Wednesday, April 18, 2018

After the Excitement, Back to the Grind

- a post about writing

Well, in case you missed it, the anthology I am a part of came out last week. If you’re interested in all the gushing excitement, just read the last couple posts. It was a fun day/week for our little anthology, and its opening day was really amazing. So much excitement! So much checking of stats! So much fangirling when this happened:

Okay, sure, his book has been in that general area forever, and we only hit it for a little while. But still, it’s one of those little moments you just have to enjoy.

Now a week has passed, and we’re past all the first hoorahs. And suddenly it’s like my writing is in a vacuum. I’ve been spending the last several months on almost weekly deadlines—short story contests, submissions, materials to submit for the upcoming Storymakers conference, final proofs for Unspun, etc. Now I have this gigantic lull.

I think this is where writing is hard for some of us. Somehow I manage to pull out some impressive feats once in a while when I’m backed up against a deadline, but then in the in-between spaces it can be hard to feel properly motivated. But these in-between spaces are where a lot of the real work happens.

So we have to find ways to motivate ourselves. It’s different for everyone, but we have to find what works for us. One thing I’ve got right now is an amazing accountability partner—we check in with each other every week on goals and plans. It doesn’t keep me perfectly in line, but it helps me to remember, “Hey, if I spend five hours binge-watching reality cooking shows, I’ve got to go tell LaChelle I was a total spaz. Maybe I’ll just write for five minutes... and then binge watch.” (At least I wrote first!) I’m also trying to practice building in deadlines (like most short story markets have deadlines, so I’m trying to write to some of them). I have friends who create their own reward systems—new shoes, new books, a bowl of ice cream, etc. There are lots of options out there!

So if you’re like me and you need some extra motivation to keep writing past the really exciting moments (first ideas, first drafts, publications, etc.), go find it, implement it. Not every moment of writing has to be filled with joy and inspiration, but I think we can find a lot more lasting fulfillment as we practice writing through the grind as well.

P.S. Here is your subtle reminder that if you read and enjoyed Unspun (or even if you read it and didnt enjoy), we as authors would be thrilled if you would write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Cosmically Cool Katherine Cowley*

* Dorky alliterative title because I can.
Why, yes, I am really terrible at getting good photo lighting.

ONE DAY UNTIL THE OFFICIAL RELEASE! (Also, if you want to buy a copy and havent yet, tomorrow is the perfect day to do it and benefit us authors. Amazon likes it when there’s an uptick in purchases on a single day.)

Now let’s talk about how nifty Kathy Cowley is!

In the process of joining this project, I let Kathy know that I was willing to do some of the copyediting/proofing. I felt so privileged to be able to help with a little bit of this work, and it meant I got a preview of many of the stories along the way. In doing this, I also got to make friends with Kathy Cowley, and I consider that definitely one of the highlights of working on Unspun. I’d already read and loved some of her flash fiction. (“Celestial Accounting” in last year’s Mormon Lit Blitz was my favorite piece other than mine. It is so good! Also, The Last Bathroom is just the right level of weird-but-fun.) So getting to know her as a person was fantastic.

In looking at her blog again to find links to some of her stories, I made an amazing discovery. Kathy wrote “In Which Eve Names Everything Else,” one of my favorite pieces from a different year’s Mormon Lit Blitz too! I had no idea this one was hers, but people, it is beautiful. Kathy just keeps getting cooler and cooler the more I know about her.

We’d been working together for a few months when she emailed to let me know she would be visiting family in Arlington—and did I want to get together for dessert somewhere in between there and here? Yes! Of course! I will even brave my driving phobia about new places!

So we met up at a restaurant one night and sat and ate tremendous quantities of cheese (no dessert in the end, but the cheese was definitely worth skipping the cake). We talked writing, our latest projects, family, etc. As expected, Kathy is as fun and cool in person as via email and phone (and on the phone she sounds like one of my dearest friends, Sariah). She’s working right now on a book that just sounds so very fun (if I get permission, I’ll tell you what it is).

Kathy took on so much of this project. It absolutely wouldn’t be the lovely book that it is without her. She coordinated people, arranged multiple edits, and probably did about a thousand other things that I don’t know about. Oh, and did I mention she did all the interior design?

