Spark Check!


I’m back! I was on vacation! I had a great time visiting Julie in Virginia. I even met Deb who frequently comments here. Thanks for coming over Deb! It was great meeting you and now I can put a face to your comments :)

I think I’ve mentioned I’ve been having a difficult time writing the current episode for my serial. Third time’s a charm. I’ve been writing since Tuesday, and I think it’s finally going well. 3700 words for me so far this week and they feel good.

How are you guys doing?

Inspiring Yourself

So I flooded my bathroom and bedroom. Yay. Fortunately, not to much got damaged. I’ve been wanting to clean out my closet for awhile, which made this a somewhat productive accident. My husband has been really great helping me. We got a lot of water up yesterday/last night/early morning, and the carpet is still soaked! So round two after I post this. Unfortunately, I was really on a writing roll, but the wheels fell off now.

Last week, an article about making money as an indie author really got me down because this person was making way more than me. So I asked readers how they inspire themselves to keep writing during times of self-doubt. Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. They helped me, so I hope they help the Enchanted Spark Community!

I’m not even sure how to respond to this. There are definitely days I don’t push through and I wallow in self-pity. Then, there are days I am thankful for all I have accomplished and I work through it. I imagine even those who are successful have the same motivational issues. It’s just plain hard to sit down and write. Sometimes, even when I have an idea to write about, I don’t want to write. I’d rather do almost anything than write (read, watch tv, facebook, go out and play in the snow, yeah, right!, or even twiddle my thumbs) In the long run, we just have to make a decision to do it, whether we’re into it or not. It’s all about looking at the long term goals. Do we want to be an author who can be taken seriously? Or do we just want to be mediocre all our lives?

Dave Barz:

Just like we shouldn’t directly compare our writing to another author, we should definitely avoid comparing paystubs. When the dumptruck of money arrives in my driveway some day, I will be pleasantly surprised, but it is not an expectation.

With my current project I have had up and down weeks and scrapped my beginning after letting a group of strangers shred it on the internet. To cheer myself up I read those stories that did work, that people enjoyed and told me they enjoyed them, be they family, friends, betas, or professors. You got this far with some encouragement, hang on to that and push forward. We want to read what you write next.

Other than checking emails or looking up a date/fact, I try to stay off the internet until I’m done my writing goals. Otherwise, I always seem to come across something negative that depresses me and affects my goals for the day. On the days I’m not so self-disciplined and I do get depressed from the internet, I tend to switch over to other writerly things that need to be done outside of actual writing (getting caught up on emails, updating my website, things like that).

Ooh, I like Holly’s advice to stay off the Internet until she’s done with her writing goals.

I’m like Dave, above, in that the money part of it isn’t even a factor in my writing right now. Those numbers are really pretty good sounding. I’d like to make some money writing. It would definitely feel good. Lord knows I could use it, but TIME is my biggest challenge. I still need my day job, so with everything else that needs to get done time is limited.

After pushing and pushing in November to blog every day and also work on my story, I still found my total word count to be a little depressing. It was a lot better than I had been doing, but still paltry compared to “real writers.” At this rate I’ll finish a novel in about three to five years. Haha. I don’t want to wallow in self-doubt but I am going to wallow from time to time.

So to keep going (which I am trying to do right now) I find the following helpful: A.) Don’t spend too much time comparing myself to anybody else. This is in total agreement with Holly’s advice. Just set goals and meet goals and then do other stuff. B.) No matter how much of a struggle it is right now. It can get better. I can get better. I can learn more about how it all works. I can make the most of what I write. The only way it won’t happen is if I stop. Breaks are going to happen, but no stopping!

Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

As far as getting writing done, there really is “do or do not.” You either do it or you won’t. Just write. As far as success goes, there should always be, “try.” Keep trying and keep trying and keep trying. Because failure has almost always been part of success, so try you must. Always.


What made me keep working this time was the blizzard on the East Coast. Julie had everything for the episode edited except for the last part I was still writing. I knew she’d be shoveling snow and the power might go out, and she wouldn’t be able to edit if I didn’t get it to her before Friday morning. So after a bit of boo-hoo I got back to work. I’m so glad I did because it means we’re publishing the first release of the New Year on time! I’m only one away from my sales goal for the month, so all the sales of Episode 5 will be cream…as long as I didn’t make readers mad with Episode 4 😀

But other times when I don’t have a natural disaster looming, I turn to humor. My current favorite inspiration is below. NSFW!!!!!

Spark Tally!

