellation necessary), and decided that it might be a good growth experience for me as a writer.

 

So, here’s an excerpt of the manuscript. Amazon is offering it free as an ebook edocument on Kindle. I downloaded it to the Kindle app on my phone with ease. As embarrassingly admitted, it has some typos and misspellings. I haven’t had it professionally edited yet. But if the reviews seem like people really dig the story, I might just do that and try to shop it around, or author publish it.

 

You will see excerpts of the PW reviews I got in the listing.  I’d love to see what others say about it. Be honest, but be nice, please.

 

What are you waiting for? Download an excerpt from WILDERNESS RIM today off of Amazon. Read; leave your review. I promise to use it as a learning opportunity. Joe Q. Public, you are now my writing mentor.

 

*Edit:  So, I learned later that it’s not the entire manuscript, but rather an excerpt. Somehow, my Kindle app pulled up my entire manuscript for me (maybe from a former Google Docs download? I don’t know), but just an excerpt for several others that contacted me and said they had done it. Sorry about the confusion. 

My Outlook for 2014: Fiction Farming and Beyond

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tumblr_ldwd7hm2iH1qertphI live with this voice inside my head that thinks that all these things I do – self-improvement, goal-setting, trying to have a positive outlook is a bunch of feces of the male bovine. It screams, “Poser!” “Fake!” “Failure!” It’s my internal editor, if you will. It is that voice, cultivated by social ridicule, parental fear (formed from love – yeah, I get that), and weeping wounds of loss and grief that seemingly do not ever heal. It is that voice that is trying to keep me “safe” from looking like an idiot. But I’m human. The moments of idiocy are a given. At nearly a half century old, I accept that now. It doesn’t silence the voice, but it puts a white-noise machine on it. Therefore, despite the inner critic, which happens to sound like Archie Bunker, by the way, “Oh, Christ, Casz, don’t show your ignorance,” my inner Archie wants to squash the happy child inside of me. Most times I respond like Meathead or Edith; however, sometimes not. But, mostly.

 

Here we are at the eve of 2014. Thirty years ago, I was a Young Turk. No money, and a head full of dreams. Shhh!!! I still have no money and a head full of dreams. The difference, however, is like I’ve written in my recent bios, I’m “living on purpose.” I’m not letting the whispers of Archie and other naysayers push me around. Is it foolish? Mayhaps. But, I’ve seen too many in my life not follow their dreams. It’s the thing that makes me weep more than anything. My heroes have always been those that followed their dreams, whatever the outcome. We gamble every day in our life. When I was working in corporate America I used to tell coworkers where my institutional knowledge was kept, “you know, in case I get hit by a bus.” (There’s that impermanence of everything theme, again.) We have this gift called life, but we don’t’ know how long it’s going to last. All I know is that I have less time. Faced with that, I have to follow my heart, which I’ve done mostly in my life. It’s served me well. Whenever I haven’t it’s when I’ve gotten myself in trouble. Seriously, I stayed in a very, very bad marriage for too long because I was convinced by a well-meaning adult that “marriage was work.” I discovered way late the work was a two-way street. My heart had said to leave long before. My head had convinced me that if I just hung on, life would be good. That didn’t work out. I finally listened to my heart and my life is much improved. My heart and gut work well together. However, the head battles both. Gut-checks are a necessity now.

 

In 2013, I’ve faced some of the lowest moments of my life – and my life has been filled with such throughout. But 2013 has seen personal, health, parental, financial, legal, and career crisis. My cup runneth over with the wine of ruin. But I was able to suck it up and amble on, sometimes cross-eyed and not so sure-footed, sure, but still keeping my head above my feet, even if I had to limbo under some heavy poles of negativity. But, I kept looking for life lessons, kept seeking happiness and following my dreams. I survived. I’m battle-weary, I recognize that. But, I’m soldiering on. “Why?” some may ask. “Life is a killer; it’s crap….” There’s Archie again. I guess my answer would simply be that I’m a warrior at heart. I’ll always don the armor of my desires and dreams and battle on until I have no breath left. That with all the crap that monkey of life threw at me this year, I had a lot of good, too. Tonight, my family and I will write down all the bad things we can think of – and burn it in the fire. Releasing it’s hold in our lives and setting 2014 with a fresh, clean slate. We’ll read from “The Good Things Jar.” We’ll reminisce about the good. We’ll toast in the year and recognize that we are here to create all the beauty and fulfill all the dreams we can. It is my belief. I will recite such a creed, always.

