#InkRipples: 5 Tips for working with beta readers, critique partners & editors


Today I’m joining the wonderful Mary Waibel, Kai Strand, and Katie L. Carroll for this month’s #InkRipples challenge, and we’re talking about revision. I’ve already shared 5 Lessons I learned revising Keeper of the Dawn, but I’ve realized I still have a lot more to say. So this week I’m going to tackle a big subject: dealing with feedback.

Shall we get started?

EXCLUSIVE Video Readings from Keeper of the Dawn!

KeeperoftheDawn_FrontCover Hi folks! My debut YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, came out THIS TUESDAY! I’ve already done a bunch of Big Exciting Things, including a Facebook Live Q & A (which was WAY less intimidating than I thought it would be), and today I’d like to share one of the biggest, most exciting things I’ve ever done: video readings of three excerpts from Keeper of the Dawn!

The Readings

Did you enjoy these excerpts? Pick up your copy of Keeper of the Dawn TODAY!

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop: Letters to explore character

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2 This week I’m participating in a new monthly blog hop run by the wonderful Raimey Gallant, the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, a monthly event quite similar to the #Inkripples challenge I’ve been doing for the past few months. The big difference is that #InkRipples has a different theme every month, whereas this new blog hop’s theme is always the same, delightfully broad topic: resources for writers. And this month I’ve decided to share an exercise I’m using right now to develop the world and characters of my Big Insane Fantasy Series (which you’ll learn more about soon, I promise):

Letters Between Characters

When you think of character development the first thing that comes to mind is probably a massive character profile. There are thousands of templates for these profiles online, all asking for a dry list of facts. What is your character’s hair colour? What is their eye colour? How tall are they? How many siblings do they have? Where do they live? Where do they go to school or work?

These character sheets have a use, but for me they’re something to fill in after building a character, not before. I learn the most about a character by walking them through actual writing exercises. And one of the biggest things I do is let the character describe their daily life and most important memories to me.

Around the time I first started blogging I did a personal “Dear Diary” challenge, with the goal of intense character development. I wrote a diary entry from the viewpoint of a character–in this case the goddess of death, Astarael–every day for a month. I actually started each entry with the words “Dear Diary”, because it helped me conquer my fear of the blank page. So, essentially, I wrote a bunch of letters from one character to herself. I also posted a bunch of them on my blog, and if you look hard enough you may even still be able to find them.

This year I’ve decided to write a series of actual letters between multiple characters. If you’ve ever read some of the many published historical letters, you’ll know that letters can tell you an incredible amount about a person. Every word written speaks volumes about their personality, their relationship with the other person, their view of the world around them.

If your characters are really interesting and you know what you’re doing, letters between characters can also become saleable short stories. Hell, you can write an entire novel in letters. I’ve never liked books written entirely in letter format (I honestly can’t think of one I’ve ever finished), but I love novels that incorporate some letter writing. I love one-off shorts in letter format even more.

Long story short, letter writing as a character development exercise is a win win scenario. I’ve already started, and so far it’s proven itself as both a powerful writing exercise and a great way to trick my brain into writing short stories.

That said, I’ve got about a million more projects now than I did when I created the “Dear Diary” challenge for myself, so I’m definitely not committing to a letter every day. Or even every weekday. This time I’m not focusing on the quantity, I’m focusing on the quality. My goal is to write one letter from each main character in my current novel. This will help me quickly develop my semi-large cast, especially if I focus them all on major life events. And I already know it will be a lot of fun.

Have you ever written a letter between two of your characters? Do you think this would be an interesting exercise? Let me know in the comments section below!

#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Diana Pinguicha

2017-04-13 18_22_54-anthology-of-european-sf.pdfToday I’m excited to continue my #Ownvoices spotlight series with an author who has a fantastic name (if I do say so myself), Diana Pinguicha. By day she works as a video game writer and developer, and by night she’s a speculative fiction author; her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, including the International Speculative Fiction Anthology of European Speculative Fiction (which can be downloaded completely FREE). Today she’s here to discuss the challenges associated with different types of writing, representation in fiction, and more!

Please give Diana a warm welcome.

#InkRipples: 5 Things I learned revising Keeper of the Dawn


Today I’m joining the wonderful Mary Waibel, Kai Strand, and Katie L. Carroll for this month’s #InkRipples challenge, and we’re talking all about revising our stories.  Since my debut YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn IS OUT NOW I thought I would share some of the things I learned during its many hundreds of revisions.

Author Spotlight: Jay Michael Wright II

TALON2 CustomThis week I’m taking a (hopefully brief) break from the #ownvoices author spotlight series I’ve been doing for the past months to interview an author whose dark fantasy novels are some of the most exciting I’ve seen around. I’ve had a wonderful time chatting with him about his upcoming novel, Talon: The Spider’s Web, and I’m excited to read it–but frankly, I’m more excited about one of the projects he’s still working on. You’ll have to read the interview to see what I’m talking about!

The Blurb

For centuries after surviving the destruction of The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Nicky happily embraced being the monster he had become: a vampire hell-bent on revenge after witnessing the murders of his mother and sister.

After coming across a young girl who could have been his sister’s twin, however, things changed drastically. Nicky was determined to right the wrongs he had done. This led him down a path of no return.

Nicky comes across the mysterious Sadie, whose powers no one can explain. With her help, he kills a Pureblood Vampire – a crime punishable by death. Vampire law requires him to kill Sadie, but knowing that he owes her his life, Nicky can’t do it. Instead, they go on the run together. For the first time in his life, Nicky has decided to live by his own rules. The Demon within and his humanity are at constant odds as he both fulfills his blood-lust and acts as protector to the mortal girl who has bewitched him.

Please stop telling millennials to “pay our dues”, we’re already doing it

Don't I look like I'm about to murder someone? There's probably a good reason...
Don’t I look like I’m about to murder someone? There’s probably a good reason…

Last week I saw a video I’ve seen a thousand times: some older white guy proclaiming that Millennials are all screwed up because we were treated like special snowflakes and then we grew up and realized life is hard. I’m not going to link to that video because I don’t like sharing bullshit, but I want to address the idea behind it. I’ve already gone on a massive Twitter rant about this video, so I’ve Storified the rant for your enjoyment, and I’m going to expand on it below, addressing some misconceptions that came up in conversations around the rant.

It’s not the work we’re upset about

Obviously my rant gained a lot of attention. Most of the people I spoke with were supportive older humans who were also tired of hearing this crap. They talked about the hard working Millennials they knew, and said they wish people wouldn’t make such callous blanket statements about an entire generation.

Of course there were also a couple people whose response was to talk about how much they and their friends struggled when they were young. They mentioned teachers stuck on supply lists for years finally moving across the country just to get a job. And they told me that while their friends struggled through those things, they didn’t complain about it.

Here’s the thing: I am not complaining about having to work hard. Nor are most of my friends. We want fulfilling careers, and we understand that we must work hard to get those careers. This is particularly true for those of us determined to be artists and to have our artistic careers before our 40th birthdays. We understand the work, and we’re willing to do it, because we know the alternative is a lifetime of misery and regrets.

What we are complaining about isn’t even lack of recognition, it’s the lack of monetary payment. The cost of living has risen exponentially, especially if you live in a big city. Adjustments for recent rises in rental costs put the minimum cost of a half-decent life at $2,350/month in Toronto, and there are cities where the number is even higher. And those numbers don’t include payments towards student debt, credit cards or car loans. They also don’t include any kind of savings or investments.

Unfortunately wages in pretty much every industry have stagnated, and so have employment rates. The prevalence of low paying jobs forces Millennials to work two or three jobs, live with roommates until they’re 35, and sometimes choose between eating and paying rent. Of all my Millennial friends, only three can afford to live completely on their own, and they’re all at the upper end of our generation – between 33 and 35. They’re also all in tech, and are the people who were smart enough to get into tech right out of school.

We don’t want to be treated like special snowflakes. We don’t want another fucking handout just for existing – we hated those participation medals anyway. All we want is to be paid a living wage for the work we do, and to be treated like the adults we have become. We want to be able to get married and buy houses before we’re 50. We want to be able to afford those luxurious vacations everyone else is always talking about. We want to make enough money to pay off all of our debts. We know tuition and rent and food aren’t getting any cheaper. We don’t expect that to change. What we do expect is that our wages will also rise.

