Author: Marie

Awards and Press and Getting Back to It

Awards and Press and Getting Back to It

I have been staring at the screen for half an hour, trying to figure out how to start this blog post.

Note to self: Don’t wait 5 months between now and the next one.

I’ll start with the highlight reel:

Awards for Unrelenting

In September, we found out Unrelenting had been selected as a Finalist in 3 categories for the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book awards. The original nomination form stated that we’d find out who the winners were in late November.

So imagine our surprise when, only a week later, they announced the winners!

Turns out Unrelenting is the WINNER of the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in the category of Gay/Lesbian (LGBTQ)!

We’re also a Finalist in the categories of Fiction – Sci-Fi/Fantasy and First Book NM for debut authors.

We’re super honored by this, and now my to-be-read list has grown exponentially with all the other awesome-sounding finalists.

Press for Unrelenting

We’ve had some fun new press come out about Unrelenting since my last update — although the hype has, of course, slowed down since the book launch.

  • We were highlighted on the Hugo-winning site, by Mike Gyler, about our NM-AZ Book Awards win. (Link)
  • We got to discuss the most meaningful part of Unrelenting (for us!) on the blog of Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal. (Link)
  • We chatted with fellow writers, Wil Ralston and Marshall Carr, about the experience of writing and publishing Unrelenting on the Just Keep Writing Podcast. (Link)
  • We were season finale guests on the This Podcast Needs a Title Podcast by the indomitable Peter Malone Elliot and Erica Davis of Book Pipeline. (Link)
  • We talked about our co-writing process on the DIY MFA Radio Podcast with Gabriela Pereira. (Link)
  • We were co-hosts of the #PipelineAuthors Twitter Chat hosted by Book Pipeline. (Link)

Plus, we just recorded an interview with Edgar Award winner, Mindy McGinnis, in a to-be-released episode of the Writer Writer Pants on Fire Podcast.

Getting Back to It

This summer was rough on the personal front. I was unexpectedly traveling a lot, and I ended up taking a writing hiatus for a few months.

I track all my writing time and word counts in a spreadsheet, so here’s what the summer slump looked like, in terms of production:

April-July were not so hot. Proverbially speaking. They were quite hot, literally speaking.

But then something magical happened in August.

I was home. I got into a schedule. I was in flow.

I started setting my alarm for 3 hours before work. Instead of lying in bed doomscrolling like usual, I put on the soundtrack I’ve been listening to while writing, took a shower, had breakfast, fed the dogs, and then sat down at my desk. And wrote for 2 hours before work began.

This is the soundtrack I’ve been listening to while writing Flightless:

Look what that yielded!

I was mostly working on Flightless, my solo work in progress. I am SO enthusiastic about this novel.

In September, I attended the 2022 Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR), an event that is born from the Hugo Award Winning Writing Excuses Podcast.

This year, the instructors and staff included (in alphabetical order) Marshall Carr, Kathy Chung, Matthew J Drake, Piper J Drake, Margaret Dunlap, Mary Robinette Kowal, Erin Roberts, Brandon Sanderson, Peng Shepherd, DongWon Song, KM Sparza, Howard Tayler, Sandra Tayler, Dan Wells, and Dawn Wells.

I’m super fortunate and privileged to have attended 3 WXR events now, and to have had a chance to learn from these super-talented, extremely giving folks. So many advancements in my writing since 2019 can be traced back to what I’ve learned at these events. Plus, I’m so grateful to now count several of the instructors among my professional friends. These are some deeply good people, in addition to being deeply good writers and storytellers.

Even with all of that, the very BEST part of WXR events is the other early-career writers. I’ve been able to form some deep friendships with these writers over time, and I cannot imagine my life without these dear friends. Plus, they’ve been so very supportive of Jessi and me with Unrelenting‘s launch.

I’ll be sure to update you on any of their books as they come out! I had a chance to beta read one of them earlier this year, and y’all. Y’all. Y’ALL.

This year, sadly, the experience was significantly dampened by an anxiety-inducing COVID-19 outbreak among participants. Plus a cold. Plus e.coli. Jessi and I are SO extremely fortunate that we didn’t end up with Covid (although each of us ended up with one of the latter other issues, respectively). We’d had our bivalent boosters the week before, but we had a ton of exposure, and we were just downright lucky. We’re thinking about so many of our friends who weren’t as fortunate and are recovering now.