So since my last post, I’ve written 10,000 words which is about 5000 words a week. I really need to get that higher. I’ve got so many projects and so little time it seems.

A bit of publication news: Tales of a Talisman is out with one of my favorite stories: Crows! I’ve been waiting a long long time for this story to come out. It was one of those stories that  a lot of editors seemed to like, but not quite enough. I’m so happy that David Summers liked it enough!

I also started and finished Crusade by Peter M. Ball. It’s the end of his urban fantasy trilogy based on Norse mythology. It’s the best in the series! But you should start at the beginning if you haven’t.

How are all your projects coming? The end of summer is coming for me, so I’ll be more regular with my posts again. I hope you’ve had lots of inspiration recently!

Mini-Marathon Day 4

I only wrote about a thousand words last night. However, I did finish the first half of the book again. I think it still connects well if not better to the second half now. I had rushed through several things the first time around. I’m not sure how much I’ll get to add today, but I’d like to add another 5000 words. I’m sure I won’t be finishing this book by the end of the week :( Maybe by the end of June.

Today’s inspiration:

Lightning Wolves and the Importance of Setting

This summer saw the publication of my eighth novel, a western steampunk adventure called Lightning Wolves. It’s the sequel to my 2011 novel Owl Dance and continues the story of the Russian invasion of the United States in 1877. You may not remember this seminal period in history, but I can assure you it involved airships, ornithopters, lightning guns, and automata. That’s the steampunk part of the story. The adventure comes from the characters living the experience. There’s Ramon Morales, the former sheriff trying to find new direction in life. There’s Larissa Crimson, a bounty hunter with a natural talent for machines and a desire to make the world a better place. There’s Curly Bill Bresnahan, an outlaw who has stumbled on a terrible weapon he hopes to use for his own gain. Their conflict and interaction drives the story forward.

This brings us to the western aspect of the story and the importance of setting. In a very real way, Lightning Wolves was inspired by my commute to work. If that doesn’t sound very inspirational to you, I should explain that my commute to work starts in Las Cruces, New Mexico, just a couple miles from the site of Billy the Kid’s trial, to a mountain peak on the Tohono O’Odham reservation 50 miles west of Tucson, Arizona. I make this drive once a week. Along the way, I pass through several places both famous and important to the region’s history.

The end of my commute!

I grew up watching Westerns, but I often find history more fascinating than fiction. For example, John Nakayama was a Japanese farmer who settled in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley early in the twentieth century. He and his family were instrumental in cultivating robust varieties of green chile that are so much a part of both the state’s economy and heritage. It wasn’t hard to imagine a Samurai warrior displaced by the Meiji Restoration starting down the same path a little earlier in the state’s history.

My commute to work carries me by the turnoff to Tombstone, Arizona. Although the gunfight at OK Corral put Tombstone on the map, the region had a rich history even before Wyatt Earp considered moving there. Tombstone was founded by Ed Shieffelin as a mining camp near the San Pedro River, which cuts through rolling land carpeted by chaparral. In my story, the army recruits people from Arizona to fight the Russians in California and Oregon. If this had happened, Ed and his brother Al would have faced difficulties developing their claim when the only people in the area were Apaches and a gang of cattle rustlers who called themselves the Cowboys. Taking one of the mine tours in Tombstone, inspired the idea of the Shieffelin’s working with an inventor to build a machine which could tunnel into rock.

Descending into the Good Enough Mine

The area around Tombstone provided even more story inspiration. Although the Cowboys, led by the Clanton family, are famous from many western movies, not many of those movies explored how they made their living stealing cattle from Mexican ranchers and selling it to the United States Army. On the river’s banks near Tombstone is one of the few standing Spanish Presidios, dating back to the 1700s. The Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate seemed a wonderful place for characters to seek shelter during a sand storm.

My commute to work also carries me through the Council Rocks region of the Dragoon Mountains where Cochise met with General Howard in 1872 to sign a peace treaty. It was known Geronimo frequented this area as well. The Council Rocks are a dramatic formation of yellow rocks strewn over a several-mile area like a natural fortress. It’s easy to see why the Apaches used this area as a stronghold and I knew it had to be the setting for one of the climactic encounters in the novel.

A natural fortress

Setting, for me, is more than a simple backdrop. It can provide inspiration for plot when we pay attention to the kinds of stories that have happened in similar places. Setting can provide inspiration for characters when we look at the people who have been drawn to those places and the conflicts they had. Sometimes those conflicts are with people who want the same land. Sometimes those conflicts are with the land itself. While it’s true that the type of story we want to tell will drive the setting, sometimes it’s fun to start with a setting and see where it leads you.

