A Much-Needed Update

I kind of disappeared from the internet and real life during the quarantine. For that I apologize. Here’s pretty much everything noteworthy that happened during the month of April:

I was given an office phone and asked to work from home. It was an interesting time. I got a taste of the stay-at-home mom life and it was pretty great, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I’d get frustrated or depressed about the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s officially summer in Phoenix which discouraged me from taking very many walks with Bennett. But, for the most part, I really enjoyed spending all that time with my son. I witnessed several firsts that I otherwise might’ve missed if I’d had to keep going into the office everyday.

He colored for the first time. It was a bunch of squiggles with an orange colored pencil but it was beautiful to me. He started pointing at things, as if inquiring after them. Then he’d sit there and listen to me explain what they were. He started handing me books and toys on a regular basis and waiting expectantly for me to do something with them. He started standing on his own. He’s still not confident enough to take any steps, but we’ll get there. He’s growing so fast and learning so much. It’s a treat to witness.


 
 

Staying home also allowed me to rest. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m pregnant again. It’s a little ahead of schedule but we’re still excited and more than ready to meet our little girl!) My baby bump turned into a mountain seemingly overnight, sapping my strength and slowing me down considerably. Our baby girl is healthy and strong, though. There’s much to be thankful for.

Over the weekend, I celebrated a birthday and my very first Mother’s Day, which was an emotional time for me. Businesses are slowly starting to open up here but we didn’t want to brave the crowds of people so my husband and I had quiet celebrations at home. May is a big month for us as far as celebrations go. Bennett’s first birthday is on the 18th and our five year wedding anniversary is on the 29th! Hopefully by then it’ll be safer to venture out into the world.

Permission has been granted for some businesses to start opening again. Churches will be allowed to open later in the summer so the office is preparing. I’ll be returning to work part-time. It’s going to be an adjustment for both me and Bennett, but we’ll endure. Besides, all too soon it’ll be time to go on maternity leave!

The Andromeda’s Ghost is on NetGalley and, according to my publisher, it’s getting a good reception from librarians, retailers, journalists, trade reviewers, and book bloggers. I was told the book would be available for pre-order early in June and is all set to be published on July 16!

BHC Press is already preparing the publication schedule for 2021. I submitted the second book in The Andromeda Chronicles, The Andromeda’s Captain, so they could add it to the line up. It’s crazy to think that another one of my books could be coming out this time next year, but that’s totally a possibility!

In other news, deals have been made and the plan has been set in motion so that the books I publish through BHC Press will be translated into different languages! More news on that later.


My big project during the quarantine was finishing my edits for Death’s Curses and getting all the necessary documents ready to submit to BHC Press. It took a lot longer than I care to admit (escaping from distractions at home proved to be more difficult than I thought!) but at last it’s done. The query letter, book description, synopsis, and first six chapters have been submitted for their consideration. It can take 6-8 weeks for them to get to the documents, review everything, and make a decision what with the enormous amount of submissions they get every day. I’ll be moving onto other projects to keep busy while I wait to hear back from them but, for right now, I’m celebrating.


There’s still the possibility of another wave of the Coronavirus hitting us. Stay safe and brave, you guys.

2019 Recap

A lot of people send a Christmas letter to their family members with a summary of their year or a quick update on what they’re currently doing. While I did send out an adorable Christmas picture card of my husband, my baby, and myself, there was no summary attached. So, without further ado, here is my 2019 summary:

  • In February, my mother-in-law flew my husband and I, along with two of her other sons, to Seattle to visit their grandmother. It was my first time flying while pregnant and it went surprisingly well.
  • In April, I signed a contract with a new publisher (BHC Press) for my first science fiction/fantasy novel, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I also self-published my first book, the sequel to my young adult romance novel, titled I Dare You to Stay With Me.
  • In May, I gave birth prematurely to my son, Bennett Mordecai Fox.
  • In September, we said goodbye to my husband’s cat of fifteen years, Cowboy. May he rest in peace.
  • In October, my husband and I flew to Hawaii for his brother’s wedding. It was our first time traveling with a baby. Tears were shed. Lessons were learned. It was a beautiful wedding and I’m glad we were there.
  • In November, I wrote and “produced” my first novelette, A Favor for a Princess, a prequel of sorts for The Andromeda’s Ghost. This book is still available for free, by the way!
  • In December, a good friend of mine who moved to Oregon and now works as the librarian for a high school over there, added I Dare you to Love Me and I Dare You to Stay With Me to her shelves.
  • (I have to include January in this recap because two super exciting things happened this month as well.) BHC Press submitted The Andromeda’s Ghost into Publishers Weekly, along with several other upcoming titles of theirs, in the hopes that they would be featured in PW’s Spring 2020 Announcements page. And The Andromeda’s Ghost was featured under the SF, Fantasy & Horror Listings! Woot woot! Also, the manuscript my sister and I had been working on together for a little over a year, a young adult urban fantasy titled Death’s Curses, was completed this week. It will be sent off to beta readers within the next few days. Once we get their feedback, we’ll be applying necessary changes and then submitting it to BHC Press to be considered for publication. 

It’s been a fun, exhausting, and productive year. And this year promises to be similar. Things I’m looking forward to so far in 2020:

  • In February, I Dare You to Love Me will be participating in a library marketing campaign by New Shelves Books, a book sales and marketing company. My book, along with several others, will be featured in a catalog that will be sent to libraries across the country who are looking to add new books to their inventory.
  • In May, my husband and I will be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary by going on an Alaskan cruise. We’ll be leaving our son for a whole week! Of course, he’ll be a year old by then and he’ll be well taken care of by his grandmas but…I still have mixed feelings.
  • In July, The Andromeda’s Ghost will be published!

In the meantime, there’s lots of work to be done! On my writing schedule, I have the last book in The Andromeda Chronicles to finish, the last book in The Dare Trilogy to start, and a whole mess of plot issues to fix in the first book of my faerie series, tentatively titled The Sentinel’s Test. Not to mention there’s a novelette series that has been on the back burner since Asta and the Barbarians was published. So, yes, lots to do! I can’t wait to get started!

A Nostalgic Post

Remember when I took a poetry class to challenge myself since I’m not so great at writing poems? Well, I was cleaning out my USB stick the other day and happened upon a folder with some old assignments. I felt both pride and embarrassment upon reading through them. Here are two of my favorites:

 


 

A Cat and His Dog 

(Inspired by my pets)

The dog thinks she’s the alpha of the house.

The dog is wrong.

She watches cars and people pass through the window,

Barking at anyone and anything.

Unless they come through the door.

Then they’re friends.

The dog thinks I enjoy playing with her.

The dog is wrong.

When Mom and Dad can’t toss the ball for her

She charges and snaps and barks at me.

The dog is often very sorry for this.

I make her cry and retreat every time.

The dog thinks she’s Mom and Dad’s favorite.

The dog is wrong.

She gets treats and belly rubs and sleeps at Dad’s feet.

I get to sleep on the couch.

Mom doesn’t let the dog sleep on the couch.

Enough said.

The dog thinks we’re friends.

The dog is wrong.

Sure, we share the water bowl sometimes.

When I sneak out through the dog door,

We eat grass together and watch the birds.

And when I’m full and the dog asks very nicely,

I let her finish my milk…

I suppose the dog isn’t always wrong.

 


 

My Salted Pine

(Inspired by my grandfather’s ranch)

Freshly tilled earth squishes between my toes

Releasing memories of water, fertilizer, vegetation

My grandfather works hard to nurture his fields

They reward him with good produce every season

Sunshine weaves through the leaves to meet the top of my head

Bringing memories of summer, play, blackberries

My cousins and I once ran through these fields

Raced up the chicken coop to pick the berries that grew there

The wind whispers across the land

Churning up memories of rain, clouds, thunder

I often sat before the front window of my grandparent’s house

Watching the weather wreak havoc across their land

My tree sways and gestures with its branches

Recounting memories of adventures, epiphanies, dreams

This was my place of solitude, the place I could escape to

The place I came to think

I reach up to press my hand against the creases in the bark

Close my eyes, take a deep breath

And remember being a child

 


 

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting my day job yet. It’s just fun to look back and reminisce. At least, it is for me. Hope you enjoyed them! 😉

To write the sequel or not

I was in fifth grade when I watched High School Musical for the first time. My neighbor, who was really into plays and musicals at the time, recorded it and brought it over one day. Personally, I thought all Disney Channel movies were a little corny, and this one was no different. I could acknowledge the talent involved but the story was so-so. Still, I told him that I liked it because I knew it would make him happy.

When High School Musical 2 came out, a friend from school taped it and invited me over to watch it at her house. She was in love with Zac Efron, just like all the other girls in my class, so she was incredibly invested and maybe a little obsessed. I just couldn’t take the movie seriously. It was even cornier than the first one. I snorted and chuckled and rolled my eyes a lot, and she gave me dirty looks every time. At the end, she mourned the fact that she would have to wait so long for the third one and she went on and on about how much she wanted to be Ashley Tisdale when she grew up and wasn’t Zac Efron perfect? “It wasn’t that great,” I told her to which she gasped and declared that we weren’t friends anymore. Well, not really, but she was stunned and disappointed.

I just didn’t get what the hype was all about. I mean, sure, the actors were cute and yeah, it was something that hadn’t been attempted by Disney Channel before. But to me people on the big screen weren’t real people. I was never going to meet them. So why pine after them? It didn’t make any sense to me. I loved the Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof. This musical seemed like it was trying a little too hard to be modern and cool.

Needless to say, I didn’t watch the third one. By the time it came out, I wasn’t afraid to tell people what I thought of the franchise. In fact, I took pride in the fact that I was one of the few kids in my grade who were outspoken about their indifference to the series. And ever since then, I’ve gone against the flow when it comes to popular books, movies, and TV shows. I came to the conclusion that hype about any one thing was more than likely just noise. So a bunch of people like this thing. Okay, that doesn’t mean I’ll like it or that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It just means that a lot of people like it.

That’s kind of how I feel about writing sequels. Nowadays it feels like every author has written a series or is in the middle of writing a series or has only ever written books for one series. As a reader, I’ve encountered series that completely blew me away. The Graceling Series, The Lunar Chronicles, the Chaos Walking Trilogy, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Heroes of Olympus Series to name a few. These authors did amazing jobs moving their characters and their villains through plot after plot after plot until they reached their ultimate goal and had their final showdown. Then there was that one trilogy that I absolutely loved where the author finished the story off perfectly. The bad guy was gone, the sought-after artifacts were collected, the love triangle was resolved, the conflict was over…and then she decided to write another three books.

The fans were ecstatic. They wanted more and she was giving them more, so why not be happy? But I was skeptical. The ending was so perfect. How could she justify continuing the story? Who would the bad guy be now? What would be the new goal these characters would need to reach? Still, I gave the fourth book a try. While there were parts about it that I liked (the dialogue and the return of certain beloved characters) I was grief stricken. She was putting her characters through more hardship. It was like she just couldn’t let them be happy! The new villain was someone that had been mentioned once in passing in the previous book. It seemed random, not very well thought out at all. So I chose not to read the other two books. And I decided I wasn’t going to write a sequel to any of my stories unless I had the perfect plot.

I’m sure that author had her reasons for continuing that series even after she’d told her fans that she was only going to write three books. And they were her stories so she had every right to keep writing. I’m not condemning her for her choice because it was her choice. I just hate that that one book turned me off to the entire series.

I’ve written a book and then moved onto another project, only to realize that I really missed those other characters. The temptation to throw a plot together just for the sake of being in that world with those particular characters again is a strong one! But I don’t ever want to disappoint my readers the way that fourth book in that one series disappointed me. So even though a few people have expressed an interest in seeing my stories turned into series, I’m holding off on writing sequels. I’ll admit it; I’ve brainstormed some ideas, created some outlines, and written a few chapters for a sequel to all three of my currently published books. But I’m not about to share that with my fans, not until those stories are completed and my beta readers have told me they’re as good as the first books.