So please, don’t tell us to be patient. Don’t tell us we have to pay our dues. We know that. We are paying those dues. The older Millennials have paid those dues. All we want is to be able to live a half decent life while we pay them.

On looking like ourselves

I’ve also heard Millennials get shit on because we want to be true to ourselves by doing things like dyeing our hair colours we actually enjoy. I have a couple big problems with this idea.

First off, I think it’s disgusting that we’ve built an entire society on the idea that the only route to success is to lose all your personality and individuality. Yes, society’s been this way a long time, but that doesn’t make it any less fucked up. Being different from each other is a beautiful thing. It allows us to form teams filled with people who are extremely good at different things. It allows us to create art of all kinds. We should celebrate our differences, not hide them.

Second off, women are expected to not look like themselves on a daily basis anyway. We’re supposed to wear make up so we look like we’ve never had acne or gotten tired. Oh, and high heels to make our legs more attractive. And push up bras to make our boobs seem bigger. Adding brightly coloured hair, tattoos or piercings to the mix shouldn’t make us less acceptable as human beings.

I do have to add the caveat that women are more frequently allowed to work in the office with brightly dyed hair/tattoos/piercings. This is most likely because we’re already expected to alter our appearance in other ways. It’s obviously bullshit, because everyone should be allowed to present in a way that makes them feel good, but that’s a completely different rant for another day.

A quick note about changing media treatment

A couple people were also quick to point out the number of articles that say Millennials are great. Yes, there has been a big shift in the media’s treatment of Millennials. The media now talks about our struggles more often than it mentions our “entitled and lazy” attitudes. But too many people have already internalized those ideas about us. I can feel them looking down on me as I walk down the street. It weighs heavy in the room during many job interviews.

The damage has already been done. People don’t change their beliefs easily. And all too often the voices condemning us are louder than the ones applauding us.

You may have been at it longer, but don’t assume I haven’t been working just as hard as you have – and don’t tell me I have no right to a decent life.

#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Shira Glassman

4-olive conspiracy cover-frontToday I am beyond thrilled to welcome author Shira Glassman, creator of the beautifully diverse Mangoverse and almost-winner of the Bisexual Book Award (she made the short list!). She has been kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to share some behind-the-scenes info about how she built The Olive Conspiracy, the fourth novel in the Mangoverse.

About The Olive Conspiracy

A love story between women, between queen and country, and between farmers and their crops.

When Ezra tries to blackmail Chef Yael about her being trans, she throws him out of her restaurant and immediately reports him to the queen. But when police find Ezra stabbed to death, Queen Shulamit realizes he may have also tried to extort someone more dangerous than a feisty old lady.

The royal investigation leads straight to an international terrorist plot to destroy her country’s economy—and worse, her first love, Crown Princess Carolina of Imbrio, may be involved. Since she’s got a dragon-shifting wizard at her disposal, contacts with friendly foreign witches, and the support of her partner Aviva, Shulamit has hope. What she doesn’t have is time.

The Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Olive Conspiracy?

The Olive Conspiracy, at its heart, is the story of a woman and her found-family — a wife, in-laws, and the kind of best friends who have become family including a surrogate dad — doing their best to preserve their country’s safety. Having her fight danger from the heart of such a warm and loving community, at least for me, gives the reader an emotionally safe vantage point from which to enjoy the story.

Meanwhile, Queen Shulamit is very much an overthinker who worries and frets like a champ, and she’s extremely driven to preserve the cozy way of life she and her people enjoy. I feel that as a queen deep down she knows that monarchy is a flawed, unfair system, so while she’s human enough not to want to abolish it and give up her wardrobe, huge library, and open-air palace, she does feel like she has to work through every waking hour to deserve it. She literally breastfeeds a farmer’s baby in one scene and I can think of no more fitting image to illustrate the way she feels about her responsibility to her people.

Plus, the fact that she had a gigantic teenaged crush on someone who might turn out to be the story’s villain weighs on her very heavily.