Books I’m Excited About

I’m excited about 3 upcoming books, and I plan to review them all here on my blog.

On October 8, 2022, Neal Holtschulte releases his debut sci-fi novel, Crew of Exiles.

Neal has been a friend of mine for a number of years, and we met through a local critique group.

I’ve always been SUCH a fan of his writing and intelligent critique.

Well, now his very first novel is coming out, and I’m so fortunate to have read it… and LOVED it!

Goodreads Link to Preorder

On October 11, 2022, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award Winner, Mary Robinette Kowal, releases her 10th (!) novel.

This sci-fi murder mystery is set on a swanky cruise ship in space, heading from the Moon to Mars.

The Spare Man features a main character with a disability, a world with baked-in gender inclusivity, and the WORLD’S CUTEST DOG. I’m enjoying the heck out of the ARC right now!

Goodreads Link to Preorder

On October 18, 2022, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winners Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee release the third installment in the Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventure series, Fear of the Minister’s Justice.

I’m so excited to read this fantasy buddy cop tale in a richly-realized world! I enjoyed the first two immensely, so I encourage you to pick up all three if you’re into secondary world fantasy detective tales.

Goodreads Link to Preorder

Thank You for Your Support

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that now is a GREAT time to order Unrelenting as a holiday gift for your fantasy-loving friends and family members. Click here to grab a copy.

And if you want to read exclusive stories every month that are published nowhere else, please consider joining my Patreon at the $6+/mo level. You’ll get access to the Writing Archive, which grows every month with another deleted scene, sneak peek, short story, novel fragment, or other creative tale for your enjoyment.

Unrelenting Is Available – Here’s How It’s Going

Unrelenting Is Available – Here’s How It’s Going

On April 19, 2022, I became a published author! This is something I’ve dreamed of since childhood, and the real-life experience has already eclipsed all my hopes.

Sales Numbers So Far

Jessi‘s and my publisher, Not a Pipe Publishing, let us know that they consider a book that sells 500 copies in its lifetime a commercial success.

Imagine our amazement when, 1 day after launch, they reported we’d already sold 477 copies of Unrelenting.

And then, 2 days after that, they let us know we were up to 578.


There were other successes along the way, too.

Additional Successes

Unrelenting reached Amazon Bestseller status (top 100) in the categories of LGBTQ+ Action & Adventure Fiction, LGBTQ+ Fantasy Fiction, and New Adult + College Fantasy.

As of right now, it has been in the top 100 of LGBTQ+ Action & Adventure for 14 straight days!

We had our first author booth/signing event, and had a fantastic crowd! Thanks for hosting us for Independent Bookstore Day, Title Wave Books, Revised in Albuquerque!

Plus, the book is available in stock at Title Wave Books, Revised, Page1 Books, and Organic Books, all in Albuquerque.

We’ve had a bunch of super-fun media opportunities, including the following, with more on the way! (For all Unrelenting media, please visit this link.)

We’ve had a bunch of positive reviews! So far, we have received 31 reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble, with an average score of 4.81. The reviews break down like this:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 26 5-star reviews
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 4-star reviews
⭐⭐⭐ 1 3-star review

Folks are reading our book, and it’s wild! Look at all the fun photos our friends have been sending us.

Thank You So Much!

This is thanks to you! I am SO grateful for your love and support. You’ve really made this book launch special. And more good stuff is to come!

If you’d like to order a copy, head to

Also, please consider supporting Jessi’s and my Patreon. You’ll get exclusive stuff, like behind-the-scenes newsletters, deleted scenes, unpublished stories, signed bookplates, Unrelenting swag, and more!

LGBTQ Reads Reveals the Unrelenting Cover

LGBTQ Reads Reveals the Unrelenting Cover

I am super excited for today! 3 things are happening:

📒 LGBTQ Reads is unveiling the cover of Unrelenting.

😍 They’re also unveiling an excerpt from the novel.

🌞 They’re letting you know where you can pre-order it as early as TODAY!

Jessi and I have partnered with LGBTQ Reads to do an exclusive cover and excerpt reveal. This is the world’s first glimpse at the finished product of our book, and we’re grateful to have the chance to partner with them for this opportunity.