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What does that mean for 2014? It means that I’m still going to move ahead with plans and desires and goals. Big dreams, small dreams. All moving forward. Baby steps for some. Space-walking leaps for others. The forward movement doesn’t have to be the epitome of success. Just forward movement and I’m satisfied. Like Mae West said, I’m thinking: “~“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”

 

“Ah, you’re just lowering you’re standards,” says the inner curmudgeon. “No, I’m redefining success.” Oh, and “Kiss my ass!”

 

With that bit of Detroit burped out into Archie’s face to segue, for the past few days I’ve been reading posts and blogs by scientists, authors, friends, and everyone seems to have a running theme:  Keep on Truckin’.  It echoes in my own life, too.

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My resolutions for 2014:

 

WRITING:  I’m following this little philosophy from Anthony Marra, in so doing, I hope to read at least two books a month and write six days a week. I can’t move to five even with kids in the house, because I’m still an “emerging” author. In that, I hope to submit at least two things a month (I have such an inventory this year because I only did two submissions this year – really sad showing, I know). I also plan to blog more. I’ve written out a schedule and the goal is three posts a week, not including my SnoValley Writes! weekly writing prompt. Part of my writing goals this year also includes working on the “Things I Learned” chap book to give to my children.

 

FINANCES:  Outside of that I need to continue to grow my freelance work, so that the first-of-summer and holiday slowdowns do not wreck my finances.

 

ART:  I need to continue improving the production of Thrasher Studios.  I have some new ideas and supplies; I’ve already started getting busy putting all that together.

 

LEARNING:  I also want to renew my skills at sewing (I have a machine now), and renew my crocheting skills.  Maybe even finally do that quilt I’ve been saving fabric for years now. As well as, continuing the micro-farming with all its seemingly unending benefits.

 

SELF-CARE:  Lastly, My 2013 Happiness Project taught me that I need to do more self-care; that it needs to be part of my daily routine. This will be one small thing every day to something special once a week.

 

EXAMPLE:  Know that in doing all of the above I am setting a great example for my children, my spouse, and my friends & family to live life to the fullest and pursue their dreams, opening a door for more goodness in all our lives.

 

The above is quite a smaller list than last year (2013) or the year before (2012). I think that bodes well for how far I’ve come in living my life on purpose.

 

What about you? How was your 2013? What are you looking forward to in 2014?  Thanks for reading and I wish you a joyful and prosperous new year.

Charming Notes: Digging into your own life and Memoir

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the glass castleEarly in the year, I was introduced to Jeanette Walls’ THE GLASS CASTLE and am currently reading HALF BROKE HORSES (which by the way, is very difficult for me to not hyphenate….). I also recently read an article on Walls in the New York Times. Her stories and her personal story are incredible and they are intermixed, as authors are wont to do.  It’s hard to say a critical thing about it. I haven’t yet read THE SILVER STAR, but it is now on my To Read List over at Goodreads. When the reviewers say she has a knack for spinning a yarn, they were dead right.

As far as True Life Novels and Memoirs go, I’ve been recommending THE GLASS CASTLE to many who also are considering or in the midst of writing their own story. Walls tells a story, not just her story. It’s often as if she’s a fiction writer approaching real life. That folks, is the way to hold a reader and make them try to find everything you’ve written. When I write mine, I’ll remember the lessons of storytelling, prose, and wit that Walls holds in her own tale.

The themes in everything I’ve read by her so far is: Don’t Give Up. Considering that last night I was struggling very hard with giving up on this manuscript that I’ve been working on for a few years now — it was a message I needed to hear. Also given that I live with a special needs child that takes up the time of six parents — it was a message I needed to hear.