I also have a lot of fun with the other leads. Shulamit’s bodyguard and best friend is a loudmouthed, five-foot-eleven warrior woman named Rivka. Creating her has been exceptionally meaningful for me because she’s got my ethnicity–and my nose–and shows that we can so be the heroic figure in fantasy if we want to be. Her husband is a dragon-shifting wizard eighteen years older than her, totally besotted with her strength, and together the two of them are protective of the book’s main f/f couple and their baby. Writing him also gives me great pleasure because he’s the kind of smug, smirky grey-hat character who usually winds up being the sexy villain on whom we reluctantly admit our crushes, except he’s one of the good guys so no guilt necessary.

I’ve added a new f/f couple with this book, the young olive growers Hadar and Halleli. Their journey isn’t always a happy one but they wind up safe (and employed!) at the end with their mutual love helping light the way and keep them strong. What I find personally fulfilling about them is that they not only earn their happy ending, making it more meaningful, but they represent the truth that characters in the umbrella can face adversity from sources other than -phobia and bigotry. We face the same obstacles as cis straight people, and we can overcome them, too. They get their own short story in Tales from Perach, “Your Name is Love.”

What part of the story came to you first?

Chef Yael!

What happened was, a young trans lesbian named Nicole who enjoys my books sent me a Tumblr message asking if I could put a trans woman in my books. It didn’t take long for the image of a tough-as-nails older woman who stands up to a blackmailer to pop into my head (and of course, who’s tougher than chefs?) The biggest problem after that was coming up with what happened next — in other words, who did the blackmailer visit next, someone dangerous enough to kill him? Months later, the agriculture plot fell into place. I’m so pleased that I was able to do as much with Yael as I did, though. She’s not just a throwaway character from the first two scenes. She has screen time in one-sixth of the book, and her own short story (“No Whining”) in the Tales from Perach collection.

Did you deliberately focus on creating a diverse book, or is that simply how your books have evolved?

It’s now a conscious act, as I incorporate the people in my life whose experiences deserve to be represented in fiction if that fiction is to be accurate and reflect reality, but when I first started out it was basically just a consequence of being a queer Jewish woman, existing in that space. I mean, this is my default. I wake up in the morning in my sapphic Jewish skin, and for me to write cis straight people, or gentiles, is already reaching outside of myself.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting The Olive Conspiracy published?

The book’s original debut last July was with a publisher that was circling the drain and had stopped paying their authors. I never received any money from my preorders or the first two months it was out. Luckily, I was able to get my rights back in September, and rereleased the entire series with beautiful new covers.

How would you like to see representation change in the next 5 years?

This is already starting to right itself, but as soon as the push for diversity gained a lot of traction we suddenly started seeing a lot of people in Privileged Group X getting book deals for writing characters in the corresponding marginalized group. These books can be good but I like the fact that there’s been a bit of a course correction reminding people that we should be actively looking for voices within the group to make sure their stories are not being drowned out.

Who is your favourite #ownvoices author right now?

I just put my phone down from gushing to yet another friend about Zen Cho, whose Malaysian/Malaysian-diaspora SFF shorts collection “Spirits Abroad” is one of my favorite recs. Make sure you get the eBook, though, because for some reason it includes more stories than the print edition! To quote from my review, it “brings extremely intimate and personal concepts into the sphere of fantasy fiction–like unexpected difficulty in schoolwork or performing arts after being at the top of your class, or blooming into your suppressed bisexuality. Far from being the fantasy of broad, sweeping, epic stories about clashes between dynasties or magical orders, this is the fantasy about household magic, about supernatural creatures that have the same feelings and hopes and family structures we mortals do, and about one-on-one friendships and relationships. They even enjoy the simple, hedonic pleasure of food.” Vampires coexist with Aunties, a troupe of Lion Dancers are secretly ghostbusters, etc. Seriously, go buy this and then come back to this interview. I’ll wait.

I’m also going to give a shout-out to trans man Austin Chant, who just wrote a trans Peter Pan/Captain Hook psychological drama with a romantic happy ending called Peter Darling that basically knocked my socks so far off I need GPS to find them.