Both of us believe in the importance of LGBTQIAP+ representation in fiction, and LGBTQ Reads is a huge proponent of this.

Later today, they’ll be posting our cover art, an excerpt from chapter one, and the pre-order links.

Check out these links!

The cover and excerpt are live on LGBTQ Reads’ website.

☝️ This is where you can get the preorder links!!!!

And please give this Tweet some love.

While you’re on their website, check out the other featured books. Who knows, you might find your next great reads there!

Why is LGBTQ Reads a good fit for Unrelenting?

LGBTQ Reads is all about sharing curated LGBTQIAP+ literature for anyone and everyone, kids to adults. This is a mission Jessi and I are fully behind.

Unrelenting focuses on Bridget’s search for Dahlia and the secrets she uncovers along the way. It’s also a story of queer representation. Unrelenting isn’t a coming out story. It’s not about the inherent marginalization that comes with queerness. Instead, it’s a story about people who happen to be queer having (sometimes spooky and scary!) adventures. This sort of casual queerness is, unfortunately, not seen as often as we’d like in literature. We’re setting out to make a tiny contribution to this end.

It’s a total honor to have LGBTQ Reads showcasing Unrelenting to their tens of thousands of followers, and we encourage you to check out some of the other books they’ve featured!

And if you choose to preorder a copy of Unrelenting through LGBTQ Reads’ links, then I offer you an extra thank you!

One quick P.S. about the hardcover…

The hardcover edition is being held up by our distributor for a few days. It will be available later this week, but right now, only paperback and ebook formats are available.

If you want to buy the book in hardback, that is awesome… please just hang on a few more days. If you’re on our email list, you will receive an email when it’s ready! (Sign up for the email list here.)

If you prefer paperback or ebook, you can go ahead and secure your copy today.

The Journey from Book Contract to Pre-Sale

The Journey from Book Contract to Pre-Sale

Back in January 2021, Not a Pipe Publishing offered to publish Unrelenting. This is my co-author’s (Jessi Honard) and my debut novel, so we’ve been learning a LOT along the way.

It’s been a fun and interesting process, going from then to now, 13 months later.

🎵 It’s been a long road, getting from there to here… 🎵

Apologies for the earworm. If you know, you know.

Here’s what we’ve been working on.

We took stock of our options.

At the time of the offer, we had a few conversations going on. This is largely thanks to the buzz and support we got from Book Pipeline after being named a finalist (top 3 in sci-fi/fantasy) in the 2020 Unpublished Manuscript competition.

An agent was speaking with us about the book and had offered a R&R (revise and resubmit) with specific feedback. A medium-size press had offered to publish it, but on a protracted timeline.

We also got on a Zoom call with Benjamin Gorman and Viveca Shearin, the co-owners of Not a Pipe to get to know them, their process, their contract, and their values.

We fell in love with the press from the first interaction, and we’ve stayed in love ever since. They were more than supportive of us having an LGBT+ main character, loved the book, and couldn’t wait for the sequel.

They had a great track record with their authors, which was corroborated by private conversations I had with several writers who had published them. It was nothing but glowing testimonials of feeling respected, heard, and seen.

I ordered a few books they’d published and was impressed with the quality of the stories, writing, and physical books, themselves. They really go the extra mile to make the books special and unique, in terms of the appearance.

And, later, this article came out, which made me believe in them all the more.

We were ready to sign with them, except for one thing…

I See We Have a Long Way to Go

We negotiated the contract.

Since we didn’t have an agent, we needed a third party expert to make sure that the contract was all in the proper order. We worked with an excellent literary attorney, who said the contract looked great. She had a few small recommendations, so we went back and forth a handful of times. All parties were smiling when we signed the contract in March of 2021, feeling great about working together.

That was it… our book was officially going to be published with a house we believed in, and who believed in us! It was such a great feeling, and still is.

We started working with a cover artist.

One of the wonderful things about small presses like Not a Pipe is being able to work directly with your cover artist. We were able to pick the artist from a list and give detailed feedback along the way.

She’s done a great job of bringing our vision to life, and we can’t wait to reveal the cover soon! (That’s right, it’s complete!!) We’ll brag all about the artist, too, once we do the reveal.

We dove into edits.