For that, I am publicly thanking Jeanette Walls. Thank you for sharing your stories.

I tell this often to my writing group, but I also feel that everyone reading this needs to know:  Your Story Matters. So go write it.

Me, I’ve got a story to finish editing. Then, it’s back to Half-Broke Horses. (See, I hyphenated it without thinking. I’m leaving it as is. You can edit it in your mind.)

One Lovely Blog Award. Pass it On.

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Thank you, Tommia– author of Tommia’s Tablet – for the nomination of the One Lovely Blog award.

The rules for One Lovely Blog Award are very straightforward:  thank the blogger who nominated you and link the post to their page, and then state 7 random facts about yourself and nominate those you feel are deserving of the award.

I know Tommia in real life. She is in my writing group SnoValley Writes! She also knows when my life needs a creative push and checks out my favorite fanfic from the library for me to read, or gives me a new book mark, or some other trinket or generous gift. She is a giver in this world. The world needs more Tommia’s. Oh, and she’s a damn fine writer.

Seven random facts about moi?

  • I see the dragonfly, wolf, cougar, octopus, and raven as my totem animals.
  • I once had an IV of caffeine. True story.
  • I have survived tornadoes, hurricanes, a volcanic eruption, earthquake, and Black Friday shopping.
  • There are bookshelves in every room of my home except the kids’ bathroom.
  • I was born near the Great Lakes, live now near a river and close to the Pacific Ocean, am a Water sign (Scorpio), but don’t really like to be IN the water. I like to be by it, but not in it; I’ve nearly drown several times in my life.
  • I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 8 years old.
  • I believe everyone should have a garden.

Nominations

The folks I’d like to nominate for the award are:

Book Review: Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night

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I kind of wish that my kids were little again – so I could read them this story during D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything And Read). There’s a new children’s book out, Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night, written by Jacquelyn Fedyk and illustrated by Leslie Nan Moon “for strange parents to read to odd little children…” Considering I include myself in the circles of strange and my children are certainly not mainstream, this tag line on the book’s web site is engaging and makes you want to check it out. You should.

Agatha Hattie is a gothic fairytale where Dr. Seuss meets Lemony Snicket, one I think is poised to become a contemporary classic. Agatha Hattie is a girl who just can’t follow the crowd; it leads her down the path where she meets a vampire dog and dances with him in the fog and the mist, much to the distress of her waiting-at-home parents. The vampire dog bites her and Agatha Hattie’s life goes down yet another unexpected path – which lets readers know why some things in the monster world are as they are.

I loved the unique angle of the story, and like I said, the Dr. Seuss meets A Series of Unfortunate Events slant it has to it – all in a gloriously done picture book. Moon’s art pairs dead-on with Fedyk’s darker, yet huggable, themes in the book – independence, diversity, and embracing opportunity. It reminded me of the The Misadventures of Dreary & Naughty (by John LaFleur & Shawn Dubin)– which is aimed more at a young teen audience, whereas Agatha Hattie can be embraced by children as young those who can hold books and sit still for mom to read to them. – Parental approval pending. As a parent myself, I never assume to know what other parents approve of – since each child has to be individually considered. My point is that I would have read it to any of my kids beginning about that time. The book empowers children to look at dark and scary things in a new light and accept them as whimsical and just part of another culture. I really dig that because it allows children to embrace all manner of differences – and isn’t that a good thing to teach our kids? And why not do it with such a fun book!

Where the story ends leaves the door open for another volume. I hope the author and artist will do more. They probably would if there are enough of us clamoring for more.  Since the team of Fedyk & Moon did a smashing job of independently publishing this book, it’s likely an easier sell than other children’s books. I can see the headlines now:  We Want More Agatha Hattie!

For now, I hope that (eventually) I’ll get to read Agatha Hattie Queen of the Night to some (grand?) children.  In the meantime, I wonder if my teenagers would humor me?

Buy this book.

Note:  Fedyk and Moon will be having their first reading/book launch of the book this Saturday (March 9th) in North Bend, Wash. The event begins at noon at Selah Gifts on North Bend Way. I’ll be there.