I’ve heard that publishing a book every year until a series is done will garner more fans and do wonders for book sales. While that does sound great to me, I’m going to take my time with these ideas of mine. I figure, if people love my books enough, they’ll be excited about the sequel even if it comes out two or three years from now. What my fans think means more to me than sales. If/when I finish a sequel, I will let everyone know. Trust me! But in the mean time, I’m just going to keep writing as inspiration strikes. I hope my fans can be patient with me and be satisfied with the books I publish in the mean time.

Family and work

Finding myself with nothing specific to blog about, I decided to just recap on my week thus far.

Last weekend I got to spend time with my family. We all pitched in to rent a cabin in Munds Park, Arizona, where we could spend the weekend together. Before this, it had been a year since we’d all been together. It was a special time of food, games, puzzles, and a watered down version of Dungeons and Dragons which included every geeky thing imaginable (from sonic screwdrivers, to Lord of the Rings riddles, to Star Wars quotes, to Indiana Jokes traps). Ezra did a great job as Dungeon Master.

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From left to right: My big brother (Ezra), his wife (Ceceilia), and their two boys (Micah age 3, and Thomas age 1). My “little” brother (Joe). My big sister (Anna) and her boyfriend (Ivan). Me and my husband. My parents (Becky and Isidro) are the ones sitting down, of course.

My sister got to give me her notes on my latest WIP in person. That’s always fun. I always get thrown back in time, to when we’d sit in our room (me in the swivel chair by the desk, her on the bed), discussing ideas for our stories. We were just girls with dreams back then. Now she’s got a Bachelor’s in English Literature and I’m a published author. Who would’ve thought?

My sister-in-law was amazing, doing all of the cooking while defusing any little tantrums her sons had (which were few but still!).

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I also got to play and get lots of cuddles from my nephews. Yes, they’re adorable and they love their Auntie Becca. Be jealous.

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And then we came right back home to begin another week of work. Back to sitting duty for my husband, and receptionist work and book promotion for me.

In the Dark was published yesterday, by the way. Hooray!

I’ve been looking forward to this since the day I signed the contract for it but was super disappointed when I found out how many people pre-ordered it.

tenor

I guess because my first book did so well, I assumed that the second one would be just as popular. I’m doing all the same things for In the Dark as I did for I Dare You to Love Me, the one difference being the book reviews. I Dare You to Love Me had reviews up on Amazon the day it was released, thus boosting its popularity. I was only able to acquire one review for In the Dark‘s release date. Others are coming, though. I can only hope that they’ll be positive and spark the interest of more readers.

In the mean time, I’m utilizing reader and author groups on Facebook and Twitter, posting quotes, snippets of reviews, and links to purchase. Three times a week. Of course, I’m using this blog too. I’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether hosting contests and giveaways are still popular ways to inspire interest. My publisher recommended talking about the book and any other books I’m working on, but I’m not sure how to do that without giving too much away…

Night Owl Reviews is putting together packages of bookmarks, thin coasters, business cards, and short excerpts to mail to their readers. They’re currently looking for romance authors to provide some of these promo items for them to mail and I’d love to get all over that. I’m just waiting for the next paycheck. Because it costs some money to sign up. That’s the hardest thing, I’ve found. A lot of promotional services cost money these days and I’m living on a budget.

Anyone have any suggestions on free, effective ways to promote? I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on the subject. What are some things that have worked for you, authors? What are some things that have spurred your interest in a book, readers?

Concerning dirty dishes and interruptions

Quite unexpectedly, my husband and I found ourselves attending a marriage conference last Friday. My husband’s cousin and his wife just so happened to have extra tickets to the conference and invited us to go with them. We hadn’t seen them in a while, plus we’d never been to a marriage conference before, so we went. The four of us drove over to a church I’d heard about but had never actually attended. The large auditorium was full with several hundred people. After some announcements from the hosts and a short introduction, the speaker, a Dr. Randy Carlson, came on the stage.

His points and insights, although familiar, were good reminders of things married people can do to create a happier marriage. Saying ‘I love you’ every day, listening without interrupting, abandoning criticism, forgiving one another, using words of affirmation, and etc. He called them Love Habits. By the end of the hour and a half, he challenged us to pick one thing we could do for our spouses for thirty consecutive days. Stopping bad habits and creating entirely new ones can be daunting, but doing one thing is all it takes to start the process. Or at least, that’s what he said.

I sank in my seat when Dr. Carlson mentioned listening without interrupting, sure he was talking to me. It was just too coincidental that he would mention it days after my husband himself pointed out this bad habit of mine. I don’t interrupt to be malicious or to hog the spot light. Sometimes, as he speaks, ideas or opinions pop into my head and I verbalize them so that I don’t forget. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. During one conversation, it got to the point where my husband just stopped talking. Once I was through with the point I wanted to add to the conversation, I turned to him expectantly, waiting for him to finish whatever he had been saying before. When he didn’t, I asked if there was anything wrong. He admitted he was frustrated with me and was trying to collect himself. Surprised, I asked him what I’d done to upset him.

“You kept interrupting me and I kept having to repeat myself,” he said. “I don’t like repeating myself so I’m just not going to.”

Feeling like a jerk, I apologized and promised to work on it.

After the marriage conference, I used my added guilt to make that committment. I was going to be a better listener. I was going to be more considerate of my husband and that was that.

Well, it’s been more of a challenge than I thought. I’ve found myself literally biting my lips to keep myself from interjecting. Worst of all is trying to really listen to what he’s saying while I’m trying to remember what it was I wanted to add. Who knew something so simple would be so difficult? I’ve messed up a couple times and spoken when I should’ve been listening, but my gracious husband has forgiven me every time. I’m happy to report that it is getting easier! I just have to keep focused.

My husband had been having some trouble thinking of one thing he could do for me. Not to brag or anything, but he’s pretty awesome and he does a lot of the things Dr. Carlson mentioned in the marriage conference. I cook every evening (with the exception of those rare mornings when I get up early and make dinner then or when we’re having lasagna and I can just leave a note for my husband to throw it in the oven an hour before I get home from work). But I also wash the dishes 99% of the time. I hate having a dirty kitchen. It immediately sucks the energy out of me when I come home from work to see a pile of dirty dishes on the counter. I finally expressed my frustrations to my husband, who gets home three hours before I do.

“I’m sorry, babe. I just don’t notice when the house is dirty,” he admitted. (Which is hilarious because he can spot a finger smudge on my car window from a mile away while I can go weeks, even months, at a time without washing my car.)

Men and women are different; I’ve seen evidence of this all my life. I never realized just how different they were until I got married. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I believe it’s perfect. We complete each other this way. But it’s so easy to allow those differences to drive us insane! I expect certain things from my husband because, to me, they’re obvious. I mean, why wouldn’t he notice the dishes? It’s the first thing I see!

It takes a lot of selfless love to be able to set our expectations aside and see someone for who they truly are, how they operate, how they think and feel. I’ve decided to let my expectations go, face reality, and try to see my husband for who he is, not necessarily who I want him to be.

My husband decided to make his one thing washing the dishes every day, even if there’s only a handful of plates in the sink. He doesn’t care about the state of the kitchen so long as there’s food in the fridge. But I’ve told him it bothers me, so he’ll do it for me. A whole week has gone by. My counters are clean. The sink is empty. The dish drainer is full. And I’m considerably less stressed. It’s amazing how something so small can make such a difference. I’m so thankful! I hope my one thing is making a difference in his life as well.

So, married folk, what’s your one thing going to be?

The blank screen

So I’ve made it. In the Dark is scheduled to be published in January of 2018 by Tirgearr Publishing. Hooray! Now, I’m waiting. My newly appointed editor is supposed to go through the manuscript with me and give me some feedback. I then have to work on revisions, turn the new manuscript in by no later than October, approve a front cover design, wait for the launch party, and promote the finished product like crazy. None of which can happen until I hear back from my editor.