Viveca Shearin, our editor at Not a Pipe (who co-owns the press) worked closely with Jessi and me as we went through several more thorough revisions and edits of the manuscript.

It takes a village to catch all those consistency errors and typos, even at this late stage of a manuscript. We’re grateful our village was headed up by the talented Viveca!

We talked timetables and marketing.

Benjamin Gorman, the other co-owner of Not a Pipe, talked with Viveca and us about marketing strategies for the book, as well as the release timeline. We decided that the release would happen in the spring of 2022 (just in time for everyone’s summer reads!). As we got closer and closer, specific dates began to firm up.

While Not a Pipe does book marketing of their own, authors are never free of contributing their own marketing efforts. So we received strategic instructions on developing a rapport with local bookstores and seeking to shelve our book at them and potentially host readings/signings — although that last one is a bit difficult with an ongoing pandemic.

Plus, we’re using a lot of the marketing skills and relationships Jessi and I have gained over the years as co-owners of a content marketing firm. We are READY!

We started working on Unrelenting‘s sequel.

I’ve always heard that the best way to sell a book is to have two books. So Jessi and I have been working on the sequel to Unrelenting. We don’t have a schedule for publication yet, since we’re still drafting it, but rest assured it’s in the works!

We lived our lives.

2021 was a tough year on the personal front. About a month after Jessi and I signed our book contract, my husband and I separated, then divorced. That led to me moving into an apartment (which ended up being not great), then buying a house.

During that time, I didn’t have the creative or emotional energy to write much, so I generally guilted myself a lot and watched a bunch of Netflix. I also road tripped to see some family and friends, went solo camping with my dogs, and worked a bunch.

Not a Pipe remained super understanding and compassionate through the process… once again confirming my love for them.

In September, I had the great fortune to attend the Writing Excuses Retreat, where I finally got my creative mojo restored and felt excited about writing again.

Jessi and I made progress on plotting Unrelenting‘s sequel, and I’ve also been making good headway on Flightless, my fantasy heist.

What’s next?

We’re very close to the Unrelenting cover reveal and announcing the dates for the pre-order and book release.

We’re in the process of requesting blurbs and sending out advance reader copies (ARCs). If you have a platform or audience and are interested in receiving an ARC, please reach out to me via the Contact page.

Also, if you’re interested in helping Jessi and me promote the book to your family and friends, let me know. We’re about to create a book launch squad, and we’ll give you all the info you need.

Please also sign up for my mailing list, if you haven’t already. That’s where I’ll be sharing more information soon.

Thanks so much for your interest, and I’m thrilled to share this novel with you. The time is nearly here!

Unrelenting to Be Published in 2022

Unrelenting to Be Published in 2022

Well, it’s official! Unrelenting, my co-written contemporary fantasy debut, will be published in Spring 2022!


I cannot wait for you to read Unrelenting! You’ll get to know a determined woman named Bridget as she takes the search for her missing sister, Dahlia, into her own hands. When she discovers the disappearance is linked to a hidden, magical society, Bridget must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to find Dahlia.

After having multiple wonderful conversations with Not a Pipe Publishing, a small traditional press in Oregon, my co-author, Jessi Honard, and I decided it was the perfect home for our novel.

We met Not a Pipe through the great folks at Pipeline Media Group after Unrelenting was a finalist in the 2020 Book Pipeline Unpublished Contest.

Wanna know more? Click here to check out the blog post on our book’s website.

Want to support me?

The number one best way you can help me is to join my email list. This is how I can make sure you get the latest updates, like pre-order information.

If you’re reading this, thank you. There’s already a long list of people who have been supportive and instrumental in this process. Friends, family, beta readers, writing critique groups, query letter editors, advocates, and champions. Thank you all. And the journey’s just beginning!

Lessons Learned from Futurescapes 2021

Lessons Learned from Futurescapes 2021

I had a chance to attend my first Futurescapes Writers’ Workshop this week, and I had a great time! I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate, and I really enjoyed meeting so many talented folks.

Futurescapes is a paid, application-only workshop for speculative fiction writers. The faculty are brilliant authors, editors, and agents who specialize in spec-fic genres. They lead instructional classes ahead of the main event: a multi-day series of small-group workshops. The goal is to get writers ready to query and publish their piece. My faculty members were David B. Coe, Tricia Skinner, and SJ Kinkaid (who are ALL brilliant; please check them out).

I learned SO much, but I want to distill three of my biggest takeaways here.

Clear over clever.

When you have to choose, opt for clear over clever.

This is something I remind myself of, as a professional copywriter. It’s also true for fiction.

David elaborates on it better than I could here: Lessons from Manuscript Critiques – Simple Is Better.

Tricia reinforced a different aspect of this concept during my query session. If you’re writing with the intent to publish (whether self or traditional), remember your manuscript is ultimately a product. As its writer, you can show how marketable that product can be. For instance, instead of defining my current work in progress as “an adult secondary world fantasy heist,” I should figure out which shelf it would live on at a bookstore and call it that: “an adult fantasy.” Make it easy for agents, editors, and readers to see how your book can fit into the market and what they’re already enjoying.

The small stuff does matter.

It’s easy, as a writer, to focus on plot structure, worldbuilding, keeping the tension high, and character development. All of that is important. In fact, it’s crucial!

And also, considerations like word choice, sentence length, what is being described (and when), the order information is given in, passive writing… this stuff matters too. Just as much, really.

Because if anything (no matter how small) takes your reader out of the story, slows them down, or bores them, you’re in danger of losing them. No matter how gripping the next page might be.

Writing is for the passionate.

Kimberley Cameron said our novels are “Word document-shaped horcruxes” — fragments of our soul (that, fortunately, don’t involve murder).

David acknowledged that writing is hard, and writer’s block is part of the process. (And so is rejection, for that matter.) Writing isn’t always meant to flow. Sometimes it’s halting. Sometimes we stumble. Sometimes we stare at the wall for hours. But he reminded us to love what we do. We keep writing because the idea of stopping is too terrible to consider. And we should always write what we’re passionate about. That passion will shine through and carry us a long way.

From Pantsing to Plantsing

From Pantsing to Plantsing

If you’re a writer, you probably know the terms “pantser” and “planner” (or “gardener” and “architect”), but if you’re not, know that these refer to two different styles of writing. The planner likes to build a plot outline ahead of time, whereas the pantser is writing by the seat of their pants.

Both have their pros and cons. The planner spends a bunch of time detailing the trajectory of their story and often has to swing back in on later revisions to add more characterization and emotional depth. (Gross overgeneralization.) The pantser often figures out what’s going on in the story only by writing it, realizing what’s wrong, and rewriting. They spend longer in the actual prose, a lot of the time. (Again, gross overgeneralization.)

I’ve always been a pantser, which I find obnoxious. 👖 I’ve been learning about storytelling, character arcs, and plot structures for the last several years in an attempt to become a hybrid plantser — someone who can exist in both worlds.

And I think I’ve figured out part of the key.

The genre matters.

I’ve heard both Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells teach on this subject, so I’m not sure who to credit with the concept. But essentially, there are two broad types of genres. Structured genres (like cozy mysteries or romances) have specific beats that the audience expects, and that the story should give a nod to (or intentionally subvert) in order to fit within the genre. Aesthetic genres, on the other hand (like fantasy or cyberpunk) rely on a specific atmosphere or type of world or tropes that really make it fit within the genre.

Nearly everything I’ve ever written is fantasy, with a bit of science fiction and horror thrown in there. And that means I’ve always written in the realm of aesthetic genres.

When that’s the case, all a writer has to rely on to figure out their plot is the rules of storytelling, itself. Three act plot structure, seven point plot structure, story circles, save the cat, the hero’s / heroine’s journey, etc. Plus pure instinct from spending so much time reading. But at least for me, this process is as vague and overwhelming as it is freeing. Which is why I’ve always really struggled to plot up to this point.

Until my current work in progress (WIP). 🎉

The journey of a novel.

Let me give you a glimpse into the weird, winding road that has led me to where I am now on my plantsing journey.

A little bit more than a year ago, I started writing my current WIP.

First, I envisioned it as a story set in the board game world of Gloomhaven with an Oceans Eleven feel. My main character was Riff, a down-on-his-luck human mercenary, and from the beginning, I was envisioning a strong social justice theme. I wrote the first 10,000 words or so, had an ending in mind, and trusted I’d be able to connect the dots in between. I sent off a pitch and the first few chapters to the fine folks at Cephalofair Games to see if they’d be interested in making the story part of their canon. They gave me a very kind not-at-this-time response next-day — and honestly, I was excited to get a response at all! They were very supportive and generous in their answer. That company’s awesome. Go play some Gloomhaven.

