Friday, December 30, 2011

Link Blitz

Science fiction really isn't my forte.

That being said, I'm excited to start Scion next week! (Sweet, beautiful fantasy. You will always mean more to me than rockets and black holes.) I'm going against Kristen Lamb's advice and starting with an action scene. I'm fairly confident it will work--my alpha readers will let me know if it doesn't, right? ;)

Writer's Potpourri:

The Top 3 Things You Should Keep in Mind When Selling Your eBook

Ten More Shining Inspirational Exercises or, Thirty Shots at Creative Inspiration, Part 3

The 10 Commandments of a Successful Author

How to Get More Blog Comments on Your Blog

7 Secrets to Successful Book Promotion

10 Things Authors Should Know about Twitter

2012 Publishing Predictions

Top 10 Best Fantasy Debuts of 2011

Other Babble:

Tell me you don't love that song. I dare you.

 (And a happy birthday to sister #4!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ah Yes! Notes on Christmas

Christmas was really fun this year. Spent Christmas Eve with my in-laws (eating the most amazing crab wontons), playing games, and doing a candle nativity. Christmas morning husband and I had our own bout of present-opening, during which I received what may be my favorite gift of all.

Yoshi Story for the N64.

I know, you were expecting something sentimental (coming later in this post), or jewelry, or the like. But let me tell you, I LOVED this game as a kid. My parents wouldn't let us own game consoles (they melted your brain, after all), so I always had to go to my friend's house to play. Said friend wasn't much into video games, so my Yoshi adventures were few and far between. But now.... now I can play as much as I want!*

Anyway. We headed over to my parents house and opened presents there (and I got a dehydrator! Fruit chips, here I come!) and we had a big breakfast with the standard cream cheese crepes and grits.** Went to church where my sister, mother, and brother-in-law participated in two choir numbers and an elderly Austrian couple spoke about the mission they would soon be serving in Germany. For dinner we had ham, broccoli au graten, and the baked mac and cheese that goes with every holiday meal (including Thanksgiving). Then Sister and I made my dad a mincemeat pie, which he then proceeded to chase me with, threatening to put it down my shirt.***

Then back to Husband's side of the family to wind down the Christmas festivities. We got Firefly and Serenity (which if you haven't seen, you NEED to, regardless of whether or not you like science fiction. It's Joss Whedon, for crying out loud) and more gaming stuff. (I'm really not that big of a gamer, despite what this post communicates.)

Oh! Right, sentimental thing. When my family still lived in our (or rather, my) first house, my dad poured cement for a window well and had all us girls stamp our hand- and footprint into it, marked with the date. I was three at the time. My parents moved my freshman year of college, and thus the window well was left behind. But for Christmas, my youngest sister went back to the house, and, with permission from the current tenants, took molds of our prints and recreated little cement plaques for each of us. Needless to say, I cried. :)

*On my first attempt in story mode, I killed all the Yoshis. Let me tell you, my heart broke when the pink one fell down that chasm and was taken away to baby bowser's castle...

**Mom's from Maryland. It effects our diet.

***My dad served an LDS mission in London for two years. Every holiday, he'd be forced to scarf down five or six mincemeat pies per day. He hates mincemeat. I don't blame him, but it was hilarious all the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kristen Lamb's Five Common Writing Hazards

I think I've mentioned this before, but if you don't follow Kristen Lamb's blog, do it! It's very helpful, and she updates frequently.

Monday she wrote a post entitle 5 Common Writing Hazards that "seem to plague virtually all new writers." I've listed them below, but I recommend reading the full article.

1. If your novel has more character than the cast of Ben Hur, you might
    need a revision
2. If your novel dumps the reader right into major action, you might
    need a revision
3. Painful and alien movement of body parts
4. Too much physiology
5. Adverbs are evil

For #3, if possible, I recommend actually trying the movement out yourself to see if it works. (I recall straddling my sister in the dining room trying to determine if a certain move would work in a fight. It didn't. And I think it left her slightly traumatized.)

#2 is interesting, since I've heard both sides of the argument on this. What's yours?

(Note: image taken from

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Story

Told by the children of St. Paul's Church. SO cute.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Link Blitz

A smoking car and husband's phone being dead does not equal for a joyous evening. I spent a good chunk of Monday emotionally traumatized and driving all over the west side of the valley trying to find him, but all is well now. :D

Also, CHRISTMAS. My favorite holiday of the year by far! I'm so excited! I've staged relevant videos to post on my blog over the weekend.

Writer's Potpourri:

Why I Went Traditional and 7 Reasons Why You Should (or Shouldn't)

No One Ever Bought Anything in an Elevator (Elevator Pitch)

Humanize Your Book's Villain

If I'd Only Known Then...

25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day

Other Babble:

Send a Call from Santa (Amusing if nothing else)

The Fanciful, Chocolate-filled World of 2012

Resurrecting the Reality Show: Winning Mars

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Want to Write a Dictator?

Because Kim Jong Il is a great example.

My friend Jessica (currently living in Japan) linked me to this article the other day, and the stories are astonishing. They're excerpts taken from a book written about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, as told by his sushi chef. It includes everything from routine pain killer injections to forcing women to dance naked.

A bit of an eye opener, if nothing else.

Monday, December 19, 2011

World Building

Another post inspired by my Sanderson notes. World building is one of the most crucial elements--if not the most crucial element--for fantasy and science fiction stories. Sanderson is excellent at creating very diverse worlds for each of his books (eager to see what he's done for The Alloy of Law*), so I jotted down some of his tips.

1. Think of the setting as a character. What are its quirks, and what makes it unique?

2. Look for points on conflict. Conflict doesn't just come from the characters--what does your world do that creates problems? (The original Mistborn trilogy is great at this)

3. Consider cultural vs. physical setting. Culture is just as important, if not more important, than the geography.

4. Generally, more imagination = slower pace. The more details you cram into the setting, the slower the read.

5. Get the setting across without info dumps. Let the reader discover it gradually, as it pertains to each scene/situation.

In related news, I drew a larger version of Armaze (the city where Scion will be taking place) on parchment paper and stuck it up on the wall. Since the setting is so condensed in this book, I want to make sure I stay consistent with the streets and such. 

My outline is just about done too, and I'm getting really excited for the story. Here's hoping I pull everything off!

*Which I purchased at the signing last week, but cannot read it as I am STILL working on The Black Prism. It's a really good book, don't get me wrong, I just haven't been reading it very quickly. (Indeed I think there have been perhaps two days where I actually read it outside my lunch break.) Goodreads recently let me know just how slow I'm being. I am scum. (But close to finishing, which is great considering that the library will seize my copy in four days.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Link Blitz

We've had an odd lack of snow around Utah this December; Christmas is 10 days away, and yet it doesn't feel  like it, and not feeling like Christmas is depressing. It also means that winter will stay until well into spring, clinging to May like a malnourished leech to a naked baby. And snow in May is far more depressing than a dry Christmas.

But Christmas shopping and Temple Square lights make Charlie a happy girl. Plus I get the new Mistborn novel tonight (and signed! Hopefully the line at B&N won't be too long), plus a pomegranate party with the girlfriends.

AND as soon as my father clears a security check, he has a new job. :D Huzzah for Christmas blessings!

Writer's Potpourri:

The 56 Best/Worst Similes

Writer's Christmas Wish List (Very entertaining)

What Really Drives Your Characters?

Top 10 Book Covers of 2011

12 Things You Were Not Taught in School about Creative Thinking

How to Make the Most of a Scene

Which Sample Chapters Should You Send to Agents?

The Single Best Piece of Query Writing Advice I've Ever Heard

Other Babble:

Beyond Barrel Roll: 10 Hidden Google Tricks

Daniel, Cat with 26 Toes, Comes to the Rescue of Milwaukee Animal Shelter

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (Currently FREE for Amazon Kindle)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 Days 'til Christmas

Note to my fellow Utahns: Brandon Sanderson doing a signing in the West Jordan Barnes and Noble this Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. (And in Orem on Saturday, his schedule is here.) I will be purchasing the new Mistborn, finally. :D

In the meantime, there's 11 days left 'til Christmas, so start getting excited.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Continuing Affair with Science Fiction

For some reason all my short stories are being dominated by science fiction.

Why? I don't know. Maybe I've read too many WotF anthologies.

I have an idea for my next short story idea, and it's completely sci-fi. Not brushing shoulders with it like Piscis. As in I actually have to figure out how a rocket works (and what a landing sequence would be. On another planet. What.)

I don't read science fiction outside of WotF and the occasional writing group submission, so it's funny that all my short fiction ideas are coming from there. Still muchos gung-ho fantasy for long fiction, but yeah, epic fantasy doesn't make great short stories. Not enough time to develop (and I can't come up with a decent urban fantasy plot line to save my life).

Any sci-fi short fiction you recommend reading to get my brain in the mode? This is something I'd like to do over Christmas before I start Scion. Gonna look into some more Eric James Stone and Brad Torgersen, of course. ;)

Monday, December 12, 2011

My First Time in a Corset

Husband and I went to the Charles Dickens Christmas Festival at the Utah State Fairpark this last Friday. It was fun--a lot like Renaissance Faire, but with the shops designed like 1800s England. (Though I did eat a gyro for dinner...)

Anyway, there was a shop there manned by two girls decked out in full steampunk gear--the hats, the frilled skirts, the corsets. They were very friendly and even let me take pictures of them (one looks astonishingly similar to a friend of mine). I had never worn a corset before, so they suited me up in one. (No pictures. I think Husband was too busy ogling to think about the camera.)

I chatted with these girls (sisters-in-law) whilst being laced, and it turns out they were at Renovation as well! They make all their clothing by hand, and there was a lot to choose from. The corsets have fiberglass rods in them, and the materials definitely didn't come from the local Walmart.

Though I didn't purchase any of their wares, the gals impressed me, so I thought I'd put in a plug for them. They're called Damsel in This Dress; they do a lot of traveling, and even have their own magazine (the one they gave me included an interview with Amy Brown, an artist who's especially popular at Hot Topic).

So if you're into steampunk or Victorian wear, check them out. They also do custom orders. ;)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Biggest Pieces of Writing Advice to Take Home

Last year Brandon Sanderson held a Q&A session to wrap up his writing class. Someone asked him the biggest pieces of advice we should take home. He said the following:

1. Great writing takes PRACTICE.
     --If I remember correctly, Sanderson was working on his 13th book when he finally sold to Tor--and Elantris was the 6th book he'd written.

2. Good stories are about CONFLICT.
3. Good writers are also good revisers. You don't have to do it all at once.

That last part is something I really had to internalize. The Day the Sky Fell is the first story I've written where I didn't try to get all the revisions done in one go (which is also why the revising process took so much longer!). And because of that, I feel a lot more confident with this novel than with previous ones. Hopefully that's a good sign!

I'm at the point where I have to start weaning my brain from Chicken Little goodness and shift it into the next, untitled story (which I may have to refer to as "Scion" for now on, but I know if I do that, "Scion" will magically become the actual title). I've got some outlining to flush out and more antagonist angst to delve into. Wish me luck. :O

Monday, December 5, 2011

Re: The Synopsis

The second draft of my synopsis is done--hopefully one more go and it will be ready to send out. :D

After seeking help from a recent writer friend on Twitter (@lroseriver, go follow her!), dear Lora wrote A Synopsis Checklist for those of us struggling to summarize our work; she also includes some excellent references. Whether you're at the final stage of your WIP or not, check out the post.

In other news, I've gotten more beta reader feedback and hope to start querying next week! Just in time for Christmas...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where Oh Where Will Charlie Go...

It's really weird not knowing where I'll be in nine months.

And no, I'm not pregnant (despite how my mother wishes I were).

Next August Husband and I will be moving. Where? I'm not sure. We have it narrowed down to the West/West Coast, though. He'll be going to grad school, and I'll be tagging along. I'm the breadwinner, after all. ;)

The options are San Jose, CA; Seattle, WA; and Moscow, ID.

I know. Moscow, Idaho? That's basically Canada. Cold. And apparently the only fun thing to do up there is drink, and being LDS/paranoid about health, that's kind of off the list for me. But it is green. And homey. I Google-Mapped it. Plus Idaho living is CHEAP, and the scholarship potential is through the roof.

Seattle = culture. A big city with lots of rain, supposedly very green, though Google Maps will fool you. I love cities. But I also like sun. How many days out of the year does it rain in Seattle? On the plus side, I've heard of many a writing convention held in or near Seattle, so that's exciting.

Then there's San Jose. This was originally my first choice. Hello, it's California! The weather there would definitely be the nicest (and warmest), AND my work has an office there. Guaranteed I-can-keep-my-job. But it's crowded. And it looks kind of dirty (again, Google Maps). And I have inside information telling me all the locations I was considering for housing are kind of trashy, not to mention living expenses are through the roof. I'd have to have that awkward conversation with my boss where I say, "Hey, uh, can I have the California equivalent of my salary?"

Unless something goes awry, I imagine Husband will be accepted into all three schools. I have no idea where we'll be going. Honestly (and hilariously), Moscow is sounding pretty good right now (I'd have to cross my fingers and hope I can keep my job, because there's a good chance I'd have to find a new one). I have nightmares of moving and having to work the till in a grocery store. Again. Maybe that's why BYU mailed me a wallet-sized version of my degree. So I could weep over it between shifts...

It drives me nuts not knowing, but patience in all things. Some weird Twilight Zone warp might happen and Husband might get a good-paying job at the place he's interning right now, and grad school won't happen. Which would be weird, because I've spent the last two years thinking I would have to move for two years and my brain can only stretch so many ways. (Did I mention I've never lived outside of Utah?)

Hmm. Guess we'll have to see. (Crossing fingers that God will just pick up the phone and tell us what to do. That would be nice.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Link Blitz

Better late then never, eh? Spent Friday packing up my sister's apartment so she could move into her new house! The front is black, with a black door with blood red glass. It opens onto stairs with a black chandelier and a lavarock fireplace.

Yes, vampires used to live there.

Writer's Potpourri:

3 Things You Can Leave out of Your Query, and 3 Thing You Should Include

Literary Agents and Conflicts of Interest--A Compendium

10 Tools to Keep Your Writing Fresh

How Many Queries to Get an Agent

25 Reasons Readers Will Stop Reading Your Story

3 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Published Adulthood

Other Babble:

The octopus is smarter than you think.

Pikachu's voice actor, live.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Better late then never, eh? Spent Friday packing up my sister's apartment so she could move into her new house! The front is black, with a black door with blood red glass. It opens onto stairs with a black chandelier and a lavarock fireplace.

Yes, vampires used to live there.

Writer's Potpourri:

3 Things You Can Leave out of Your Query, and 3 Thing You Should Include

Literary Agents and Conflicts of Interest--A Compendium

10 Tools to Keep Your Writing Fresh

How Many Queries to Get an Agent

25 Reasons Readers Will Stop Reading Your Story

3 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Published Adulthood

Other Babble:

The octopus is smarter than you think.

Pikachu's voice actor, live.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Synopsis

Manuscript is with beta readers, and the bulk of my query letters have been written. Now, to face the bane of submitting:

The synopsis. (Imagine scary music . . . and cut.)

I'm not the only one who hates writing synopsis, or who feels that cold sinking of the stomach when I look up an agent's guidelines only to find he/she requires one. A query is a teaser, but the synopsis is your entire book in four pages. (And I'm a believer that epic fantasy is especially difficult to weed down to four pages. I would really, really love to see a synopsis for The Game of Thrones.)

But, a match in the darkness, I did find a helpful blog post via Suzie Townsend a little while ago regarding the synopsis; she offers three solid tips for writing one. If you're in that boat, or plan on being in that boat, I recommend checking it out.

Meanwhile I'm helping my sister move and setting up the Christmas tree. ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, guys!

In celebration, here is a CNHolmberg original:

The soy hunt.

Har har. Just humor me. ;)

I am so thankful for my husband, my family, my god, my job, my apartment, my health, and my writing productivity! (And hopefully a future contract....)

What are you thankful for?

Enjoy the holiday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

288,000 Jelly Beans

The beta copy of TDSF is DONE.

Took me three months to write, and three months to revise. :O Definitely the most time I've ever spent on a revision, but definitely worth the effort. So I hope.

So in celebration, here is a music video made out of 288,000 jelly beans. (The song is good, too.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Birth of Link Blitz

So lots of people have cutesy things on their blogs, like "Tip Tuesday" or "Makeup Monday," etc. I, notably, don't.

This blog post has been inspired by Roni Loren's "Fill-Me-in-Friday." Every Friday Roni posts a slew of links that include everything from Twitter etiquette to funny videos. Very useful and entertaining links. Links that I like so much, in fact, that I now follow her blog and her Twitter despite the fact that I don't read erotica (that being what she writes). I actually quite like her.

So here comes the birth of Link Blitz. How long this child will thrive is yet to be determined (and greatly depends on how much Twittering I get done throughout the week).

Let's start small.

Writers' Potpourri:

What NOT to Blog About

e-Book Cover Design Awards: October 2011

Famous Authors' Harshest Rejection Letters

Is Your Idea Strong Enough to Make an Interesting Novel?

Other Babble:

NASA Finds Giant Frozen Lake Beneath Europa

Trailer: The Hunger Games

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Best First Lines of Novels

This is something I'm very much struggling with right now--the first line of my current book. I haven't had much problem with this in the past, but my original first line both broke POV and was passive (which is sad, since when I wrote it I thought it was great.) I want the inciting incident to happen in the first line . . . but after much thought, I'm still empty handed. recently published the "100 Best First Lines of Novels" list--worth checking out. And yes, #1 is "Call me Ishmael."

Some of my favorites:

"They shoot the white girl first." #42, from Tony Morrison's Paradise 

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." #2, from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

"This is the saddest story I've ever heard." #18, from Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier

Though I admit I don't see what's so special about #59...

What are your favorite first lines? Care to share the first line of your current work?

"Teague was still a child when she awoke." -Weirs, chapter 1. (Not current project, but as I said, a first line doesn't exist for TDSF yet :/)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Technical Issues (We All Have Them)

UPDATE: Issues have been resolved. Huzzah.

This is a random side-post, nothing interesting, so please lower the volume on your hopes.

I've had a handful of people tell me Blogger won't allow them to comment on posts, which is sad, because who doesn't like comments? Unfortunately, this problem is not just me being stupid and not checking a box, so if leaving a comment makes you feel amazing (and I know it does), you may have to buckle down and do one of the annoying things listed below (or click here).

1. If you're on Internet Explorer or Firefox, you'll need to enable 3rd party cookies. (Though all of you should be on Chrome. Seriously, why aren't you?)

2. Switch to Chrome.

3. Erase your cookie cache and log out (then back in. Obviously.)

I'm in the process of doing the other techy things, like template backups and whatever Disqus is. AKA I'll probably whine to Nathan and see if I can't get him to do it for me.

If you're super Blogger smart and have thoughts on this, feel free to, er, leave a comment. And if that doesn't work, you can email me at CNHolmberg (at)

To make up for the lameness of this post, here's a picture of a puppy:

   [Removed picture to avoid copyright lawsuits. I recommend Googling the word "puppy."]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Self-editing Switch: When to Turn it Off

Best-selling author Kristen Lamb recently wrote an article entitled, "Editing--Are You Butchering Your Own Creativity?" She emphasizes that no editing should be done on a novel until its rough draft is finished.
We've all done it. Turning off my self-editor was a challenge I fought to destroy, and destroy it I did (as my alpha readers can unfortunately attest to). It's amazing how many more words per sitting you can get down when you're not analyzing them. Kristen explains,
"Editing too early can kill a novel. Yes, editing can be devastating to shorter works, but doesn’t have quite the killing power it possesses when introduced into longer works. In a novel that can span anywhere from 60-120,000 words (depending on genre), editing can be catastrophic if done at the wrong phase.
"If you are writing a novel, you need to leave any kind of edit for once you have finished the entire first draft. Breathe. Get a paper bag. You will be okay." 
Her article is especially useful for anyone struggling with NaNoWriMo (almost the half way point, guys!), so I highly recommend checking it out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing Tips via John Brown

John Brown, author of Servant of a Dark God, has given some of the best panels I've attended at writing conventions. I sat in on a two-hour class of his regarding story construction and it whizzed by, I was so fascinated.

John has a LOT of great advice on his Web site, but I wanted to share my favorite tidbit of his: the story cycle (which, at said class, he was generous enough to print out for all of us).

He goes into detail on this diagram here.

His writing is a bit on the steep side, learning-curve wise, but he knows what he's talking about. He's really worked his way up to being published, so I recommend checking him out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Always Wear Your Rubber Bands

Guess what I get to spend lots of money on.

Yes, I had them when I was 12. But I didn't wear my rubber bands, and my over-cross-bite has given me a lovely case of TMJ.

Yeah, I'm ridiculously excited. Here's to looking like I'm 14 again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pie Day

I have a confession to make.

I don't like pie.

Well, it's not quite that absolute. I don't like most pie. A well-done chocolate silk is a lovely treat.

But I don't like cooked fruit. (Or raw vegetables. But that's another post.)

Apple pie? Peach cobbler? Barbecued pineapple? Blech. No thank you. The taste, the texture . . . so not worth the calories. (Granted, even if your grandmother'e homemade apple pie was 100% guilt free, I still wouldn't touch it. Maybe the vanilla ice cream on top, though.)

Alas, this prejudice against cooked fruit does not stop me from participating in Pie Day (not to be confused with Pi Day on the 14th of March). Every November before Thanksgiving the girls of the family get together to make and freeze pies for the upcoming holidays. This year, Pie Day is November 12th. We make a plethora of pies, depending on what is requested, but it always includes a chocolate pie (hit or miss) and a pumpkin pie (also not a fan)*.

I wanted to try a coconut cream pie, but apparently you can't freeze those. :/ At least there's always fudge at Christmas.

In actual writing/book-related news, I'm on chapter 20 of The Black Prism by Brent Weeks and really liking it so far. I'm actually not crazy for the magic system, but the story line is rather good. Today is also the release day for Brandon Sanderson's The Alloy of Law, his tag-on book to the Mistborn trilogy (which are my favorite books ever).

A little bird told me that the humor in said book is very similar to Warbreaker, which I unfortunately was not a fan of. But I plan on purchasing the hard cover as soon as I'm done with Weeks. :D

*While I'm insulting all your favorite desserts, I'll go ahead and mention that the one time I went to The Cheesecake Factory, I ordered chocolate cake. :O

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Leading Edge Offering Developmental Edits

As you may know, I worked as Production Director at Leading Edge Magazine for two years during my undergrad at BYU. Leading Edge is a semi-professional sci-fi/fantasy journal run by students. Not anything worth including in a cover letter, but shiny enough to be in Writer's Marketplace.

A nice thing about Leading Edge is that every story gets reviewed by three readers, so even if your tale doesn't make it, you get three separate pages of critique letting you know how the story was received and what you could do to make it better. It's very helpful; I've received some of these critiques myself.

Well, now you can get these developmental edits without actually submitting your story, and at a price that's not too shabby--certainly cheaper than hiring a freelancer. It's basically bias-free alpha readers, and worth the look, I think.

The magazine recently posted information on its developmental edits here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Flowers Fail: Creating Tension in Romance

One of the things I love about fantasy is that it has a little bit of everything: a touch of historial here, thriller there, a mystery to be solved. And a lot of fantasy has romance--after all, your characters are people with ~feelings~ too, and a romantic subplot can really kick a story into action (Daughter of the Forest, anyone?)

Linda Yezak recently wrote about creating conflict in romance, because let's face it, love is never easy (and it's boring to read if everything runs smooth as butter, eh?).

First, what conflict won't work for a romance? (Taken from On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels):

  • Fighting, arguing, or disagreeing
  • Failure to communicate
  • The trouble-causing interference of another person
  • A main character's unwillingness to admit that the other person is attractive 

Surprising? Those are the first "conflicts" I would have thought of when creating tension in a relationship. But Yezak claims these problems are too artificial to give any depth to the romance. Instead, she lists sources from which real conflict in romance can stem.

  • "Character/personality differences--from something simple, like he's a morning bird and she's a night owl, to something more complicated, like she's a lady of the evening and he's a man of the cloth.
  • "Situational problems--maybe she's dying, maybe he's married, maybe she lives on the east coast and he lives on the west.
  • "Conflicting goals--he wants to tear the building down and create a parking garage, but she wants to save the neighborhood hangout. She wants her client to have a bigger slice of the pie than his client, he wants to cut her client out entirely.
  • "Conflicting motives--he wants to feed the hungry, she wants a photo-op. She wants to convert the natives, he wants to sell them cheap trinkets.
  • "Conflicting backstories--she had a fairy-tale childhood, he lived on the streets. He graduated college with honors, she has a third-grade education"
Good advice, and a good place to start for that tense-loving in any book. To see Yezak's full blog post for yourself, click here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Review of THE WRITER'S PORTABLE MENTOR on Goodreads

My review of Priscilla Long's The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life is now up on Goodreads. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Halloween Recap (And Those Other Things)

With promised pictures. :D

Halloween was a good one this year--I had one party with the husband, Trunk-or-Treat (trick-or-treating in a parking lot from the trunk of your car), and a big work lunch and mini costume parade. :D We live in a small apartment complex off the main road, so we don't get any trick-or-treaters, so we went to husband's parents' house to watch The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (which I've seen twice in the last week. Love it, recommend it!)

First, we carved pumpkins.

Then went to the party and Trunk-or-Treat, where we used our kid-friendly costumes.

We're a tree, get it?

Then on Halloween, my artsy friend Sara Radice came over at 7:30 AM to do my zombie makeup.

OCZ is one of my work's competitors, so
 technically I'm an OCZ employee who got
 maimed by zombies on her way to work.

And while we're on the topic of zombies, here's some shots from the Undead Run we did October 15th. Try not to swoon over how good-looking my husband is.

This is my zombie pimp. Not my husband. ;)

And finally, my nerd glasses came in yesterday.

And there you go. This may be the largest file-sized blog I've ever posted here. Blogger, forgive me. :D

(Also, I earned two stars today. Wooo~)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And That is Why We Have Backups

So yesterday I wonked out my flash drive. I accidentally "ejected" the drive while I still had my MS open. Usually, my Mac just tells me I can't eject the drive because Microsoft Word is using it, but that time the Mac (name Blanche) didn't say anything. So I kept working, saving, and had a happy day.

Today, my flash drive decided that my MS was now corrupted and it refused to open it. Fortunately, I had a backup. Yet placing that backup on my flash drive still wouldn't let me open it. But once I renamed it, all was hunky-dory.

So if you don't have backups of your work, make some! I keep my current work on a flash drive (named Molly), a backup in a folder on my desktop, and then I occasionally email my current manuscript to myself to be kept in a folder on Gmail. Takes five seconds.

Backups for the win.

(In other news, my nerd glasses arrived yesterday. And then I found out my pink ones were no longer made. I've sent some panicked emails to the company to see if there are any in backstock, because I must have those pink glasses.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

My New Star Chart

My husband is in his last year of his undergrad, and therefore has been suffering senioritis for several weeks. Alas, with midterms and the elusive GRE looming over his head, he needed to study even more than usual. But, as is the case with senioritis, he couldn't find the motivation.

In comes the star chart. Yes, he is a grown man, but earning stars for ever 30 minutes of studying gave him the battery he needed to conquer his classes. The final prize?

A Nerf gun.

Meanwhile I've been working on getting these prose edits done. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book, but to meet my goal, I need to get hammering. I must focus, really put effort into my sentences instead of glossing over them in my hurry. So my husband decided I too needed a star chart--one star for every 1,000 words I edit. 60 of these stars will earn my a wall-hanging jewelry holder, which I've coveted from multiple sellers on Etsy for some time.

Must. Earn. Stars.

What's your motivation for writing?

(Also, Happy Halloween!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

The 1,100-year Plane Ride

This is an amazing video I picked up from Lou Anders's blog. It started to really hurt my brain about half-way through, but worth the watch!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween (And Corresponding Costumes)

Halloween is potentially the second best holiday of the year. Especially back when kids could go trick-or-treating without being kidnapped/going to the local military base to have their candy scanned for razors.

But while the candy is grand, the costumes are what make the holiday worth celebrating. I've had some RAD* costumes, namely because I have a seamstress mother and a very hands-on father (who would have made me an AT-AT costume this year, had it been more party-functional). In first grade my mom made me a yellow Power Ranger costume, and my dad vacuum-formed a mask for it. Third grade I was Medusa--only time in my life I won two costume awards. (And yes, it took a long time for mom to clip all those snake barrettes into my hair. But not as long as it took her to sew each individual strand of yarn into my sheepdog costume the following year.)

Smash Brothers, anyone?
Last year, as you may remember, Husband and I dressed up as the Yip Yip Aliens from Sesame Street. The year before my dad made me an awesome cardboard head to go with my Mr. Game and Watch costume.

This year I have two costumes. My turning-zombie-dressed-as-a-work-competitor costume will certainly not go over well at my church's trunk-or-treat, so Husband and I brainstormed for an alternative for our kid-friendly events.

Me: I know! I'll dress in all green, and you'll dress in all brown--
Husband: And we'll go as a tree!
Me: ...I was thinking poo on a lawn, but tree is good!

So that's the backup costume. Drawing a heart with our initials in chalk on Jordan's shirt (carving in a trunk, har har), and I'm stapling leaves to my shirt and bobbi-pinning them into my hair. Then I ride on his shoulders and voila, we're a Ent.**

Pictures to follow, of course.

So, are you celebrating Halloween this year? (As you should?) What are you dressing up as? What was your most killer costume as a kid?

*Braggy McBrag brag.
**But in all actuality, we're just an awkward tree.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meredith's Barnes "AskAgent" Opportunities

Meredith Barnes, an agent with Lowenstein Associates, often holds an "AskAgent" Q&A on her blog. Post a question, get an answer. She's currently done eight of these, and even if you don't hold any confusion regarding agents and the publishing industry, just reading through the comments can prove very helpful.

Case and point: someone asked Meredith how they can get the most out of writing conferences. This was Meredith's reply:

"Ooh!! Conference question!!

"Get the most out of conferences by:
1. Researching beforehand. Know which editors and agents you want to meet and then go and *meet* them. Don't pitch. Just talk.

"2. In formal pitch sessions, BRING THE FOLLOWING for all editors/agents you'll be pitching:
-First 5 pages

"Why? Well, writing is not a spoken art form. Your query is more than likely tighter and stronger than your verbal pitch, no matter how hard you work on it. Have these materials ready in case your pitch bombs or you just want to ask the ed/agent to look at the query--can you say invaluable free advice?? Honestly, the ed/agent will probably be more comfortable reading the query than taking your pitch!! This is totally permissible in lieu of pitching verbally.

"As for the rest (synopsis, 5 pages) that's just in case they fall in love with your pitch/query and want to see more then and there. :)

"3. Stop talking. If you do choose to pitch verbally, say two sentences MAX and stop talking. The ed/agent will immediately ask you questions (OK, how old is so-and-so) that will give them the info they want, not what you think they want. The info they ask you for will give you insight into how an ed/agent reads and considers a pitch, which will improve your query.

"4. Be shrewd about the panels, etc you go to.

"5. Talk to the other writers!! I dare you to leave that conference with two new Beta Readers.

"6. Always, ALWAYS have a contact-info business-card-type thing with you."

Her next AskAgent splurge will be soon--check her blog and Twitter--she updates often.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Five Things You Should Never Do in an Epic Fantasy

Shaun Farrell recently guest posted on Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing. He talked about five things you should never do in epic fantasy. At first they seem small, until you realize you do every single one. Number one on his list especially caught my attention:

"Do not put baled hay into a world that has no had its Industrial Revolution."

I know for a fact I mentioned a bale in chapter one earlier this week. Time to revise.

He explains each concept fairly well, so I recommend reading it. (Most apply to historical fiction, too.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nerd Glasses

Sometimes you just need a good pair of nerd glasses.

After an interesting drive in the dark to Halloween Express for some blood spray and face crayons, I decided it was time to call my optometrist.

I'd like to mention that my optometrist is a little drop-happy. Drops for everything. The first drops numbed my eyes. SO WEIRD. So unpleasant. Then they poke you with this stick thinger. Why? I'm not sure. Then the dilating drops. Makes me look like one of those demons from Supernatural.

Anyway, turns out my eyes have mutually agreed to fail by two increments,* so I have to order new glasses. I get my glasses from of selection, great prices, and so far they haven't screwed anything up.

I am, of course, reordering my signature pink frames. But I've had this urge for a good pair of nerd glasses lately, so I'm ordering those as well (good excuse as any). Pictures to follow.**

*Fortunately for me I'm near-sighted and don't need correction for the computer, thus my writing shan't be disturbed during this traumatizing event.
**I'm a little antsy, given that I can't actually try these glasses on before I purchase them. But we shall see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BLACKDOG by K. V. Johansen

The long awaited review of Blackdog, by K. V. Johansen.

Overall, I loved this book. The characters were fantastic, the setting excellent, the plot fluid and the prose beautiful. The ideas behind the story are very original, and I love that in a fantasy.

The story starts when a wizard named Tamghat attacks the temple of mortal-born goddess Attalissa, who is only eight years old and hasn't come into her powers yet. She's protected by a demon called Blackdog, who has possessed the bodies of different male hosts over the millennia, always at her side. Tamghat is too strong, and Attalissa must flee. But the further Attalissa gets from the temple and her lake, the weaker she becomes, and the Blackdog suffers fatal injuries to help her escape.

Cue Holla-Sayan, a caraveener of a completely different race, culture, and god, who can't walk by a dying girl and her dog on the side of the road without lending a hand. Unfortunately for him, the Blackdog bites, making him the new host.

That's where the story starts, and it grows into a true epic. There were characters and subplots in the story that I hadn't expected--the tale is much larger than the back cover would have you believe. Gods seem to be the new thing in fantasies nowadays, but Johansen does hers very, very well. Each one is interesting, especially Narva. (Want to know why? Read the book!)

Again, there wasn't a single character I didn't like (other than the bad guy, but I'm not supposed to like him, right?). Characters drive a story, and these ones drove it home for me. 

There were a few downsides to the book. Johansen, on occasion, can get very vague with her descriptions to the point where I have to re-read everything again to try to understand what's going on. This happened in a crucial scene toward the end of the novel, and it left me confused. The ending also surprised me--not the ending I expected, not the champion I wanted. But the resolution satisfied me.

Because of that, I give this book 4.5 stars instead of five. I definitely recommend it to any lover of fantasy. It's very smart reading and tasteful where it needs to be. There's always a new piece of story to surprise you. All-in-all, this is one of the best books I've read in a while.

Editor Kristy Stewart also reviewed this book, if you want a second opinion on it. ;)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Amazing Race?

My dad is a HUGE fan of CBS's The Amazing Race. He watches it every Sunday.

I like the Amazing Race a lot,* though I admit I don't always stay on top of it (I try to limit my TV watching). Actually, everyone in my family enjoys the show but my mother. So when my dad said, "Hey Honey, I want to apply for The Amazing Race!" she promptly turned him down.

"We don't need you embarrassing us," she said.

So I get the call. The your-my-daughter-and-I'm-living-vicariously-through-you call.

"She'll never let me," my dad says in tears (this is exaggerated, of course). "You must go in my place!"

"But I've never even been on a plane."

"Go! Go forth my child! Go with Husband!"

Before I can talk to Husband, one of my younger sisters calls me up and tells me I absolutely MUST audition with her.

"You know I can't drive a stick, right?"

She retorts, "Like our video will even get picked anyway."

"Then why audition?"

"Do it. FOR DAD."

So despite the fact that I bicker with this sister more than any other member of my family (or any other person on earth, I think), and that I don't know how airports work, and regardless of the fact that I've never lived outside of Utah and the most exotic place I've ever been to is Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Sister and I are going to put together an audition tape for The Amazing Race on our father's behalf.

Tremendous humor, right there.

*Go Cowboys!

Friday, October 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo: The Binge and Purge of Wannabe Writers

NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month--is starting in just a few weeks. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (or just "NaNo") challenges would-be authors to write an entire novel in a month, with a goal of 50,000 words. (Which is only 1/3 of a novel if you're writing epic fantasy. Just saying.)

I've had friends who have committed to NaNo, sometimes triumphing, sometimes quitting half-way through. Writing 50k words in a month is quite a feat, and props to anyone who succeeds!

I, personally, have never participated in NaNo, and I never plan to. It's not my cup of tea. My philosophy is that, if you want to write a book, write one. Now. Don't wait until November. Daily word counts are what get novels finished, not 30-day Blitzkriegs.

Not to say NaNoWriMo isn't useful. It helps a lot of new writers get off on the right foot. I think the only book my friend Kossie ever finished was her NaNo novel. If you need social pressure to get the juices flowing, sign up--the site has all sorts of knickknacks to keep you writing and keep you motivated. (Just make sure you do the "binging" now, or you'll get serious writer's block. Author Cameron Chapman shares some NaNo advice in his new survival guide.)

What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo, and are you participating this year?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How About Them Apples, Pastor?

Just had to share. ;)

Cartoon from

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Closing in on the Prose Revision

After my big scene changes and rewrites, the rest of my revisions have gone surprisingly quick--I'll be able to start on prose by the end of the week! Prose will take a lot of time and a lot of patience, but I'm eager to do it. To see if I really can morph my mediocre words into something publishable.

I read more of The Writer's Portable Mentor last night. Priscilla Long talks about making setting work double-duty. How can you describe the setting and have it reflect on the character? She gives some great examples, which I can't type up as I don't have the book with me. But one shows a dirty kitchen, the character cooking on a hot plate--the other shows a dining room with roses on the tablecloth and candlesticks. The first belonged to a convict, the second to a well-to-do woman.

This is something I especially want to focus on in chapter one. How can I show who Kylah is through his setting? How can I use the descriptions of his village to present his culture, and to show he's an outcast? I really want to up the ante on his social rejection.

And yes, I'll be sending out those annoying beta reader emails shortly. ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Magic Systems

Image from
A recent writing group and David Farland's last Author Advisory conference call with Brandon Sanderson has had me thinking about magic systems. I love magic systems; I think the one in the Mistborn books is the best magic system of all time.*

For those who don't know, Brandon Sanderson has two "laws" relating to magic systems that I think every fantasy writer should take into consideration:

SANDERSON'S FIRST LAW OF MAGICS: An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

SANDERSON'S SECOND LAW OF MAGICS: A magic system's limitations are more important than its powers.

Click the links for more information!

There's a lot of good fantasy that doesn't use magic at all--George R. R. Martin's books, for example--but as a reader, I eat this stuff up. I've based nearly every story I've written around a magic system. Some very heavily (like CSH*), some more lightly (Like TDSF, which has three small magic systems, but they're not the focal point of the story.)

I'm really excited for the magic system in my next novel (see "Untitled" in the sidebar), which I've been told is a little . . . strange. But that can be a good thing, right? ;)

What are your thoughts on magic systems? If you're a writer, what have you used for one?

*Granted, I have not read WoT--I hear its system is pretty good, too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Meditation (And a Blog Award)

I read something interesting on Twitter this week--an article stating the reasons why writers should meditate.

Meditation. Interesting. Never considered it.

"Willpower, discipline, and good old-fashioned hard wrk may squeeze writing out of you but to produce words effortlessly, to connect with the joy and optimism and inspiration which makes it all worthwhile, to be as good as you can be, you need to know how to nurture abstraction and cultivate creative mind states."

Something I want to try. My brain is a mess of thoughts, but even if I could meditate and focus on one story (instead of clearing my head, cheating, I know), I think I would benefit. To be honest, I writing scenes was in college because during boring classes I would just think about them, ponder what the characters could do and how they would do it, so by the time I sat down to write, I knew everything that needed to happen. I don't have that time nowdays.

In other news, I got my first blogging award. Woooo.

Cue me staring at it and thinking, "Okay, now what?" XD

Thank you, Erin, for thinking of me. These remind me a little of chain letters, ha, but I will do the full stint if only for good karma.

This blog award requires seven random facts, so here goes.

1. I have a small reputation at work as being a grammar Nazi.
2. I really want a dog.
3. All of my sisters have boy names.
4. My car's name is Gumphrey. He's metrosexual.
5. I had a crush on my husband for six years before he asked me out.
6. The first, horrendous book I ever started was called "Kaiku and the Ruby Necklace" and was a total ripoff of my favorite anime at the time. (I was 13.)
7. I played the French horn for two years in high school.

Now I pass this to five people. Consider this your notification. ;)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Chainmail Bikini: Female Armor Sucks

I noticed how just about all the art provided for the WorldCon progress reports, while fantastically drawn, presented women in little more than bikinis, including the warrior-types. My friend Adam recently posted his thoughts on such things, along with this amazing video, which sums it up rather beautifully:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Each Line a Poem

Also known as, "The Post Where I Revert Back into an English Major"*

Friday I came home to see The Writer's Portable Mentor in my mailbox--it shipped faster than I had expected! Unable to resist, I've already cracked it open. I've never had a writing book that focused so much on prose, but this is exactly what I need.

Priscilla Long takes a great deal of space explaining the music and poetry of words--their alliteration, the sound of their vowels, their syllables. In a way, each sentence in a work is a poem, where each word is carefully thought out and chosen. There's a lot of work that goes into prose revision--it's exciting and terribly frightening at the same time.

The pen is BLUE.
She also talks about concrete words. I learned about concrete descriptions in high school, but she takes it a step further. Name the roads, tell the reader what kind of tree it is. Use the senses--not just "she smelled" or "he heard," but describe things with nouns that can be perceived.

Food for thought, surely. As an example, I'm including a passage from The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien--in part because Long uses it as an example of excellent prose, and in part because I actually own this book, and agree that the writing is impeccable.

They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself--Vietnam, the place, the soil--a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus, all of it, they carried gravity. They moved like mules. (p.14-15)

*And yes, I did major in English (though I rather preferred my minor).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My First Ever Giveaway Win

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I've been retweeting information about Andrea Hurst's AUTHORONOMICS summer contest. It ended on the 23rd, and lo and behold, I won one of their prizes. :D

I'm really excited about the prize, which is the book, The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long. It has really good reviews, and looking through its contents, I think it's just the advice I'm looking for. So grateful! (I also got Robert McKee's Story out from the library, but Blackdog* is taking up all my reading time right now.) I'll be sure to review it once it's up in my queue.

Going Halloween-shop trolling with my friend Sara, hoping I can find some good zombie stuff/decapitated heads/free-floating spines. Zombies aren't original, but hopefully if I get gross enough I can still win a prize at my work party...

*I am a very, very slow reader. I also have a crush on Holla-Sayan.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today I Learned What a Cantilever Is.

I recently rewrote a scene in my story that details an enormous tower jutting up from the city. I have diagrams of this tower, its specs, and a clear image in my mind of what it looks like, but whilst writing I discovered that I have no idea what its varying parts were called.

Stall everything. What does one call this arm-thingy that juts out from the body? A buttress? What is a buttress,* anyway? And what are the chances of an architect reading this and seeing the flaws in my terminology?

Honestly, I don't think I've ever written a story, long or short, that didn't require me to look up some architectural term or another. But let the goose chase end. I discovered this site today. It took me in, comforted me, and said, "Charlie, dear, it's a cantilever. Everything is going to be okay."

Now, it's not the most extensive dictionary of architecture out there, but when I ctrl+found "beam," it gave me six options, and I found precisely what I was looking for.
A cantilever from AMC Industries.

Anything in particular you use for architectural terms in your writing?

*The word "buttress" makes me think of a certain scene from Lost in Austen, which is of the comical sort. That whole mini-series is amazing. If you haven't seen it, I demand you do so (though if you're unfamiliar with the workings of Pride and Prejudice, it won't be nearly as grand.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is My Novel Right Now

Image from

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writers of the Future with Brad R. Torgersen

When I began thinking of what posts fit into the SHINEonline spectrum—what would really be interesting for this blog—Brad R. Torgersen’s name sprang to mind. Brad won the Writers of the Future contest fall 2009, and his career has rocketed from there. He’s very gracious, and especially helpful to new writers. I was thrilled when he agreed to talk about his experience with Writers of the Future on this blog.

