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New Editions, New Covers!

New Editions, New Covers!

The Accidental Turn Series and The Skylark’s Saga are getting a refresh!

Can you believe it’s nearly ten years since the first book in The Accidental Turn series was published? Yeah, me either!

With 2024 just a few months away, I’ve been working with Ruthanne Reid (indie author and cover designer extraordinaire) to give both series a nice, new set of covers. The novels are currently unavailable to purchase, as they’re still getting their revamped interiors worked on, but you can read samples of each book for free on Wattpad.

THE ACCIDENTAL TURN SERIES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book follows Pip, who is pulled against her will into the epic fantasy novel series she’s loved since she was a teenager. However, the world is darker, and far more dangerous than she could have ever predicted, especially when it turns out the hero is a much bigger misogynistic ass than she knew.  Pip knows how to circumnavigate the Hero’s Journey and the pitfalls and loopholes of this particular world – but what will happen to her beloved characters outside of the comfort of the fantasy they were written for? And what happens when it’s not the male-power-fantasy hero, but the hero’s overlooked and bullied little brother who proves to be her biggest champion?

THE SKYLARK’S SAGA

Book cover - orange to black ombre, with gold corners and a gold feather and gogles.book cover - blue to black ombre, with gold organic-styled corners and a gold crown and rose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Saskwyan flight mechanic with uncanny luck, seventeen-year-old Robin Arianhod grew up in the shadow of a decade-long war. But the skies are stalked by the Coyote—a ruthless Klonn pilot who picks off crippled airships and retreating soldiers. And as the only person to have survived an aerial dance with Saskwya’s greatest scourge, Robin has earned his attention.

As a Pilot, Robin is good. But the Coyote is better. When he shoots her down and takes her prisoner, Robin finds herself locked into a new kind of dance. The possibility of genuine affection from a man who should be her enemy has left her with a choice: accept the Coyote’s offer of freedom and romance in exchange for repairing a strange rocket pack that could spell Saskwya’s defeat, but become a traitor to her county. Or betray her own heart and escape. If she takes the rocket pack and flees, she could end the war from the inside.

JM FreyNew Editions, New Covers!
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: The Value of Fanfiction

WORDS FOR WRITERS: The Value of Fanfiction

There’s been a lot of chatter on social media these last few weeks, recycling that trashy, self-aggrandizing, tired old “hot take” that reading and writing fanfiction is somehow bad for you as a writer.

 

Before we go any further, let me give a clear and definitive answer to this take:

Middle Finger on Google Android 11.0 December 2020 Feature Drop

No, reading and writing fanfiction will not make you and does not make you a bad reader or writer.

 

Period.

 

Why? Here’s the TL;DR version:

 

  • Reading and Writing, any kind of reading and writing, will make you a better reader and writer. And it’s enjoyable, to boot.
  • Fanfiction has been around as long as Original Fiction, so we’d know if there was any negative impact by now (spoiler alert: there isn’t.)
  • Practice is Practice, so matter what medium you get that practice in.
  • Comprehending and writing fanfiction is harder than writing original fiction because you have to hold the Source Media Text in your head at the same time as you’re reading/writing a different story. It improves your understanding of storytelling.
  • No hobby, no matter what it is, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else or yourself, is bad. And that goes double for if you decide to keep it a hobby. Not every fanfic writer wants to write original fiction, and that’s just fine. Not every hobby has to be monetized.

 

Okay. But what do they mean by “fanfiction”?

 

“Fanfiction is fictional writing written by fans, commonly of an existing work of fiction. The author uses copyrighted characters, settings, or other intellectual properties from the original creator as a basis for their writing.”– Wikipedia

 

Basically – it’s when you take elements (setting, characters, major themes or ideas) of a Media Text (a novel, a movie, a podcast, a comic, etc.) and create a different story with those elements. You can write a missing scene, or an extended episode, or a whole new adventure for the characters of the Media Text. You can even crossover or fuse multiple Media Texts, or specific elements, to create a whole new understanding of the characters or their worlds.

 

Similar to fanfic, you can also create fanart, fancomics, or fansongs (“filk”), fancostumes (“cosplay”), and fanfilms. These are called Fanworks or Fancrafts.