What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I hate to jinx my current WIP, just in case (although I’m sure anyone who follows me on Twitter has noticed the #LesbianIndieDyer hashtag!) — if I ever finish it, it’s contemporary f/f about two Jewish women, both different kinds of artists, who discover the ways each can be inspired by the other’s work. But hopefully you won’t have to wait that long for a new release because I hope to get the rights back to “A Man of Taste“, my short story about a lonely vampire woman and the ghost who might be the answer to all her problems at once.

shiraglassmanShira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels. She lives in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they’re too lazy to be bothered.

You can find Shira @ShiraGlassman or on her website. Want to start reading in the Mangoverse right away? Pick up The Olive Conspiracy on Amazon! (Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links)

The art of productive procrastination

The Art of Productive ProcrastinationLast week I signed up for one on one mentoring with Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA to help me build a stronger author platform. She sent me an author questionnaire and gave me a whole week to work on it, but I told her she would likely have it sooner–I was procrastinating pretty hard on some administration stuff for my freelance business. She mentioned that she loves the tactic of productive procrastination, which got me thinking. Productive procrastination is one of the core principles of my life, and since I know we all struggle with the un-productive kind of procrastination, I’ve decided to share it with you.

So what is productive procrastination?

Productive procrastination is the act of procrastinating on something you really don’t want to do by doing something else on your to do list, ideally something equally important or at least close to it. In fact, you probably already do productive procrastination. If you’ve ever found yourself washing dishes because you’re avoiding a tough scene, that’s productive procrastination. Our minds are programmed to be active, so your subconscious has found another productive way to use your energy.

The trick is to be intentional about it. If you really don’t want to do something–and you don’t have a pressing deadline–ask yourself what the next most important task is. Cleaning your house is great, but is there something else you can do that will push you closer to your dream life? Make a deliberate decision to do that thing instead. Your house can likely wait another day, but the days you procrastinate on your career add up fast.

Creating a productive procrastination system

As with most things in life, it’s easiest to maximize the benefits of productive procrastination if you create a system. The way I’ve created my system is by building a kind of table/27chart with a variety of productive activities, each one given a ranking based on importance and the amount of time/energy required to complete the task:



This system makes it easy for me to decide what to do when I feel like procrastinating. Typically I try to do either the next most important thing on my list or something that serves as a warm up for the thing I’m avoiding. If I’m avoiding the next chapter of my book, I’ll write a character exercise or a blog post. If I’m avoiding my blog, I’ll work on fiction or social media. If I don’t even want to look at my computer I’ll clean the house or read. My chart is a road map reminding me that there’s always something I can be doing to improve my career.

I’ve used this system for so long I don’t need to look at it, but you might want to create your own chart and keep it somewhere visible. The wall above your writing space is a great place.

Using productive procrastination to eliminate guilt

Living with a mental illness means that sometimes I’m procrastinating because I don’t feel well enough to complete the tasks on my to do list. I’m also incredibly stubborn, so I insist on doing something no matter how awful I feel. Sometimes I refuse to even admit that I feel awful, although I know that’s the real reason I’ve spent two hours finding interesting people to follow on Twitter.

My productive procrastination list serves as a handy reminder of what I can and can’t do on these days. It’s very similar to the way other people with mental illnesses create lists of what they can do based on how many spoons they have. With the chart imprinted on my brain, I can always find something productive to do, no matter how small. I can also use it to remind myself that the things I haven’t accomplished that day simply required more energy than I had. Another day I will have that energy. This allows me to feel proud of what I did accomplish instead of guilty about what didn’t get done.

A quick note about social media and productive procrastination

You might have noticed that in the last point, I mentioned spending two hours on Twitter. This probably sounds counter productive, because the way most people surf Twitter is counter productive. I do sometimes fall into that trap, but for the most part I keep my social media usage highly focused. If I’m on Twitter for two hours at a time it’s usually because I’m hunting for reviewers and other writers to connect with. Sometimes it’s because I’m participating in Twitter chats, which are a great way to form deeper connections with people. I’ve even met beta readers this way.