Lightning Wolves is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords in print and ebook formats.

Guest Blog by Alex Shvartsman Creator of Unidentified Funny Objects

Welcome to Alex Shvartsman, creator of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. Please enjoy reading about his journey from the spark of inspiration to the third year of production.

It was almost by accident that I began to write funny stories.

When I got into the business of writing science fiction, I sort of imagined myself writing your typical fare – a little bit of future tech, a little bit of high adventure, maybe some snappy dialog. Humor was something I always enjoyed reading, but never pictured myself as producing.

Then, one day, I threw caution to the wind and started clowning around. I was stunned to discover that writing humorous stories came easier to me, and was a heck of a lot more fun, than writing the “serious” stuff. So I kept doing it.

I’ve had quite a bit of success publishing my humor stories. They appeared in places like Galaxy’s Edge, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and even the journal of Nature. Even so, I also discovered that selling humorous short fiction is not nearly as easy as selling darker fare.

True, most prestigious SF/F magazines will occasionally run a humor story or two. But those lighthearted pieces are balanced out with far too many serious ones. There exist entire markets – magazines like Nightmare and Apex and Shock Totem – dedicated to dark fiction. But there wasn’t a dedicated humor market.


I’d always wanted to try my hand at editing an anthology, and this was a perfect opportunity. It may not help me sell my humorous stories, but wouldn’t it be cool to provide a pro-paying, quality outlet for other writers to do so? And also, this was exactly the kind of book I’d buy in a second. Surely there were plenty of other fans of humorous SF/F out there, feeling the same way?

I researched online and found that nothing quite like this has been done recently. Sure, there have been plenty of themed humor anthologies over the years, such as Chicks in Chainmail or Deals with the Devil. But there was no book that attempted to collect a great variety of humorous stories across both science fiction and fantasy, and featuring everything from sarcasm to slapstick to parody.

At the time, few people had heard of me at all, and I certainly had no editorial experience to speak of. So it really was the concept itself that garnered the support I needed for the book to go forward. Awesome writers, whose books I’ve enjoyed for years, were actually willing to entrust me with some of their words! Mike Resnick was one of the early supporters. I owe him quite a debt as I am sure his name being attached to the project had convinced many others to give me a chance as well.

And then there were submissions. I read over 600 stories in order to select the 29 that appeared in the book!

The project raised over $6000 on Kickstarter and, after the book was released, received great reviews from critics and readers alike. As I write this, nearly two years later, the first UFO volume remains one of the top 50 science fiction anthologies on Amazon!

I also had a lot of fun with it, and was definitely interested in doing it again. My ambition grew to developing Unidentified Funny Objects as an annual series. I’d like for it continue to grow and to become a genre staple with loyal readership, much like Sword and Sorceress (which has released 28 volumes to date).

UFO2 came out in October of 2013, and I am now hard at work on UFO3. The fanboy in me is still thrilled to be working on this series. I got to interact and work with iconic authors like Mike Resnick, Bob Silverberg, Esther Friesner, Piers Anthony, Jody Lynn Nye, and many others.

At the moment, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to help me fund UFO3. I have a lot of really fun things planned, but they all cost money, and the crowd-funding model allows me to buy more stories, get more illustrations, and do cool promotions such as publish free fiction on our web site and run giveaways.

If this anthology series sounds like something you might enjoy, please check out our page. You can get any of the existing books as rewards, as well as the upcoming volume, of course. And if you’re a writer like me, who enjoys coming up with humorous stories, please consider sending me your work – the submissions page is linked from the Kickstarter campaign, and submissions will open on March 1st.



Inspiration for Blooming Hedgehog

Happy Monday!

First a bit of business before I talk about the inspiration for Blooming Hedgehog. If you missed it, yesterday I posted the cover art for my upcoming novella. Please take a look. It’s premiering on Thursday from Jupiter Gardens Press!

Also, please come back to the site tomorrow. The editors at The Colored Lens have been kind enough to offer to answer your questions about the publishing business. If you have a burning question about the submissions process or want to know about the mysteries of acceptance or anything in between, please post them in the comments section of tomorrow’s post from June 11-17. They’ll be answering them in guest posts either sprinkled throughout the summer or in one post in July depending on how many questions they get. I’d really like to give them a lot to think about, so I’ll buy the first five posters the upcoming summer issue of The Colored Lens.