 

Fanfiction is usually posted to online forums, journals, blogs, or story archives and shared for free among the public. Before the advent of the internet, fanfiction was often printed or typed, and hand-copied using photocopiers or ditto machines, and distributed for free (or for a small administration fee to cover materials) among fans at conventions, or through mail-order booklets (“zines”).

 

Fanfiction has existed pretty much since the beginning of storytelling (A Thousand and One Nights, Robin Hood, and King Arthur all have different elements attributed to them by different authors retelling, twisting, adding to, or changing the stories; there’s no single-origin author of those tales.)

 

There are billions on billions of fanfics out there in the world—and while a majority of them are romance stories, there are also adventures, comedies, dramas, thrillers, stories based on case files, stories about the emotional connection between characters when one is hurt and the other must care for them, historical retellings, etc. There are also stories for every age range and taste, though be sure to take heed of the tags, trigger warnings, and age range warnings as your browse the archives and digital libraries.

 

As a reader, it’s your responsibility to curate your experience online.

 

So why are people so afraid or derisive of fanfic?

 

People who are hard on fanfic say that…

 

  • It sucks.
    • Well of course it sucks! As it’s a low-stakes and easy way to try out creative writing for the first time, the majority of fanfiction is overwhelmingly written by new and young writers. Everything you do when you first try it sucks a little bit. I’m sure no figure skater was able to immediately land perfect triple axels ten minutes after they strap on the skates for the first time in their lives. No knitter has ever made a flawlessly perfect jumper on their first try. No mathematician has ever broken the code to send a rocket into space after having just been taught elementary-school multiplication. So why on earth do people think that new writers don’t need to practice? I can promise you that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first rap was probably pretty shaky.
  • It’s lazy or it’s cheating.
    • Listen, anyone who tells you that writing anything is lazy clearly has not sat down and tried to write anything. Writing is tedious. It is It takes hours, and hours, and hours to get anything on the page, and then once it’s on the page you have to go back and edit it. UGH. There is nothing about being a writer—even a fanfic writer—that is lazy.
    • And anyone who tells you that trying to tell a fresh, new story within the limits and confines of a pre-existing world and have it make sense is cheating, then they have no freaking clue how hard it is to be creative with that kind of limitation placed on you. It’s harder when you have a set of rules you need to follow. What you do come up with is often extremely interesting and creative because of those limitations, not in spite of them.
    • The argument that using pre-made characters, settings, tropes, and worlds to make up a new story is cheating is also complete bunk. Do those same people also expect hockey players to whittle and plane themselves a whole new hockey stick from scratch before each game? No, of course not. And yeah, a baker can grow all their own wheat, grind the flour, raise the chickens and cows so they can get eggs and milk, distill the vanilla, etc. Or a baker can buy a box mix. Either way, you get a cake at the end of the process. Whether you write fanfic or original fiction, you still get a story at the end of the process.
  • It makes you a worse
    • * annoying buzzer noise * Practicing anything does not make you worse at it. And reading stories that are not edited, expertly crafted, or “high art” will also not indoctrinate you into being a bad writer. If anything, figuring out why you don’t like a specific story, trope, or writing style is actually a great way to learn what kind of writer you want to be, and to learn different methods of constructing sentences, creating images, and telling tales. Or you know, just how much spelling and grammar matter.
  • It’s not highbrow or thoughtful enough.
    • Sometimes stories are allowed to be just comfort food. Not every book or story you read has to be haute cuisine or boringly nutritious. You are allowed to read stories because they’re exciting, or swoony, or funny, or just because you like Anyone who says differently is a snob and worth ignoring. (Besides, fun silly stories can also be packed with meaning and lessons—I mean, hello, Terry Prachett, anyone?)
  • It makes you waste all your time on writing that can’t be monetized.
    • No time is wasted if you spend it doing something that brings you joy. Not every hobby needs to be a money-maker and not everyone wants to be a professional writer. You are allowed to write, and read, fanfic just for the fun of it.
  • It’s theft.
    • According to Fair Use Law, it’s not. As long as the fanfic writer (or artist, cosplayer, etc.) is not making money on their creation that directly impacts or cuts into the original creator’s profit, or is not repackaging/plagiarizing the original Media Text and profiting off it’s resale, then Fan Works are completely legal. So there.

 

How, exactly, does fanfic make you a better writer?

 

Fanfiction…

 

  • teaches you to finish what you start.
    • The joy of being able to share your fic, either as you’re writing it, or afterward, is a big motivating factor for a lot of people. They finish because they get immediate feedback on it from their readers and followers. Lots of people have ideas for books, but how many of them do you know have actually sat down and written the whole thing?
    • Fanfic is also low-stakes; there’s nothing riding on whether you finish something or not, so you have to inspire yourself to get there without the outside (potentially negative) motivation of deadline or a failing grade if you don’t get the story finished. You end up learning how to motivate yourself.
    • Fanfic has no rules, so you write as much or as little as you want, stop wherever you think is a good place to end the story, write it out of order, or go back and write as many sequels or prequels as you like. Again, it’s totally low-stakes and is meant to be for fun, so you can noodle around with what it means to write a “whole” story and “complete” it, which teaches you how you like to write, and how you like to find your way to the finish line.
  • teaches you story structure.
    • Before you can sit down and write a story based on one of your favorite Media Texts, you’re likely to spend a lot of time consuming that text passively, or studying it actively. Either way, you’re absorbing how and why Media Text structures the stories it tells, and are learning how to structure your own from that.
    • Once you’re comfortable with the story structure the Media Text you’re working in is told, you’ll probably start experimenting with different ways stories can be told, and find the versions you like to work with best.
  • teaches you how to write characters consistently.
    • Fanfic is really hard because not only do you have to write your fave characters in a way that moves the story along, but they have to be recognizable as those fave characters.
    • This means you have to figure out their body language, verbal and physical tics, their motivations and they way the handle a crisis (fight, flight, or fawn?), and then make up the details you may need for your story that you may never see on screen/the page, like how they take their eggs or what their fave shampoo is, based on what you already know about them. That takes some top-notch detective work and character understanding to pull off.
    • Once you know how to do that, just making up a whole person yourself for original fiction is a breeze.
  • Teaches you how to hear and mimic a character/narrator voice.
    • You have to pay close attention to how an actor speaks, or how a character’s speech patterns, dialect, work choice, etc. is reflected on the page in order to be consistent in your story.
    • And all of this, in turn, teaches you how to build one for yourself.
    • I have a whole series of articles here about building a narrative voice, if you want to read more on constructing an original voice for your narrator.
  • Teaches you how to create or recreate a setting.
    • Again, like achieving character consistency, or mimicking a character or narrative voice, it takes work and paying attention in order to re-create a setting, time period, or geographical region in a fanfic—and if you’re taking your characters somewhere new, your readers will expect that setting to be equally rich as the one the Media Text is based in.
    • Which, again, teaches you how to then go and build an original one for yourself.
  • teaches how to take critique.
    • Professional writing is not a solitary pursuit. In fact, most writing is not entirely the work of an author alone. Like professional authors work with editors, critique partners, and proofreaders, some fanfiction writers will sometimes work with beta-readers or editors as well. This are friends or fanfic colleagues who offer to read your fanfic and point out plot, character, consistency, or story structure errors, or who offer to correct spelling and grammar errors. This is a great way to practice working with editors if you decide to pursue a professional career, and also a great way to make friends and strengthen your community and skill set if you don’t.
    • Many fanfic sites offer readers the opportunity to leave a comment on a fic, rather like a reviewer can leave a review on GoodReads or Amazon, or any other online store or blog, for a novel they’ve read. Sometimes these comments/reviews are 5 star and enthusiastic! Sometimes they are… not. The exact opposite in fact. As you get comments on your fanfic, and learn to ignore the ones that are just mean rather than usefully critical, you gain the Very Important Skill of learning to resist firing back at bad comments or reviews, while enjoying the good ones. It also teaches you how to ignore drama or haters.
  • Teaches you how to exist within a like-minded community.
    • While the actual writing part of writing is solitary and sometimes tedious, nothing is ever published into a vacuum, whether it be fanfiction or original. Besides your editing/critique/beta reader group, you will also likely develop friendships, a support network, and mutuals. It’s always great to uplift, support, cheer on, and celebrate one another’s accomplishments and victories, whether the writing is fanfic or original.
  • Teaches you that it’s okay to write about things important to you, or your own identity.
    • You can change a characters ethnicity, cultural background, sexuality, religion, or disabilities to match yours, and talk about your lived life through the megaphone of that character. Or, you can insert original characters based on you, your desires, and experiences.
    • Once you’re comfortable writing in your #ownvoice in fanfic, you can approach it in original fiction, if you like.
    • See my article titled Your Voice Is Valid for more on this.