Social media only counts as productive procrastination if you do it with focus. Aimlessly wandering around the different social media sites all day might be fun, but it’s not going to further your creative career. You need to build a social media strategy before you can add it to your productive procrastination list. Figure out who you want to connect with, why you want to connect with them, and where you’re going to do it.

Final advice

Productive procrastination is one of the most powerful tools in my creative toolkit. It helps me accept and work with the boundaries created by my mental illness. It also helps me ensure that everything does eventually get done, even if not in the timeline I originally intended. Most importantly, it works for me and my creative process. It might not work for yours, but it’s certainly worth a shot, don’t you think?

Have you ever attempted productive procrastination? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

Why you should reread books

Two books I reread in 2016
Two books I reread in 2016

As a kid I re-read books fairly often, but eventually I grew to hate rereading. I have a pretty good memory so if I’ve read it in the last couple of years, I’ll remember large chunks of it word for word, which makes all but the best books tedious. Besides, there are so many amazing books I haven’t read, and more being published every day. Why re-read when I can always find something new?

Of course, it wasn’t entirely about time. Part of it was about the books themselves. Some of the books I loved most as a child seemed awful when I reread them. The characters were flat or I had simply changed too much to like them. There were pacing flaws younger me hadn’t noticed. And the worlds that had been exciting to me as a kid often felt bland and stereotypical after exploring the fantasy genre more deeply.

If you reread books regularly, sooner or later this will happen to you. Still, revisiting a book you loved five or ten years ago is often worth the risk. After all, you loved it for a reason, right?

If you choose the right books, the books that left the deepest impression on you the first time around, you will often find yourself falling even more deeply in love with them. You’ll notice little details that didn’t stick the first time. You may even learn big lessons you didn’t pick up the first time, especially if you were like me and started reading adult books before your tenth birthday.

This is especially important for writers.  As you develop your writing skills, you also develop the ability to read like a writer. You pay more attention to the specific techniques and scenes that work–and the ones that don’t. You analyze the book, learning how you can make yours at least as powerful. Reading like a writer is one of the best ways for you to learn more about the craft, and it’s much easier to do when you’ve already read a book and you’re not in so much of a rush to reach the end.

How to make time for rereading

At this point you’re probably staring guiltily at all the books on your To Be Read list, perhaps even an entire row of your bookshelf that hasn’t been read. You know it’s important to keep reading new books, that reading for fun can be a great self care strategy, and that books can teach you all manner of things. You may even have scheduled specific time for reading, or devoted your commute to reading if you take transit. It’s fun and sometimes enlightening, but it’s already taking up a significant chunk of your day, and now you’re supposed to reread books too?

You don’t have to reread a lot to reap the rewards. You don’t even have to schedule separate reading time for it. Even rereading one or two books a year can open your mind, changing the way you see books and the world. Choosing the right books to reread matters more than rereading a large number of  books. After all, your goal here isn’t just to enjoy yourself, it’s to learn something–whether that’s about the book, about writing in general, or about yourself.

So how do you choose the right books?

Any book worth rereading is one that left a deep impression on you the first time you read it, one that taught you something deep about life or writing or both. It’s a book you liked enough to still remember all the characters and the overall story arch, even if you don’t remember many details. It can also be a book with powerful themes you didn’t fully understand or feel comfortable with the first time you read it.

I’ve also frequently chosen to reread a specific book because it’s been turned into a series. This is why I reread Inkheart last year, which is now the first book in a fantastic trilogy. It’s also part of why I reread the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, which is now The Old Kingdom Series. Being able to dive back into these worlds and then explore them even further has been wonderful fun, and I’ve learned a lot from the process too.

Right now I’m only reading new books, but at some point in the near future I’ll be diving into A Dance With Dragons, not because I believe the next book will ever actually come out but because I need to straighten out some of the differences between the books and the show in my head. All those X names in A Dance With Dragons confused me enormously. I also need to reread Lord of the Rings, as I was rather young when I read it the first time. I suspect I will learn a lot from both of these rereads, and I’m excited to see how they’ll help my writing grow.

Do you reread books? What would you like to reread next? Let me know in the comments section below!