So then, I was left with a choice between continuing to write my story as fanfiction, or adapting it into something unique. I chose the latter. Between digging into planning tools like Campfire and Fabula, I revised the world and plot into something unique. My main character was still Riff, but now he was a down-on-his luck thief.

Over the course of NaNoWriMo 2020, I churned out 50,000 words of the new manuscript. It told the tale of a desperate quest across the countryside, where Riff danced between being a fugitive from the law and trying to reinsert himself into society.

And wow, I was getting lost in the writing. So I joined a critique group specifically for speculative fiction writers. And one of the critiquers said something that really stuck with me. He said, after reading the first two chapters, “This is going to be a great heist.”

And I was like, oh yeah… a heist. Oceans Eleven. That was the root of the inspiration for this thing all along. That’s what this novel is supposed to be!

So then I asked myself, “How do I write a heist?” 🤔

And, miracle of miracles, Mary Robinette posted this:

So I jumped on her Patreon and attended the class and… lightbulb. 💡

Leaning into a structured genre.

All of the sudden, I was writing in a structured genre (heist) embedded within an aesthetic genre (fantasy).

I had beats to write to. All within the rich world and set of characters I’d already developed. Riff’s still being his swashbuckling self.

It was like, all of a sudden, the cast had something to do other than just mill about and hope for a character arc to slap them in the face.

All of a sudden, there was a conduit for me to explore the ideas of classist inequity and racial injustice.

All of a sudden, I was having fun again, because I’d finally found my footing. 😍

As of right now, I’m only 16,000 words into drafting this novel, but I’m getting great feedback from my critique groups, I’ve written an entire synopsis that’s actually coherent (thanks to the Futurescapes Workshop), and I feel more confident writing this book than I ever have with any previous manuscript.

For me, the journey from pantsing to plantsing looks like combining a structured genre with an aesthetic genre to help me build more structure into my process.

I’m hopeful that what I’m learning by writing this book will equip me to go back to the world of pure aesthetic genres with more confidence.

But first things first. I have a book to write. ✍️

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re a writer, are you a pantser or a planner? Are you trying to find a hybrid position in the middle? What has your writing journey looked like to this point?

Unrelenting: Finalist in Book Pipeline Unpublished Competition

Unrelenting: Finalist in Book Pipeline Unpublished Competition

Holy bananas.

I’m SO proud (and overwhelmed and amazed and chuffed and and and!!!) to report that Unrelenting has been named a finalist for the sci-fi/fantasy category in the Book Pipeline Unpublished 2020 competition!

This means the novel is among the top 3 for the genre, and we’ll find out about our final placement on November 5.

You might know the book by its working title (The Grigori) or the series working title (The Deathless Gods). Here’s a quick synopsis, if you aren’t familiar with the novel’s premise:

In their single-parent household, Bridget has always acted like a second mother to her half sister—so when Dahlia goes missing as an adult, Bridget believes she alone cares enough to find her. The investigation jolts to an unexpected halt when unexplainable, murderous smoke attacks her during her investigation. Recognizing she needs backup, she partners with James, a supernatural enthusiast and Dahlia’s former classmate.

As they research, explore, and eavesdrop, Bridget and James learn Dahlia’s disappearance is linked to a hidden world ruled by powerful beings who wield elemental and physical magic, like firestorms and plagues. One ruthless faction has kidnapped Dahlia, convinced she holds the key to unlocking lost abilities. With options dwindling, Bridget and James team up with questionable magical allies to save her sister, and Bridget must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice for her family.

I co-wrote this contemporary fantasy novel with Jessi Honard (my best friend, hiking/camping buddy, and business partner), and… let’s just say there were a lot of happy tears when we heard the news.

Of course, we’re thrilled that we’ll be able to take advantage of the prizes, including consideration from producers for film/TV adaptations, invitations to writer events, and possibly circulation to agents/publishers/editors.