 

What if I want to be a professional writer?

 

Notice how I didn’t say “real writer”. Any writer who writes any kind of story is a ‘real’ writer. I mean, pinch yourself—you’re real, right? The difference is actually between being an “amateur” writer (a hobbyist who does not write for pay), and a “professional” (who is paid for their writing). Just because you only play shinny on the street with your friends, or in a house league on the weekends, it’s doesn’t mean  you’re not still as much of a hockey player as someone who plays in the NHL.

 

Writing fanfiction before or at the same time as writing original fiction that you intend to sell is a great way to learn, or practice, everything I’ve mentioned above. If you read it widely, it will also expose you to different story telling styles, voices, and tropes than your reading of published fiction.

 

  • Can I sell my fanfic?
    • For fanfiction to remain under the umbrella of Fair Use Law, you cannot profit off your fanfiction. There’s some grey-area wiggle room around things like charging a small amount for a ‘zine or a PDF to cover administrative costs, but zero wiggleability around, say, selfpublishing your fanfic and charging heaps for it.
  • Can I “file off the serial numbers”?
    • “Filing of the series numbers” is when you take a fanfic you’ve written and essentially pull it apart, remove everything that’s clearly someone else’s Media Text, and reassembling the story so that it’s pretty much a completely original piece of creative writing.
    • Yes, you can sell these, provided your filing is rigorous enough that you aren’t likely to be dinged for plagiarism. It’s widely known that Cassandra Claire’s Shadowhunters was once Harry Potter fanfic, and that Fifty Shades of Gray was once Twilight But did you know that my Triptych started life as an idea for a Stargate Atlantis fic? There’s lots of stories out there that were once full fics, or the idea for the novel was originally conceived for a fandom, but written as original instead.
    • So long as you’re careful to really rework the text so that it’s not just a find-name-replace-name rewrite, you should be fine.
    • Be aware, though, that the agents and editors you might pitch this novel to know how to Google. They may discover that this is a filed-off story, and depending on their backgrounds and biases, might be concerned about it. There’s no need to inform them of the novel’s origin straight off in your pitch/query letter, but you may want to have a frank discussion with them about it after it’s been signed so they can help you make sure that any lingering copywrited concepts or characters are thoroughly changed before publication.
    • Should you take down the original fic-version of the novel while you’re querying/shopping it? Well, that’s up to you, and whether you’re comfortable with an editor/agent potentially finding it.
  • Should I be ashamed of my fic, or take it down, or pretend I never wrote fic?
    • What? Why? No! I mean, I have hidden some of my most immature work, but I’ve left pretty much my whole catalogue of fanfic online and I don’t deny that I was/am a ficcer. Why? Because it’s a great repository of free stories that people can read before they buy one of my books, so they can get a taste of how and what I write. Also, you will be in good company. Lots and lots of writers who are published now-a-days started in fandom, including:
      • Steven Moffat
      • Seanan McGuire
      • Rainbow Rowell
      • Claudia Gray
      • Cory Doctorow
      • Marissa Meyer
      • Meg Cabot.
      • Naomi Novik.
      • Neil Gaiman.
      • Lev Grossman.
      • E. Hinton.
      • John Scalzi
      • The Bronte Sisters
      • Andy Weir
      • Sarah Rees Brennan
      • Marjorie M. Liu
      • Anna Todd
      • and of course, J.M. Frey

 

How fanfic can harm.

 

Like with anything else, there are ways that reading and writing fanfiction can actually harm you, or others, but it has nothing to do with the reading or writing of fanfiction in and of itself.

