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Middle Grade Fantasy Issues

21 Apr

I stumbled upon this journal entry from March of 2014:

My latest rejection letter concerning the Rowanwick Witches hit a discouraging note. The editor claimed that they’ve published and have been receiving submissions of too many novels in which a relative teaches a young person witchcraft. This got me suspecting that if this one publisher is getting that many manuscripts with the same premise, then presumably this is common in the publishing industry in general right now. (The irony is that I wrote the original version back when I was a teenager in the 1980s, and the novel would have stood out.)

I confided in a friend, who suggested I alter the Rowanwick Witches so that someone other than a relative is the teacher. Perhaps, for instance, a tree could be the teacher—something different and unusual. I don’t want to do anything like that with the Rowanwick Witches, which has been near and dear since I was a teenager, but I got to thinking I could come up with a different Middle Grade series (or one at least one novel) of that ilk and attempt to get it published traditionally (as opposed to self-publishing).

Since writing the above, I haven’t written that other Middle Grade novel or series (though I have a cunning, if somewhat vague, plan for one). Getting published is very hard, and the publishing industry doesn’t care how attached you happen to be to certain fictional characters and how much time and effort you’ve devoted to them. The focus of agents and publishers is what will sell, what readers wish to read and on what they’re willing to spend money. It makes perfect sense intellectually.

However, because I felt compelled to get Rowanwick Witches published, I went ahead and self-published the first book on CreateSpace, the publishing platform for Amazon.com. The first book, available on Amazon, is Rowanwick Witches, Lesson 1: Spells and Enchantments. I’m currently working on the next two books in the series.

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Oh, the Dreadful Wind and Rain

7 Apr

The sky is pale grey, almost white, and the Tibetan prayer flags have been dancing in the wind. When I woke, it wasn’t raining yet, and I considered collecting sticks and leaves to put in the yard waste bin, but I figured it’s so windy that dirt would fly into my eyes. After it started pouring outside, I had a better excuse not to do yard work.

I’m more in the mood for writing today, anyway, so I turned on my computer and just finished a round of revising a middle grade fantasy novel. It’s one of those really fun, escapist writing projects, a sequel to my self-published novel Rowanwick Witches, Lesson 1: Spells and Enchantments (which, incidentally, is available on Amazon.com). I currently have this sequel as Lesson 3, but I haven’t written more than thirty pages of Lesson 2. I intend to publish them in order and have Lesson 2 come out in October, even if I have to switch the numbers around.

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The wind was so blustery and forceful today that it blew open the side door, and the cats got out.

Before I knew this, I looked out the kitchen window and saw my panther Haedrig, who’s supposed to stay indoors, out in the back yard, chewing on grass. I hadn’t seen petite Vita all morning. Wondering if they found a secret tunnel, I searched the house…and soon found the wide-open door. I’m guessing I didn’t lock it last time I took recycling through the door, or at least not the deadbolt.

During a downpour, I checked around the house, and Haedrig was back inside, glaring at me resentfully. Vita jumped inside through the open window, which I promptly closed. Back to writing.

Alice Henderson’s Latest Novel

5 Apr

One of my very favorite people in the world, Alice Henderson, whom I met when we were undergraduate writing students at Webster University, has a new novel out! Her stories were always my favorites in our writing workshops.

This novel looks to be pretty dystopian….

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Real Neat Blog

22 Feb

blog-award

The creator of a wonderful blog I follow, Dear Kitty, has kindly nominated my blog, S. E. Wigget, for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thanks for doing this! You’re a lot more tech savvy than I am and have a more prolific blog, accessible here: https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are: (feel free not to act upon them if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards; etc.):

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers  you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

The questions are:

  1. How do you advertise your blog to others?

I share links to it on Facebook and Twitter, and I share the link when I’m querying literary agents.

  1. How long do you spend blogging per week?

It varies drastically. Sometimes I spend several hours in one day adding numerous blog posts and back-dating some of them. Sometimes I spend about one hour blogging and do so several days in one week. Other weeks, I don’t blog at all, which could be a good sign, if it means I’m more focused on my fiction writing.

  1. How many posts do you post per week, on average?

Between one and four.

  1. Which of your posts is your favorite so far?

I’m partial to my dream descriptions in general, or posts in which I’m writing about the process of writing.

  1. Why did you choose to create the blog you did?

When I was studying publishing in grad school seven years ago, I learned about blogs as a tool for promoting your writing, so I decided to create a blog for that purpose. Basically, I read that authors are expected to have blogs nowadays, so I went ahead and created this one.

  1. Are pictures or words more important to you? Or are they equally important?

The words are more important on my blog. On Instagram, it’s the reverse.

