Tag Archives: writing

A Book-Nerd’s Nightmare (and some complaints)

2 Mar


If you’ve followed me here for a while, you know that I’m working on three books series at once: Acephalous, Humans In My House, and Nova June: Inventor. I give myself deadlines to stay organized, and I typically try to finish one novel completely before cycling to another series. I publish about one book per series per year. But the addition of Nova June is a new experience, and I’ve been working on it and Ontogenesis: Acephalous Book 2 simultaneously.

Nova June: Inventor is a children’s picture book, and I’m doing the illustrations myself. As I expected, but hate to admit, my self-imposed deadlines for this one are hard to stick to. Illustrating takes forever when you’re not really an artist (and no, I’m not saying it’s quick for true artists. I acknowledge the time and effort that goes into artists’ work). I’ve already missed my cover reveal deadline for the book by a day. It will likely be out next week. But, I digress.

One of the hassles that pile on top of these deadlines when you’re an indie author is marketing and publicity. I recently sent off all of my novels to Barnes and Noble’s small press department for consideration for placement in their stores. The books are available online and for special order, but you won’t see them on their shelves.

In a much quicker period than expected, I got my to-the-point rejection letter essentially saying that there are too many print-on-demand books out there to consider. They won’t accept mine only because of that reason. It made me angry because I’m guessing they didn’t even read them, otherwise there might have been some useful criticism. They (probably) flipped to the back of the books, saw the CreateSpace printing address, and sent them to be pulped. I hope they at least donated my books to a charity instead.

I’ve seen CreateSpace books on their shelves before, so at some point, they were giving us little names a chance. Their online guidelines for making these submissions said NOTHING about not accepting print-on-demand. If they don’t want to consider them, they should give authors the advance notice (like Books-A-Million does). Getting the materials ready to submitting was a time consuming process. To make matters worse, print-on-demand does not mean the books cannot be purchased at wholesale, but big book stores care that print-on-demand makes it more difficult to return overstock for a refund (but Ingram does this via CreateSapce direct, so that reasoning for their rejection is moot).

book vortex

All the print-on-demand books swirling away into the pulper. (*facetious*)

I won’t bore you with additional ranting about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. In fact, I didn’t realize I was still so riled up by this whole thing. My point in telling you all this is to lead into the stress-induced book nightmare I had the other night, which I find hugely amusing in concept now that it’s over.

Picture it. Sicily: 1912. (Just kidding.)

I receive a package with a paperback copy of Acephalous and a rejection letter from Barnes and Noble. Their reasoning for not accepting the book is the same as in reality: no print-on-demand books. The letter additionally includes notes about how poorly formatted it is, that it is unreadable. I scoff and make some angry comments about them then decide to flip through my book to see just what they mean.

To my horror, the book is indeed as illegible as they claim, and at this point the dream turns to black and white. It’s grainy like an old TV. Every page in the book has multiple fonts and sizes of text. Some of the words are huge, dark, bold. Many of them are tiny, grey-scale. The pages aren’t even in order. I go to the table of contents to see if it could help me read the book in the correct order, but the table of contents (which my book doesn’t even have in real life) is just a list of random words from throughout the book and arbitrary numbers beside them.


If you’ve ever had one of those elevator dreams where the button doesn’t take you to the floor it says, or one of those “dial 911” dreams where the numbers on the phone are in the wrong place or don’t dial as the number you press, the table of contents part was just like that. Totally useless. As if looking for the word “the” in the TOC would be descriptive enough. Come on, subconscious.

And even though there isn’t the slightest bit of scary material in this dream, it still woke me up as if it was a nightmare. For a book-nerd, an author, editor, publisher, it was truly horrific. No one should see their brainchild mangled up like that in dreams. (I’m being dramatic. I really find it funny, now.)

Amazingly, until this dream, my Red Ink Enthusiast-related work had NEVER crept into my sleep. And that’s really saying something considering how much better I work under some stress and a deadline. Looking back on it, I’m certain the dream was expressing my lingering irritation with Barnes and Noble, essentially saying that unless my books looked as bad as it did in my dream, there was no reason not to accept them.