Since we met, she has also given me fantastic (and speedy) critiques of a ton of my short stories, and her suggestions have been invaluable in them all. Finding a great critique friend is awesome, and I’m so glad to add her as one of mine.

Anyway, I’ll stop fangirling now. Let’s just say she’s awesome, and when she publishes more books, you should go buy them. Immediately.

The End.

P.S. Her website is down at the moment (stinky hackers!), but as soon as it is back up, you should go check it out.

Monday, April 2, 2018

A True Story (about Unspun)

Now for a true story:

A little less than a year ago, I got an email from Kathy Cowley (whom I did not know at the time). It was an invitation to submit some poetry for an anthology based on what happened after the fairy tales ended. I don’t know if you’ve missed it, but rewriting fairy tales is kind of my favorite thing. But poetry? We are not the best of friends. So this email was both awesome and devastating at the same time. Exactly the sort of anthology I would jump at! Right at the time when I was looking to write more short fiction! Hooray! But poetry. Despair.

Here’s the embarrassing part: I might have cried. Okay, I did cry. Maybe it was hormonal. Or maybe I already knew how much I wanted to write a story for this collection.

Whatever the reason, I spent maybe the next twenty minutes or so trying to convince myself that my poetry skills weren’t utterly awful and that maybe I could indeed come up with a poem. Alas, I knew that was a lie. So I wrote back that tragically I did not write poetry, but if she needed any short fiction, maybe let me know. Pretty please with a cherry on top? (No, I did not write that part.)

I may have kind of done happy dances around the house when Kathy wrote back that she had accidentally sent me the wrong email. She was actually looking for a short story, not a poem.

The wheels started turning. I came up with an idea that quickly expanded into the novel I’m working on right now (and seriously, I’m so excited about this novel—these characters! if I ever used heart-eye emojis, I would do it here—but that’s beside the point at the moment). So that wouldn’t work for the anthology. Then I came up with a couple other ideas that quickly sputtered out. Then I started writing “Breadcrumbs,” which was originally a lighthearted romance between Gretel and the woodsman from “Snow White.” Ha! Lighthearted romance! Not so much.

As I really began to write into Gretel’s world, I realized her story couldn’t be that light. She was sent (with her brother, of course) into the forest to die of starvation. By her father and stepmother. Then she was held prisoner by a witch who wanted to eat her. And then she killed the witch instead—by pushing her into an oven. Imagine that for a moment. This was not a cheerful tale I was going to write, and no matter how much I wanted Gretel to have a quick, easy romance, she just couldn’t. But she could still have hope.

So I wrote and revised, had to totally rewrite the ending three or four or five hundred times, and finally here we all are, with a shiny new story almost in our hands. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together, and I’m especially excited because I finally got a sneak peek at Ruth Nickle’s artwork in the book. She did the cover, so obviously she’s awesome, but seeing the interior work made my heart so happy. Her little mermaid artwork! Again, I’m not really big on using heart-eye emojis, but I love that piece so much. Her drawings are gorgeous and evocative, and I think they will add a fantastic dimension to the collection.

Stay tuned for my next gushing post in which I introduce you to how much I love Kathy Cowley.

P.S. Pre-order link for the kindle version here! The paperback will be available soon as well.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Cover Reveal: Unspun!!!

People! I have been waiting impatiently for the day I could post this news officially. I have a story, “Breadcrumbs,” coming out in this gorgeous anthology on April 10th, and I’m so excited about it. Unspun is an anthology devoted to what happens after the “happily ever after.” There are stories both happy and sad, scary and silly, beautiful and just a little bit crazy. I am thrilled to be associated with them. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Whatever happened to “happily ever after”?
Heroes search for happiness, villains plot revenge, and nothing is as easy as it once seemed. Gretel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, an orphan girl questions Rumpelstiltskin’s legacy, a monster cat searches for a child to eat, and the pied piper realizes stealing a hundred and thirty children may not have been his smartest idea.
Fairy tales have endured for centuries even though—or perhaps because—their conclusions are often more unsettling than satisfying. In Unspun, eleven storytellers come together to challenge and explore a few of those classic tales. Unexpected twists are sure to provoke both thought and laughter.
Gorgeous illustrations by Ruth Nickle accompany each piece.