But honestly, the biggest gift is the affirmation. We put 6 years into the book, building the world, creating the characters, imagining the magic, reading every sentence aloud. We’re proud of it. We know it’s an enjoyable read… at least for us. But it’s been a tough year (as we all know). It’s been hard to muster the energy to write and query. Imposter syndrome has been creeping in.

This news has been electrifying. Someone — beyond our partners, families, and friends who’ve always had our backs — believes in us.

We can’t wait to share this story with you, and hopefully this is the push the manuscript needed to get in front of decision-makers who can actualize our dream.

Stay tuned! I’ll let you know how it goes in November. 🙂

If you want to get on my newsletter to learn more, enter your email address in the “GET EXCERPTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS” widget.

And if you want to join our newsletter specifically for Unrelenting (which you may know by our original working title, “The Grigori”), please click here and visit the “Learn More” page.

November 5, 2020 Update: While Unrelenting was not selected as the Grand Prize winner in the fantasy/science-fiction category, we are still just SO grateful to be finalists. Excited to see where this takes us!

Worldbuilding + A Short Story Detour

Worldbuilding + A Short Story Detour

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the world, society, cultures, races, government, and environment of my WIP. When I switched the IP from Gloomhaven to an original world, I discovered I do NOT have the effortless worldbuilding skills I thought I did!

I’ve taken inspiration from A Trevena’s 30 Days of Worldbuilding, the Writing Excuses podcast, and the rich details in some of my favorite video games and books. All super helpful!

My biggest hurdle has been deciding on the types of fantasy races I wanted represented in the novel. The story speaks to racism and discrimination, so I needed to be especially intentional about how I proceeded.

After getting help and input from Erica Courdae, a friend and a trusted diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expert, as well as my trusty writing critique group, I’ve settled on a direction.

I have a whole new respect for the practice of worldbuilding, but I’m honestly super pleased with the way the writing (rewriting, at this point!) is going. Best of all, the project is flowing again, which is such a relief after months of hitting my head against the wall.

Fortunately, I used those head-banging months to be productive in another way: working on short stories. While I usually write in fantasy, I’ve been dabbling in science fiction and horror for this short story detour.

One particular horror story feels strong enough to submit to magazines, so I’ve been traveling down that road. More news as it comes!

Meanwhile, Jessi and I are still querying Unrelenting, and we hope that one of the agents we’ve pitched will love it.

Always staying busy!

Changes to my work in progress

Changes to my work in progress

Stone Breaker started as a Gloomhaven fanfiction that I hoped to get officially licensed.

I finally got up the nerve to pitch the Cephalofair team, and the very next day, I got a very gracious “it’s not a good time for us to consider this” response.

No problem, but that left me with a decision to make.

Did I keep going and publish it as a free fanfic? Or did I salvage what I could of the characters and plot and devise an entirely new world?

I chose the second path.

I’ve always wanted the story to center around fantasy tropes of discrimination between races and groups. I want to call these tropes into question, examine them, see what they mean for the characters, society, and reader.

So I hired a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) consultant to help me think deeply about how to approach this topic from a storywriting and worldbuilding perspective.

A few weeks later, the Black Lives Matter protests renewed their intensity after the murder of George Floyd. And I knew without a doubt, my book could be a way to investigate the journey towards allyship — in a fantastic setting with compelling characters and swashbuckling goodness.

So Stone Breaker has been reborn into something I’m even more passionate about than ever: Flightless. I’m so excited to build this world and continue this story. Honestly, I’ve never been more giddy about a writing project than I am about this one.

Still, I’ve had a fair number of stops and starts as I venture into this new iteration of my writing project. Running a business during COVID-19 has been a major one, with tons of my creative energy going to what clients I’ve been able to maintain.

But the most difficult challenge has been the loss of my beloved dog, Gabby. I adopted her 11 years ago, and she has been with me through thick and thin. She joined me at coffee shops to write. She was the most attentive alpha reader one could imagine. She kept me energized and dreaming of new adventures. Our bond was incredibly strong, and when she died peacefully in my lap after suffering from awful degenerative health issues, it felt like a piece of my soul was ripped out. I’m still grieving… I may always be grieving… but I’m trying to be kind to myself and not force creativity when all I can do is think about her.

A healthy Gabby from six years ago, ready for me to put away the computer and take her on a walk

She would want me to keep playing and having fun, so I’ll be sure to thank her as I lose myself in the world of Flightless.