I can’t stand knowing the only reason they were rejected is because there are too many others. It would be easier, almost, if they just thought my writing was bad. That I can improve. But it’s not. Especially Humans In My House. I really thought they’d bite with that one, and it’s my dream to see that series in the kid’s section. But, I can’t do anything about the amount of other writers out there trying to do the same thing as me. So, I’ll plug on, hunt down the (dwindling) indie stores, shmooze with the people who make decisions, and try to compete in the current market while many of my methods are still stuck the 1900s–in person, with a small budget. 

Here’s to getting discovered.


Exhausted is the new Sexy? No.

21 Feb


It would be easy to leave this page blank.

But that’s not what writers do.

I could make it sound like I always want to write, that it’s always easy, and that I’m ecstatic to be doing this right now. And sometimes all those things are true. But, at this moment, it’s ten in the morning, sunny, and 72 degrees out–in FEBRUARY!–and I’m inside talking to you. No offense.

It’s one thing to write advice for writers about useful topics like grammar, composition, and publication. These are important parts of the craft. They need attention. But, it paints this pristine picture of writers, including me, doing everything they’re supposed to do and doing it the right way (often the first time). It doesn’t show the scraps of paper, the huge chunks of deleted text, or the blank stare of writer’s block. It doesn’t show the restless shifting in my seat or convey the heavy, sluggish sensation of having zero motivation for getting anything accomplished today.

So this is me trying to write something additionally useful even when I don’t feel like it. This is me saying I’d like to take a break, that the weather’s great and I’m missing it. 

What’s useful about that?

The acknowledgement that rest and enjoyment are equally important parts of the creative process when pit against research, brainstorming/daydreaming, and writing. Without it, we burn out. A small, voluntary break now might prevent a longer, necessary break later on.

The quicker we begin to reject the glamorization and glorification of overwork, the sooner we stop applauding ourselves and others for how exhausted we are, the more guilt-free enjoyment we can have and still get things done.

I’ve seen so many memes circulating among the creative communities online about, “you should be writing” and, “it’s not research, it’s procrastination.” This is ridiculous. Yes, at some point, you will have to write. Yes, you should finish what you start. But the ideas that we have to complete it in the smallest amount of time, that we need to pull all-nighters or we’re not dedicated to finishing, that sleep is a weakness and procrastination isn’t a productive way of letting the mind wander, is harmful. And heaven forbid we stop our feverish writing long enough to remember to eat. Don’t glamorize forgetting to eat. (It happens sometimes if you’re really in a flow, and a flow is great, but celebrate the productivity of the writing, not the forgetting to eat part. Come on.) Since when is “overwork” the same as “hard work,” y’all?

Rejecting these flawed equivalencies is why this post, written when I didn’t want to, is useful. Its existence proves my point. I saw advice somewhere that said authors should post new content to their websites two to three times a week. It’s Wednesday and I hadn’t created anything new yet. By some construct of society, I obligated myself to do this.  And I would have felt guilty if I didn’t stick to my plan.

But there has to be a balance between doing what you said you were going to do and cutting yourself some slack.

And so that I’m taking my own advice and not just preaching, this will be my only post this week. 1. Little. Article. One opinion no one asked for. You’re welcome.

(that’s me telling myself thank you.)

Who Is Nova June? Nova’s Top Role Models in Science

7 Feb

Nova is always learning something. She knows progress means paying attention to the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and trail-blazers who came before her and that learning from their mistakes and successes is the way to improve. Here are 10 of Nova’s top role models, in order of birth.


  • Sophia Brahe (1559-1643)
    • Danish genealogist, horticulturist, and astronomer, known for her 900-page genealogy of 90 Dutch noble families, and for assisting her brother, Tycho Brahe (who insisted on educating her when her brilliant scientific mind began to show around age 10), in his astronomy, which included the world’s most accurate astronomical observations pre-telescope.
  • Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
    • Mathematician and writer widely considered the first computer programmer for her creation and publication of an algorithm that would allow wider applications of a computing machine beyond calculation only.
  • Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)
    • First American woman to work as a professional astronomer, discoverer of a telescopic comet (too small to see with the naked eye) later named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”
  • Ida Hyde (1857-1945)
    • American physiologist known for her invention of the microelectrode, an intracellular instrument used to monitor physiological parameters in marine animals. She also advocated for childhood health screenings in public schools to help combat tuberculosis and spinal meningitis among other infectious diseases. Because of the sexism and discrimination she faced in the scientific community, she, along with other female scientists and professors, founded the Naples Table Association to help fund and support women in scientific careers.
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934)
    • Physicist and chemist, first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person and woman to win a Nobel Prize twice. Her research in radioactivity led her to create mobile x-ray units, and the vehicles and generators needed to run them, for use during in-the-field medical care for soldiers of World War 1. This is just one of her many accomplishments.
  • Bessie Coleman (1882-1926)
    • First woman of African descent AND first woman of Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license. She went to France to attend flight school because no one in America would teach her because of her race and gender. When she returned to the U.S. with her international pilot’s license, she became a successful air show pilot.
  • Grace Hopper (1906-1992)
    • Computer Scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral who invented one of the first compiling tools and influenced programming languages still used today. She received the National Medal of Technology in 1991 and was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Freedom in 2016.
  • Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)
    • Chinese-American experimental physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project developing the process to separate Uranium into Uranium-235 and Uranium-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. For this and other work, she won the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
    • Chemist who discovered and published findings on the double helix shape of human DNA. These findings were not widely recognized until after her death, although she was recognized for her work with viruses and coal during her lifetime.
  • Mae Jemison (1956-)
    • Astronaut, engineer, and physician, and the first African-American woman to travel to space.


If you’d like to learn more about these and others who’ve done great things, follow the links above or visit A Mighty Girl (my personal favorite source for inspiration), the Association for Women in Science, or read this article by Jan Sloan about the founding of the Naples Table Association published by University of Chicago Press.

Just Checking In

23 Jan


The holidays are over and life is settling back into its normal rhythm. For me, that means lots of reading and writing.

Using the GoodReads Reading Challenge tool, I’ve resolved to read at least 24 books this year. So far, so good; I’m already on book 4. The best method to succeed, I figured, was to read as many books as possible while my schedule is relatively calm. It will set me up with a cushion for travel days and events later in the year when I’m unable to devote time to reading for pleasure.

I’ve also been polishing my manuscript of Acephalous Book 2. I finished the draft during NaNoWriMo 2017, and judging by my current rate of progress, I’m thinking it might publish by the end of Summer 2018 rather than Winter. That is, if the beta readings go swiftly.

Regardless, I’m thrilled with Acephalous Book 2 so far. It’s better than book 1 in a number of ways, and I’m excited to share it with readers. I plan to do a finalized title and cover reveal in March. If all goes well until then, the book might release in time for my first event in April: Roanoke Author’s Invasion. That’s pushing it, though, and I don’t plan to rush it.

In other news, I’ve got a new project in the works that I will be announcing right here on February 1 that I’m also aiming to complete by April!

AND Humans In My House 3 will be out by Christmas.

(If this is what my life looks like when things are settled, imagine what it’s like when I’m busy!)

I realize I’m just throwing random titles, dates, and vague entreaties to you, but trust me. You’ll want to stick around and keep checking back to find out what all the suspense is about. In the meantime, sign up for my newsletter to get less cryptic updates about my projects and event schedule, plus exclusive writing tips that I don’t post here. To sign up, click here. I’ll also post the Red Ink News sign-up on the navigation bar.

In the meantime, happy reading!


Pro-Tip: Censorship

21 Sep


I’m all for the whole “time and place” argument against foul language, inappropriate content, and professional/academic versus casual approaches. It’s valid. There are certain things you’re just not going to say to your boss or professor or child.

HOWEVER, these concerns are often hindrances to a first draft. They’re often hindrances to any draft.

Because we are forced to fit our writing into scenarios that are often beyond our control–workplace style guides, teachers’ requests, audience’s age, etc.–the concern about how much of ourselves we let shine in a piece is often at the forefront of a writer’s process. And, just as often, we tone ourselves down to fit into those expectations.

I’m not here to tell writers to break rules that could break a career or a grade (like if you’re writing for children, or a business presentation, or a strict teacher). Part of life is fitting into those boxes, however annoying.

But if you are trying to make waves, start splashing. Write for yourself first, in exactly the way you want, often. Write as if no one is going to see it and as if those who might see it won’t judge. Worry about audience perception during the beta-reader/revision phase. If you hold off from the start, you’ll never know how your true message is received. Push the notion of acceptability. Embarrass yourself with your truthfulness and boldness.

Arthur Miller said, “The writer must be in it; he can’t be to one side of it, ever. He has to be endangered by it. His own attitudes have to be tested in it. The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.”

He’s right. All of the fiction and poetry that has ever been deemed a classic is called such because it pushed the boundaries of its time and told truths people weren’t ready to hear. Some of this work has been banned in libraries and schools. What an honor. (This is not sarcasm.)

Whether journaling for personal gain or writing fiction for a crowd, push the limits. Push YOUR limits. Say what you need to say without concern for what your grandma might think, what Amazon reviewers might comment, what assumptions strangers might make about you personally–they DO NOT KNOW YOU.

While there IS a time and a place for certain approaches, art tends to ignore the schedule.

Pacific Northwest

15 Jun

Image may contain: people riding bicycles, tree, outdoor and nature

I just got back from a two-week hiking trip in the Olympic Peninsula. It was an amazing experience. The sheer size of the wilderness–I’d never seen anything like it. You grow up on the east coast thinking our mountains are high… what a joke that turns out to be.

I’m not going to bore you with a day-by-day recount of each and every little thing we did (although let me know if you’re interested in that because I’ve considered starting a dedicated blog for our adventures), but I will say that I went out there as a writer expecting to be inspired for Humans In My House 3 and Acephalous 3 (and I was), but I came back feeling like I should be a painter instead. Words don’t so often fail me as they did there. It’s just one of those places you have to SEE.

Regardless, if you’re interested in seeing a little bit of what I experienced, follow me on instagram @KeperSeesTheWorld. I photograph my little clay Kepler in new places as a way to document and market Humans In My House (Kepler is the main character, if you didn’t know). Some of the places he ends up will make it into future installments of the books series.

**Side note: @We_Go_Hiking is my rarely used adventure insta, which I will take up using again if I do create a travel-based blog here. My Pacific Northwest trip is not shown there because I primarily focused on Kepler,  but I may double post in the future.

Pro-Tip: What Makes Strong Writing?

10 Mar

Across all genres and purposes, writers want to know the one thing they can do in order to ensure readers consider their writing “good writing.”

My first piece of advice is to get rid of the notion of “good writing.” Pitting yourself against other writers in order to determine if your creative vision is “good” will get you nowhere. Writing, even in the academic and professional fields where creativity might sometimes be limited by style sheets and strict requirements, is a deeply personal endeavor. It’s not just the final product that author’s judge, but their journey to get that product. Trying to put worth on an experience is like saying your dream vacation is only worth as much as the airfare costs. It discounts everything you get out of travel on an intellectual, spiritual, and physical level. Writing a text is a trip–maybe not always a vacation–but a trip nonetheless.

So, why would you try to qualify your path against someone else? And why would you settle on the achievement of “good writing” when that’s based on how similar your process and product is to someone else you consider “good?” Isn’t that just good mimicry? You want to be “good,” or rather strong, at what YOU do and how YOU do it.

Strive, instead, for strong writing, writing that holds it’s own regardless of how similar (or not) it is to the work of others you admire. Yes, we first learn by mimicking, in speech as babies, and as authors. But, at some point, you start to sound like YOU, and if you go around trying to decide if your writing, and therefore if YOU, are good enough, you’re likely to have moments of doubt. You might feel like you don’t measure up, like an imposter, like someone who isn’t REALLY an author because you haven’t done x, y, or z thing that some other person who uses the title of author has done.

Strong writing is original, written with pride (but not necessarily confidence because you can be proud of your effort and still worried about its outcome. Confidence takes time), and organizationally sound. Above all of the basic prescriptive grammar and mechanics rules, the tenets that say writing SHOULD be done a certain way, is organization. If you’ve got a solid structure that readers can follow, if it’s logically arranged, if it’s thoroughly explained and balances detail without crossing into the condescending, then everything else you do after that will fall into place. Proper grammar and following the rules (which you can purposefully break once you know them) is only useful if your thoughts are linked together in a coherent way. Every sentence could be perfectly constructed according to the textbook way to use punctuation marks, point of view, and tense, but a text still won’t make sense if the overall structure doesn’t carry your thoughts clearly.

What I’m getting at is this: You want strong writing, not “good” writing because strong writing is not a matter of opinion. A text either makes sense or it doesn’t. A text is either organized or frenetic. (Don’t confuse the organized or frenetic nature of a text with the same qualities of a character. Even pieces with chaotic characters are still organized as a whole, although let’s not get into the unreliable narrator discussion. It’s often an exception). “Good” writing will be different to every author and reader. Stop comparing yourself to other authors, and start holding your writing up to your past work. Are you improving?

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