What am I supposed to do in the mean time?

“Work on one of your other stories,” you might say.

Well, here’s the situation: In the Dark, as you know, is waiting to be reviewed by my new editor. I can’t touch it. Asta and the Barbarians (I submitted it to Tigearr Publishing some time ago without even realizing it) is also being considered for publication. I can’t touch it until a decision is made. I Dare You to Love Me is being considered by someone from Filles Vertes Publishing. Guess what. I can’t touch that one either.

“What about The Sentinel?” you ask.

Ah, The Sentinel. The one story I can’t seem to get right, but the one story I can’t seem to give up on. This is the story that started it all.

I was in the fourth grade, my sister in sixth. She was tough, out-going, smart, and pretty and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Only problem was…she didn’t like me very much. Who could blame her? I was the kid sister she had to tote around wherever she went, take care of, and share all of her things with. She finally complained enough times to my parents and they decided it was time for her to have some privacy. She moved into the guest room and I suddenly had an entire room to myself. It was a hard time for me; despite her wild temper and all the “mean” things she said to me, I still looked up to her and thought of her as my closest friend. I hated that locked door between us, a constant reminder that there was nothing I could do to make her like me as much as I liked her.

I don’t remember how or when it happened exactly but, one day, that door was unlocked. One day, she let me in on a big secret: she was writing a story. Her love of Tolkien’s Middle Earth combined with the drama that she and her friends were going through at school created a fantasy adventure unlike any other. The novel came with hand drawn maps, dress designs, banners and family insignias, and strange new creatures that my artistic sister had come up with herself. And she shared all of it with me! She wanted to hear my opinion! Over countless hours spent sprawled on her bed, listening to her read and discussing ideas, we bonded. And she inspired me to write a story of my own.

Before then, the longest story I’d ever written had been four to six pages. Each page had a few lines of story and an illustration courtesy of my sister (when she had been in the mood to play nice). This was probably why she thought of me when she needed a second opinion on her story. She knew I could be creative and she knew I loved The Lord of the Rings so I would enjoy her fantasy world. I didn’t want to copy her story. I just knew I wanted to write. So I picked out a composition notebook from the stack my mom had and put pencil to paper. The plot didn’t flow well. The villains were pathetically two dimensional and cliche. The main character was too perfect. But it didn’t matter. I was creating something and I loved it.

When I was caught up on my sister’s story or when she was having  writer’s block, I would read to her from my story and we’d work on improvements together. We still share stories and story ideas to this day, across the miles and miles that separate us. I do more of the writing and she does more of the advising now, but we’ll always have this in common; the love of fantasy. We both want to see my first story published, despite the many, many changes it has gone through over the years.

But no matter what I do, I can’t seem to tell the story right. I’ve written up draft after draft, shared it with two beta readers other than my sister, tried to listen to everybody’s counsel, set it aside for months at a time only to pick it up again and make more changes. Each time I finish, I think I might’ve finally gotten it. I send it out to my sister and my beta readers with confidence. Then they give it back with more red marks than ever. I manage to improve some things only to make other things more unbelievable or dramatic or flat or whatever. I love these characters. I love this story. I love this world I’ve created. Why can’t I weave the plot correctly? Why can’t I tell it in a way that’s…whole and real and not cliche?

Thinking and writing about it now, I want to try again. But I know the moment I open up the document and stare at that blank page, it’ll all come swarming back to me; the problems, the criticisms, the questions that still need answering. The very long story that still hasn’t been told. And…

“…the blank piece of paper wins.”

Uuuugh.

There are three other works in progress I could focus on. I could write a sequel to In the Dark or Asta and the Barbarians, things I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time and just haven’t gotten around to. I’m sure I could pass the time until I hear back from my new editor. But The Sentinel keeps calling. Can I muster the strength to answer the call? Can I bear to face that blank screen again?