 

  • Some creators may prefer that you don’t (and may or may not follow up with legal action).
    • Anne Rice famously went after fanficcers in the 90s who wrote fanfic of her work, handing out Cease & Desist notices like confetti.
    • 99% of creators don’t care. Those who do will generally have a notice on their websites or social media politely asking fancreators to refrain. Mostly this is due to their general discomfort over the idea of anyone else getting to play in their worlds. The best thing to do is respect that request, and find a different fandom to write in.
  • Flamewars and fandom fights leading to bullying and doxing.
    • Regrettably, just like any other community filled with people who have different favorites, opinions, and preferences, there will inevitably be clashes. It’s up to you to decide how to react to negative interactions, and how to model positive ones.
    • Don’t forget, you curate your online experience, so don’t be afraid of that block button.
    • Also, don’t be the jerk who goes after people for liking different aspects of the fandom. Everyone is entitled to interact and like a Media Text their own way. “Don’t yuck my yum,” as they say.
  • Trying to make money on other people’s IP/Media Text (law suits, etc.)
    • It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t try to make money on it.
    • There’s a grey area here in terms of selling prints/plushies/jewelry/etc. and there’s no hard line about where one copyright owner will draw the line, and another won’t. Warner Bros. owns the film rights for both Harry Potter and Hunger Games, but I’ve seen Harry Potter-themed bars spring up while fans wanting to make Hunger Game fanfilms have been shut down. A friend of mine sells hand-made fandom-inspired items at cons—there is no rhyme or reason to what she gets told to stop making and what she’s left alone on.
    • Best thing to do if you’re told to stop is just so stop, move on, and find a different fandom to be active in.
  • Writing Real Person Fanfic (“RPF”) can be considered a violation of consent.
    • This article sums it up pretty well, but basically… if you decide to write RPF, be aware that they person you are writing about is a real person, with real thoughts, and emotions, and they may feel violated by RPF. If you decide to write it, never send it to the people it’s about, and always clearly tag it so other can choose to engage with it, or avoid it.
    • Also be aware that it could ruin their love for what they do. For example: the friendships between the members of 1Direciton became strained and the band eventually disintegrated because people wouldn’t stop sending band members smutty stories or art of them having sex with one another, and it made them too uncomfortable to continue in the band.
  • Showing/sharing fanfic & fanart outside of its intended context. Fanworks are for fans, and there are definitely issues if…
    • It’s shown to celebrities/actors/creators.
      • Shoving your fantasies onto the people who create or portray your fave characters is rude, and wrong, and also kinda gross. If they seek it out themselves, that’s one thing, but the same way you wouldn’t throw it at a complete stranger, don’t throw it at them. You may love the characters these people play, but they are not their characters, and they are not your friends.
      • It may also really weird them out and ruin their love for what they do.
    • it’s shown to writers working on the series.
      • There was a famous case where a fanficcer sent a story to a novelist, and the novelist was accused of plagiarism by the ficcer when their next novel in the series resembled the plot of that fanfic. There was a whole court case and everything.
      • Because of this, writers of TV shows, books, etc. don’t want to (and often times, legally can’t) read your fanfic. They don’t want to get accidentally inspired by what you’ve written, or worse, have to throw out something because it resembles your fic too closely. Just let them write their stories the way they want, and if they choose to seek out fic, they will.
    • it’s mocked by celebrities.
      • I’m not letting Alan Carr and Graham Norton off the hook. If it’s super rude and gross to shove fanworks at actors/writers/creators when you’re a creator, then it’s doubly rude for anyone to take a story or art made for a specific audience (the fans), by a specific community (the fans), lift it out of it’s context, and invite the public to mock it while also shoving it at the actor/celebrity in a place where they are literally cornered and can’t leave (i.e. the chat-show sofa). Man, it really steams me up when they do that. It’s rude and it’s tone-deaf, and it’s not
      • And most of the time they do it, they don’t even ask the artist or writer for permission, first, which is just…. Uuuuugggghhhh. It may be fanfic, but it was still created by someone, and you should always ask permission before publicly sharing something created by someone else.

 

In Conclusion

 

If someone tells you that reading or writing fanfic is bad for you as a creator, tell them to get bent.