Ladies and gents, I give you Brad R. Torgersen.

Q: When did you decide to try your hand at the Writers of the Future contest?

A: Prior to 2006, I didn't pay attention to writing contests. But when Dean Wesley Smith (who is a Contest judge now, for Writers of the Future) announced that Pocketbooks would be discontinuing its Strange New Worlds anthologies, he simultaneously encouraged those of us who'd been submitting stories to Strange New Worlds to begin entering Writers of the Future instead. It's where Dean himself had gotten his start, and it's where a heap load of other professionals also got their start too. So, I went to the Web site, read through the rules, and submitted my first story to the Contest in the fall of 2007.

Q: How many times did you enter, and how did you fair?

A: If memory serves, I got three successive Honorable Mention certificates, then my first Finalist (which did not win), followed by a fourth Honorable Mention, then my second Finalist, "Exanastasis," which is the story that won me a spot in Writers of the Future XXVI. I entered for the first time in the Fall of 2007, and found out I'd won in the Fall of 2009, so it was a two-year effort. All of my Honorable Mention stories were stories I'd previously written and sent around to different markets, and which I just happened to send to the Contest because it's what I had on hand at the time. My two Finalists? Both of them were written specifically with the Contest in mind—having purchased and read a handful of the Contest anthologies, to get a better feel for what worked with the judges. My non-winner, "Outbound," went on to be published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, eventually winning that magazine's Readers' Choice Award for the category of novelette, so you might say that *both* stories won! Just in different places.

Q: How did you react when you found out you had finally won?

A: It had already been 17 years of seemingly fruitless effort, when Contest Administrator Joni Labaqui called me in November 2009 with the news. I'd already had one Finalist fail, so when I got word that I had another Finalist in the running for the same volume, I was prepared for the worst. Only, surprisingly, the worst didn't come. I won! Externally, I was fairly calm. I happened to take the call while in the drive-through lane at a Carl's Jr. restaurant, so I was talking to Joni and ordering food at the same time. If I was a bit disappointed by placement—third place—that feeling lasted for a fraction of a second. Then I realized that I was FINALLY going to be published professionally. Oh. My. Heck. It had been my dream, since I was 18 years old, to become a professionally published author, and after 138 rejections and roughly 870,000 unpublished words, I was finally going to have my day in the proverbial sun. Returning to my desk at work, I let my burger and onion rings cool while I blitz-mailed everyone in the universe about the news. I literally couldn't believe it! Wow! The excitement and satisfaction was still strong in my heart almost a year later when I went to the Contest workshop and gala in 2010. It was THAT big of a deal for me.

A: What opportunities has winning this contest opened up to you?

Q: It's almost easier to ask, what opportunity HASN'T the Contest opened up for me? My two Finalists together have netted me thousands of dollars, two awards, a secure spot as a regular in one of the top three science fiction magazines in the English language, and the attention of and cordial relationships with many different professional writers who are all judges with the Contest. I have collaborated several times with Hugo and Nebula award winner (and Contest judge) Mike Resnick, and I've also been published in Orson Scott Card's online magazine, Intergalactic Medicine Show. I've managed to attract the interest of a top agent, and one of the top science fiction book publishers to boot. All of this in the two years since winning. Not every Contest winner can have that kind of success right out of the gate. In hindsight, I was already laying the groundwork by writing as much as I was and submitting it to the various short fiction market editors before I won. Getting the win just knocked me up above the horizon, and suddenly very good things began to happen for me in the business, very quickly. I took the ball, and I ran with it.

Q: Tell us about your winning story, “Exanastasis.”

A: Put simply, "Exanastasis," which is Greek for "resurrection," is about a man who has literally lost everything, and suddenly gets to have back the one thing he wanted most of all. Only, that thing is broken. More elaborately, it's a story about a husband and wife, estranged by millennia and the terrible events that have transpired, who are then forced to re-learn the trick of living with and loving each other all over again. It's a story about the end of the world. It's a story about finding out that maybe you're not who you always thought you were. It's a story about starting over. And, it's a story about artificial intelligences ruling and defending Earth, all from their secret redoubt on the Moon. And if that's not enough to whet your interest... well, there's eleven other very, very good stories in Writers of the Future XXVI that probably will!

Q: What plans do you have for your future career in writing?

A: More stories in Analog, if editor Stan Schmidt will let me. I have the cover story for the December 2011 issue, with a Bob Eggleton painting no less(!!) More stories in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, too. And novels. Definitely novels. I have a very open door with one novel house in particular, and if I can turn in a quality manuscript in the next few months, I believe my chances are pretty good of having a book or book(s) coming out within a year or two. Ultimately, I want to make writing my full-time job. But I'm not prepared to plunge my family into poverty. So, I'm learning how to write a lot while also carrying on with both my civilian job and my U.S. Army job. It doesn't leave me a lot of spare time. I've had to sacrifice certain things to make room for the word count. I think in a few years, when the house is paid off and I have some serious money in the bank, it might be time to talk about becoming a full-time freelancer. But not yet. Oh no, not yet. I'm at Step C. I have a long way to go to get to Step Z.

Q: Any advice, tips, or tricks you can offer other aspiring writers, especially those hoping to win Writers of the Future themselves?

A: I am a broken record about this, but the best possible “homework” anyone can do, if they're trying to win Writers of the Future, is buy recent copies of the Contest anthology. Read the books, cover to cover. Pick out the two or three stories you really, really like. You won't like them all. You may not even like half of them. Disregard which stories placed where. Only pay attention to the ones that you really, truly enjoyed. That made you say, gosh, that was a good story, I liked that one! Focus, when you sit down to write your own stories, on how those two or three extraordinary stories made you feel. And why. And how can you try to bring some of that to your own work. Was it the amazing or rich setting? The characters and the journey they take? Was it the wrenching dilemmas they faced? Something else? Only you will know. These will be your keys to giving your own fiction the "oomph" that can get you over the top, and make you a winner. And this will be true at other markets and with other editors, too. Pay attention to what you like, when you like it, and why, and bring that to your own work. Beyond that, just make sure to write often, try to write new work more than re-writing something endlessly, and do try to remember that this is supposed to be fun, too?

Full-time nerd by day, part-time soldier by weekend, and fictioneer by night. Read more about Brad R. Torgersen here.