 

My nominees are:

  1. Dear Kitty. Some blog https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/
  2. Ebony Astor, Carolyn Petit, and Anita Sarkeesian: Feminist Frequency https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/528422403
  3. Thought Catalog, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/38584051
  4. Siggy, The Asexual Agenda https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/2954560
  5. Shannon Bolithoe: A Writing Life https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/99692140/posts/22900
  6. Krista and Dawlyn, Little Blind Book Finds https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/67105973
  7. Equal Justice Society, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/32750249
  8. Everyday Feminism, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/9305223
  9. Sewcialists, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/15530208
  10. Simply Syd: A Guide to Black Girl Magic, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/41786612

The Accidental Parrot’s Writing Style

18 Feb

I began mentally composing something to blog that sounded a bit too much in the style of Phoebe Robinson, author of You Can’t Touch my Hair, a hilarious essay collection I just read. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that I’m as skilled at writing humor as she is or that many people understand my humor; it’s simply that I caught myself mentally writing something subconsciously similar.

I’ve occasionally noticed an odd tendency of mine: if I’ve been reading something by Oscar Wilde, I can write a bit like Oscar Wilde and tend to have witty thoughts that sound like something he would have said or written. And then there was the time I wrote a gothic novel after and during reading gothic novels, and I accidentally wrote the first draft in a style much like that of the eighteenth-century novelist Anne Radcliffe, something few modern readers would appreciate. (I’m typing these words in Baskerville Old Face, which was fashionable in Anne Radcliffe’s day.)

Rejection

4 Feb

Yesterday I came across rejection letters for my dark fantasy novel, The Vanquished and the Surviving. I opened the Word document “Submissions for Vanquished” and updated it. For this one novel, I’ve queried thirty-two literary agents, and all have either sent rejection letters (some only form letters) or not responded (which is often a rejection).

Counting so many rejections, I sank into self-doubt and melancholy. Maybe no agent or publisher will ever accept this novel. Maybe it’s not as wonderful as I thought.

When I created the world of Vanquished (in which other novels and short stories are set) back in the late 1990s, all the characters were white. It’s set in a slightly different (and very supernatural) early nineteenth-century England, with mostly aristocratic characters. I call this reality “Margot’s universe,” after one of the most major characters.

Originally, I wished to take a break from neurotic and slightly autobiographical, brooding literary short stories and write something fun and escapist. These stories are often somewhat brooding, but they’re fun and escapist nonetheless and with characters who bear no resemblance to me or to people I know in this reality.

I suspect one of the causes for this novel’s rejections is that, because of current demand, I’ve queried agents who take Young Adult Fantasy but not Adult Fantasy, and for them I’ve labeled it YA. Although the protagonist is a teenager in this novel, I’ve otherwise written about him in his twenties (ditto his cousins, Margot and Roland). I just read a series of YA Regency comparable titles written in simpler and more modern language, and I’ve realized that Vanquished is more complex and mature than YA fiction. I see adults reading it more than teens.

As for the language: the first draft of another novel set in Margot’s universe was accidentally written in a style reminiscent of Anne Radcliffe, who wrote gothic novels in the 1790s. That reflects what I’d been reading when I started that draft; it was not a deliberate or conscious decision—it just…happened. I have since revised it, but like in Vanquished, I’ve retained period language in all the dialog. It’s possible that this turns off agents—some, anyway—especially if they want YA fantasy.

There’s no glut of fantasy fiction set in the Regency era or the early nineteenth century, so that can’t be causing rejection. If it were high fantasy in a medieval or semi-medieval setting, that would make sense.

Vanquished is full of action and conflict and never a dull moment, which the synopsis indicates, so that’s no cause for rejecting it.

Perhaps agents perceive this novel as not having enough diversity. Most characters in Vanquished are white, British, and aristocratic. While revising Vanquished, I incorporated working-class characters, including two Romani young women and, very briefly, a black woman. The Romani characters have scenes from their perspectives, and I’d like to write a story about at least one of them. Vanquished (and the stories and novels generally) does have a variety of sexual orientations, including an asexual protagonist but not any transgender characters (although there’s one in the sequel).

It’s possible I’m delusional and have fooled myself into believing I have writing talent. However, the frenemy who made that accusation was a manipulative narcissist who made sure I had absolutely no self-esteem. In contrast, real friends, instructors, and critique partners who are good and reliable people have given me very positive feedback and think I do have writing talent. It’s obvious whose opinions are worth minding.

Perhaps after The Vanquished and the Surviving has received fifty rejection letters, I’ll temporarily stop querying for it. A “front burner” fantasy novel set in an Asian country requires much research, mulling, and revising, but it’s possible an agent/publisher might accept it before Vanquished. If that happens, Vanquished and the gothic novel that chronologically follows it may seem like abandoned children.

Skeleton from the Closet on Kindle

14 Oct

My magical realism novel Skeleton from the Closet is now available on Kindle!

The trade paperback edition will be coming soon.

 

Bohemian and feminist Kezia moves into the charming Craftsman house her uncle left her…in Kansas, where she moves and finds herself surrounded by conservatives, including toxic relatives. Aunt Edith seemed so kind and loving when she was a kid, but now she’s scathingly contemptuous toward Kezia, who begins redecorating and meets a walking and talking Skeleton, more than willing to tell her dark family secrets.