Famous Fanfic

  • Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  • Wicked: the Musical by Stephen Schwartz
  • The Phantom of Manhattan by Fredrick Forsyth
  • A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
  • Sherlock by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat
  • The Dracula Tape, by Fred Saberhaugen
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton
  • Inferno, by Dante
  • The Aeneid, by Virgil
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Romeo & Juliet, by William Shakespeare
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
  • The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
  • Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Phantom, a novel of his life by Susan Kaye
  • …and so many more.

*

Find more WORDS FOR WRITERS articles here.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: The Value of Fanfiction
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2019 Writing Roundup

2019 Writing Roundup

The new year is here, and with it everyone is talking about what they wrote this past year. The last quarter of 2019 was a brutal rollercoaster for me, emotionally and personally, so it’s good for me to have the chance to sit here and reflect on what I accomplished and the good things that happened too.

2019 started with receiving a grant from the Toronto Arts Council for The Maddening Science – said grant went to research materials for the novel, a new computer, printer, and keyboard, and paying off some debts. But 2019 also started in a place of utter exhaustion, having slammed through writing, editing, and publishing five big novels in three years, as well as rewriting a feature film and completing the scripts for three seasons of a webseries.

I was also working two dayjobs – one first thing in the morning, for an hour and a half, and then a standard eight-hour shift in the evenings which got me home at around 10pm – so my sleep schedule was a mess and I was having trouble not only making time to write, but concentrating when I did have the time.

Happily, I’ve now had the opportunity to rest more, and I’ve had the chance to begin to refill my creative well again. Even more happily, left those dayjobs and am at the moment writing full time. I even got to reclaim my writing space by no longer needing a roommate.

I’m not quite there yet – turns out finishing two series in four years really takes it out of you – but I’ve begun to make preparations to sit down and begin to spin out a new novel. In the mean time, I’ve got lots of irons in the fire, as you’ll see.

January

The first third of 2019 was dedicated to rewriting The Skylark’s Sacrifice a second time. I’d rewritten it in the last third of 2018 and my editor ended up agreeing that while the rewrite was exactly what she asked for, we should not have gone down that street in the first place. It was what was asked of me, but it didn’t work. So I took it back to the drawing board, and started the re-write all over again.

I also published WORDS FOR WRITERS: The DO-ING Trap.

I finished the edits/polish on A Woman of the Sea, which I had begun in October 2018 and loaded the book onto Wattpad in preparation for serializing it.

February

I spent February rewriting and jobhunting. I tried to write a short story and Did Not Do Well. It’s half done and likely to end up on the Pile Of Unfinished Tales.

At least I got some new words on the page with WORDS FOR WRITERS – Beta Readers.

And I began releasing A Woman of the Sea a chapter at a time on Valentine’s Day.

March

I completed the Skylark rewrites and handed them over to Reuts Publications.  I also published WORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing.

At this point I tried to start The Maddening Science, the book I received a Toronto Art’s Council Grant for in 2018, and bashed out a few chapters and a few scenes. But something was off about it, and I couldn’t pinpoint why, so I kept going into the file and only put a few hundred words in here and there. I couldn’t really sit down and dig in, and because I don’t believe in Writer’s Block as a mystical magical reason for why people can’t write (there are always reasons), I had to step back to try to figure out why I was struggling. I assumed it was probably because I was in the middle of job interviews and decided to try again later.

April

I started a new copywriting job, leaving my other two dayjobs, and it sucked up all my brainpower and creativity and made it very hard to want to sit down and compose yet more words at the end of the day.

I resumed working piecemeal on The Maddening Science, pecking out what I could one molasses-slow sentence at a time. I realized that the incidents in the news regarding the current political comment and the toxic white supremacist misogyny that is rampant in our society today has made it very hard to figure out how to tell a responsible story about a supervillain as the protagonist.

I’m still working on that. In the mean time, while I figure out how to restructure the tale, the book and the progress blog are on hiatus.

May

Still brain-dead from work, I only managed to bash out WORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?

June

There were some final edits on The Skylark’s Sacrifice to be discussed, but I really did nothing this month beyond marketing pushes and watching all the webseries I judged for TOWebfest.

July

The director of my feature film, To a Stranger, was going to start shopping the script around to executive producers, so before he did that I got some actorfriends together to do a table read. The read, and their feedback, revealed some character motivation gaps in the film, and I set about organizing their notes and figuring out how to solve the issues.

I also wrote and published WORDS FOR WRITERS – How To Write a Synopsis.

This was also the month of TOWebfest, the festival itself, and I spent a lovely day with fellow creators and spoke to some executive producers about my own webseries to try to garner interest.

I was a guest at Pretty Heroes Con for the first time and LOVED it. It’s great to celebrate strong female leads in SF/F and I loved Sailor Moon as a kid, so I was in nostalgic nirvana. It was lovely to introduce those Girl Power-loving fans to The Skylark’s Saga.

August

I restructured and rewrote To a Stranger, added extra characters and extra scenes to clear up some character motivation in the screenplay. It’s now back with the director and I hope to hear that he’s got a production house and an Exec attached to the project soon.

I appeared at FanExpo Toronto to do some panels, sell some books, and judged the short fiction contest. I also wrote and published WORDS FOR WRITERS: How to Create a Pitch Package.

September

The Skylark’s Sacrifice was published! Yay! I had a wonderful launch party at Bakka Phoenix, and got to simultaneously launch the incredible book trailer for the duology animated by Elizabeth Hirst to a song by Victor Sierra. Friends Adrianna Prosser and Eric Metzloff, and Danforth Brewery made it extra special.

I also got to read at Word on the Street, which was been a career-long dream, reading on the new Across the Universe Stage.

However, September was also the month when I lost the copywriting job. I saw it coming, so I was shocked when it happened and how it went down, but not surprised. I wasn’t fitting in well with the team, the original project I had been hired for had been cancelled by the execs, work was being taken away from me and given to freelancers, and I didn’t have the training they wanted (though that makes me wonder why they hired me in the first place.) In retrospect it’s been a blessing, as the workplace was not at all a good fit for me and was slowly becoming toxic, and I’ve had lots of time to get my creative life in order as I jobhunt.

Just a few days after I was fired, on my 37th birthday, I won a Watty Award for A Woman of the Sea. Happy birthday to me! I was offered a place among the Wattpad Stars program and accepted – and wow, is there a lot of paperwork for that – and I’m still trying to figure out what benefits the program offers. (Though I’m pretty chuffed with my free Canva Premium subscription!) A Woman of the Sea was featured on the home page as an Undiscovered Gem and as of today has about 82k reads. Whoa!

I also wrote and published WORDS FOR WRITERS: How to Plan a Series.

October

I spent most of the month sleeping and crying and working through how I felt about getting fired. When one identifies oneself as a writer, to finally get a job in writing was a thrill and felt like a confirmation that although I was struggling with my next book, I was a writer and I’d get through it. Being fired from the job – even though the reason was an exec decision to eliminate my project and thus my role – felt like a very personal blow. I wasn’t a writer after all. (Or at least, that’s what it felt like).

This had me thinking long and hard. Especially about where I wanted my writing career to go next – as much I’ve been writing in the realm of SF/F the past decade, I’ve begun to realize that was I really am is a Character-Driven Romance writer. Romance set in spec fic and fantasy realms, sure, but Romance and Character Work are my wheelhouse and how I should be selling myself.

This realization has been pretty freeing because it means that the frustrations and roadblocks I’ve been coming up against can maybe be dissolved by reframing my brand and rethinking my career map.

Wattpad added the sample of City By Night that’s on Wattpad to their Halloween Reads list on the homepage and I decided to put the whole novella up on the site for people to read. Read it now, though. It won’t stay up forever as the eBook rights to the novel are signed with an indie publisher. This is just a limited-time promotion.

And knowing that readers were asking what I would be posting next on Wattpad after A Woman of the Sea, I rejigged Triptych for the site and started serializing it from the start. You can read it here. This story also won’t stay up forever, for the same reason.

I also started serializing Words for Writers on Wattpad. I won’t be copying over all 75+ articles I have on my website, just the ones that are specifically useful for Watties.

I also polished a webseries and sent it to a producer with a major broadcaster after our convo at TOWebfest for consideration. I’ve followed up but there’s no reply. I’ll follow up again in January 2020 but I can pretty well assume that No Answer is my ‘No’ Answer.

I am thinking about maybe pitching it as a graphic novel in the future, though I’m going to have to reach out to my friends who write them for publishers to figure out how to put at pitch together.

November

In 2017 I handed over a YA contemporary re-telling of “Northanger Abbey” to my agent, and it was lukewarmly received by both her and the handful of editors she showed it to. It was then shelved for possible future reworking.

In the first part of the NaNoWriMo month, I decided to tackle this reworking, and I was still wrestling mentally with The Maddening Science. This reworking was inspired a lot by reading Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston in October, and realizing that the tone I’d been going for with my narrator hadn’t been irreverent or GenZ-y enough for the story I was trying to tell, and not grounded enough in the technologies and social media that my modern-day Catherine Morland would have access to.

I reworked the Pitch Document for the novel, now currently called “Title TBA”, and got to chapter seven during NaNo. I’ve got some thinking to do about structure for the novel, and how far into using Social Media As A Storytelling Tool I want to go with the idea, but generally speaking I’m pretty pleased with the result of the rewrites.

Partway through NaNo, it occurred to me that there was another story that my Wattpad readers were asking for, and one that would be a lot of fun to write. In A Woman of the Sea, my fictional Regency-era  Jane-Austen-analogue authoress Margaret Goodenough writes her debut novel “The Welshman’s Daughters”. As I describe this non-existent novel in A Woman of the Sea, it’s a Gothic romance that’s very Elizabeth Gaskell-and-Jane Austen-esque in terms of it being a character study driven romance, with some of the fun high melodrama and gothic tone of Ann Radcliffe. And, in the world of A Woman of the Sea, it’s the first queer kiss in Classic Western Literature.

A handful of readers have asked where they can find this book, or have confessed to going to the library to ask for it, only to learn that it’s not real. I made it up.

And I thought… well, why not make it real?

So I’m working on the pitch doc and the first chapter now, to see if this is something I want to pursue. I hope it will, but I think I still need to take time to rest before I really push into it.

And I still have the “Title TBA” rewrites to complete.

December

I published WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get An Agent?, and spent the rest of the month just trying to chill. I’ve become a bit of a reluctant reader, so I am trying to push myself to read a little each day, to remind myself why I fell in love with storytelling in the first place.

A Woman of the Sea was turned down for Paid Stories, unfortunately, because of the structure of the romance. The Stars Team explained that romance stories like this one, with one romantic partner in the first half of the book, and a different one in the second (a la Brigit Jones’ Diary) doesn’t tend to do well on Paid because readers are reluctant to shell out for a romance where they don’t meet the HEA partner until later. It’s a disappointment to hear, because I was really hoping that this might become a viable stream of income for me. At least the team who turned it down were very kind and expressed how much they loved the story in and of itself.

But no matter – onwards and upwards!

What’s ahead for 2020

Well, I’m not sure. This has been a really, really difficult year and I have really, really struggled with trying to figure out who I am and what I want, both in life and as a writer. Certainly, there will be lot of hard thinking about the future of my writing career. I have ideas that I love and want to pursue, but this post-firing-return-to-the-job-hunt-depression is a hurdle when it comes to carving out time to create.

However, I have some new opportunities on the horizon – conversations happening behind closed doors, as well as Divine Paradox Films still working toward filming To A Stranger, and Alpaca vs Llama shopping The Skylark’s Song as a teens animated series. And the webseries I wrote is under consideration with a new production team, so keep your fingers crossed.

Who knows, perhaps the rewritten “Title TBA” might be just the thing to propel my work into a realm where readers can connect with my work more easily. Though I had originally envisioned it as the first of a series, the more I work and think on it, the more I feel like it would be best as a stand-alone. I think it would slap a lot harder if it was a one-off.

And I am genuinely liking the plot of The Welshman’s Daughters, and all the research reading and viewing I am doing to get the tone and mood of the book right (please recommend me your favourite Gothic Romances – film, TV, or books!).

But I’m not going to rush anything. It’s nice to be able to remember how to putter with a book and have no looming, razor-blade deadlines hanging over my neck.

2020 will be, I hope, a year of renewed creativity, motivation, and the year where I complete at least one of the three novel projects I’ve started.

For now, I’m going to have a nap.

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