My contribution, “Breadcrumbs,” feels like a little bit of a different direction from much of what I’ve written. I tend to write young adult, for starters, and this piece is definitely not YA. Featuring Gretel (of “Hansel and Gretel” fame), it’s a little heavier than my YA work, but I’m so pleased with how it came out, and I hope you will be too.

But more than that, I am thrilled to get to tell you about the stories in this collection. It’s hard to know where to begin. Should I start with the tense, fast-paced “Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter,” by Ruth Nickle? Or with Kathy Cowley’s novella about Tatterhood, a fantastic heroine who rides a goat and fights with a wooden spoon? Maybe I’ll mention how cool it is that I get to be related by marriage to two of the contributors. Sarah Chow’s story about the firebird is delightful, and Chris Cutler’s “Heart of a Thief” is such a sneaky post-beanstalk tale. Then there’s a story about a child-eating cat, a light romance featuring orange dresses and a heroine who’s still figuring out what she wants, a tale of Jewish grieving customs and a magical nutcracker, and a coming-of-age about what happens when you decide to off the evil witch in a rather gruesome manner.

I have to confess, though, my favorite is Scott Cowley’s “The Pied Piper’s Revenge,” which is an absolutely hilarious look at what happened after the pied piper wandered off with all those children. Oh, this piece made me laugh and laugh. My other favorite is PJ Switzer’s lovely poem “The Little Mermaid,” which is just a perfect, gorgeous slice of her life as sea foam (way better, incidentally, than my effort at this same topic last year on my blog).

But though those two are my favorite, I really love this whole anthology. Have I mentioned that I’m excited to be a part of it? You will love it. You should definitely buy a copy (it will be up on Amazon soon). Maybe two copies. Maybe three, just in case. You never know when you’ll need a gift to offer some poor old woman who just happens to be a sorceress in disguise.

P.S. Here’s a link to Chris Cutler’s fabulous reveal as well.
P.P.S. And here’s the purchase link!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Publication announcement: Love Undefined

Hey, lovely readers! I’m excited to announce that a new romance anthology, featuring a story by yours truly, is coming out next Thursday, December 7th!

Love Undefined is a collection of 12 short, clean romances ranging from contemporary to fantasy to sci fi. They’re by a variety of LDS authors, though only one or two are explicitly religious.

Enjoy the lovely cover. Isn't it beautiful?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Forty Years" Wins, and Some Serious Backstory

It's been a couple weeks now, but I knew I needed to update you all on the outcome of the Mormon Lit Blitz this year. It was such a surreal experience for me, skimming through the post that shared the winners. Fourth place ... not me. Third, then second ... not me. I almost missed first place entirely, and then I saw my name. That was me!

It was such a thrill! And yet, I feel like there is more to the story that I should share.

I had been sitting on this story for years. I knew in my mind how it was supposed to feel, how it was supposed to end, but the several times I'd tried to put the structure together with the actual story were flat failures. So I'd set it aside again until it niggled at me and I picked it up.

Finally, one night, in one of those miraculous bursts of clarity that sometimes come, the words came out. I don't use the word "miraculous" lightly here. For me it was exactly that. I had prayed that if I was ever to write this story, I needed some help. There's a weird, fine line when it comes to talking about "inspiration" in writing, and I don't know where exactly that line is sometimes. I certainly don't want to blame God for having written this tale, but I will honestly say that the clarity of that brief time spent at the computer was a gift.

I still had to edit and polish the words now, but I had them on the screen. It was such a relief. I worked furiously and eventually had it where I wanted it to be (or at least as much as I could bring it to--I've already discovered things I would rewrite if I could, but such is life).

As I sat and stared at it on my screen, I realized I could not bring myself to let even my husband read it. I always let him read my stuff, even the horrible junk, but I just couldn't. It terrified me. It was somehow far more personal than a lot of the actually autobiographical pieces I had written.

To address a question that arose when I accidentally called it "loosely autobiographical," here are some of the actual facts:

It's more like "inspired by true events." Which is to say that a couple of the specific moments discussed in the story did actually happen to me, I did have a complicated relationship with my mom (who died four months before I married, not a year), and I have felt many of the sentiments involved. I did once overhear someone say that Mom had too many kids and it threw her hormones out of whack (as the seventh child of seven, I took that to mean it was my fault that she was a little broken). I do have fond, sweet, cherished memories of Mom helping me study for a spelling bee, as well as memories of her teaching me every craft under the sun and being a woman who loved to create beauty. I called my brother, whom she was living with at that point, the morning that she died--but I didn't think to talk to her.
And I do have moments where I worry that I am somehow irreparably broken, that I will pass on too much of my mother's soul's DNA.
On the other hand, my oldest child is only nine. There is time for us both to grow up, and I hope that when the day comes, I have a snappier, peppier sort of a pep talk. Also, Mom didn't miss my graduation or other important events. She was there. She was both, in some ways, a better mom and a worse mom than the one I imagined in "Forty Years."
That's fiction--it takes the real and bends it. The mother in my story is not at all my mother, even though in some ways she is. So for some inexplicable reason, the blend of fiction and autobiography was too tender--like prodding at a wound--for me to show my husband, Brice. 

And yet I submitted it to the contest. Because life is weird that way, and sometimes it's easier to share with complete strangers than with those closest to you. Plus, I didn't really think it would make it.

Then when it became a finalist, I was so excited! Until I realized that people I knew would be reading it. Worst of all, my siblings and my husband would read it! (It didn't occur to me until much later that actually the very worst of all would be that my nine-year-old would want to read it, as she wants to read everything.)

Still, I overcame that fear, and I advertised it among family and friends, and I tried not to think about how it would feel to have them read it, and I tried to pretend it was totally fine. I even encouraged them to vote--virtuously (and honestly!) asking them to vote how they really felt, even if it wasn't for me.

Which brings us to the moment that I discovered I took first place. Hooray! Callooh callay even! And then, with a sinking feeling, what if I didn't really deserve to win? What if I just got so many people to vote for me that I tipped the scales? I spent the rest of the morning feeling sick, wanting to celebrate but thinking I shouldn't. Because I probably didn't really earn it fair and square.
 And the thing is, I'll never know. No matter how many of my friends and family come out of the woodwork and tell me it was great, yada yada, I'll just never know. And even if I did know for sure, it wouldn't change that feeling. That's part of the story. It can't be changed by external adulation (which is still fun and nice, of course). It can only be changed on the inside. 
And there, I think, I will fall back to "Forty Years." I do think that sometimes we are just wandering in the wilderness, trying to figure things out, but I hope that idea is not bleak. The wilderness can be pretty gorgeous and amazing and full of wonder. But it's not the destination.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing and hopefully getting better and hopefully even occasionally feeling like I wrote something pretty wonderful. 
Plus, I'll spend my prize money on books. Which always helps.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Forty Years" on the Mormon Lit Blitz

So, today’s the day that my story is posted on the Mormon Lit Blitz. You can read the story here, and if you would like to participate in a discussion about it, go here. While the contest is obviously Mormon, I think many of the pieces (including mine) speak to an audience beyond Mormons (although some do not translate out very well). So if you like flash fiction, you might give these a try anyway.

I’ve loved reading the pieces this year. As always, not every story speaks to me, but so many of them do that it’s always worth reading and thinking. Plus, they’re really short, so what have you got to lose?

Voting will take place next week, June 12–14, and if you’re so inclined, it would be lovely of you to go read and vote. I don’t even care (mostly) if you don’t vote for me, just as long as you vote for what you loved the most.

In case you’re wondering, my favorites were (in chronological order):

“Celestial Accounting” by Katherine Cowley. I just loved this idea so much. Important truth contained in a funny story.

“Sonata in Three Movements” by Jeanine Bee. Beautiful imagery, sweet and musical. Intergenerational too, like mine.

“There Wrestled a Man in Parowan” by Wm Morris. Ha! A funny piece that made me smile.

“Daughters of Ishmael” by Annaliese Lemmon. This one definitely doesn’t translate out of Mormondom at all, but I loved imagining these sisters and their family ties.

 (Of course) “Forty Years” by me. It’s only very vaguely, very semi-semi-autobiographical, in case you were wondering. (Especially since, you know, I’m only thirty-six and don’t have any grown children.)

What were your favorites? (Better yet, don’t answer me here, but go and discuss them on the blog posts about them. You can get there through the second link above. Writers love to hear that something they wrote made you think or that you connected with it in some way.)