And now, the inspiration for Blooming Hedgehog. Blooming Hedgehog originated a few years ago when I was in a writing class taught by John Shirley. It was a great class not only because of the teacher, but also because all the students in the class participated. Most writing classes I take, half the students pop in on occasion or not at all, which amazes me because writing classes are expensive. But this particular class, everyone posted work every week and commented on everyone else’s work every week. Needless to say, I didn’t want to be the slacker, but it meant any idea that flickered through my head I grabbed and held onto until it was a story I could post.

Although Blooming Hedgehog is the first of my satyr stories to get published, it’s not the only one I’ve written. In one of my husband’s D&D campaigns, he made an NPC  out of a satyr named Silas.

Silas is one of my favorite characters ever, and I got this notion that if evil undead creatures like vampires can become beloved, why not satyrs? I mean, at least satyrs are warm blooded. The class happened during the summer, and I thought it would be interesting to have a woman hiding in the desert from a satyr because why would a satyr ever visit a desert? The story evolved from there.

I wanted to make a cactus central to the story because I thought it was important to have a native plant as the focus. The blooming hedgehog seemed ideal— it’s rather dainty for desert foliage and can sit on top of a table. Or it can be enormous:

When I began my 100 rejections quest, I found the story in my files and thought, “Why not send it out?” I read through all the comments from class and changed the ending quite a bit. The first place I sent it to was a professional market, and it made it to the second round! I couldn’t believe it. But, it wasn’t accepted, and so I sent it to another and then another. It made it to the final round a few other times, but no luck with publication. Along the way, I cut it down to 1000 words so that I could submit it to flash fiction markets. I’d finally put it away for good when Penn Cove announced the theme for May was flowers. Since the flowers are central to the story, I pulled it out one more time and crossed my fingers. It finally made it all the way to publication!

I hope you liked it, and if you haven’t read it, I hope you check it out. Another satyr story of mine has received good comments from editors, but they always reject it for the same reason: too linear. Perhaps I’ll turn it into a novella and continue my campaign for satyrs to take over the speculative world!

The Spark for Kokyangwuti

Mother’s Day a year ago, my husband took me and the children hiking through some Native American ruins up near Las Vegas, New Mexico. It sparked ideas for a story that eventually turned into my novella coming out in July or August of this year, A Sunset Finish. I spent the summer of 2012 embroiled in research. I read books about Indian Pueblo dances, ceremonies, and the Pueblo Revolt. I took my children to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and watched dances, and I was lucky enough to go to Mesa Verde with my daughters and father-in-law (Happy Birthday Bill!) and climb the ladders in the ruins. I enjoyed it and learned many things, but I admit to thinking it was a lot of work for one story that might never be published. To encourage myself, ideas for a prequel started churning and I thought maybe two stories would come of all the work.

Fast forward to the end of summer when the research was done and the novella near completion. I met David Lee Summers at Starbucks while he was in town for Bubonicon. He asked me if I ever wrote science fiction, and I said, “Well, I’ve written a couple of cyber punk stories but that’s it.” To my amazement, he proceeded to invite me to submit a story for an anthology he and a friend were putting together about planets discovered by the Kepler telescope. Of course I said yes right away. He made clear that an invitation was no guarantee of acceptance, but I was just flattered he was even going to consider a story from me.

The story wasn’t due until the beginning of December, and I fretted over it. He sent me links to articles about each planet and video clips that had been made for a few of them, but nothing was clicking into place in my brain. I wasn’t sure cyborgs was really what he was looking for, so I tried to think up ideas outside of cyborgs. I read science fiction short stories about other planets, but nothing seemed to be helping.

And then, one of the stories from the pueblo cultures popped into my head. In pueblo creation stories, humans are living in the fourth world. They traveled through water and emerged from a lake in the southwest part of America. What if it was time for everyone to go to the fifth world and this time they had to travel through space instead of water? Obviously cyborgs would be needed for this journey. Finally I had a starting point.

I feel that my husband David and Julie should be cited as coauthors for this piece because I constantly bounced ideas off of them for it. I’m not so scientifically minded, but both of them are, and they were really patient answering all of my questions when the Internet just wouldn’t suffice. So thanks to David and Julie for helping me get Kokyangwuti written, and thanks to David Lee Summers for publishing it in A Kepler’s Dozen.

Remember that all the research you do stays in your head, and you just never know what story it will later spark.

To pique your interest further, here’s the video clip of the solar system for Kokyangwuti: