Category: Personal

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.

WOO!

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 marieparks.com/order-unrelenting.

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 You’ll get exclusive stuff, like behind-the-scenes newsletters, deleted scenes, unpublished stories, signed bookplates, Unrelenting swag, and more!

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!

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.

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.

Writing in the Coronavirus era

Writing in the Coronavirus era

Today’s my 8th day of self-quarantine (except for a quick trip to the grocery store 7 days ago).

Is this not the most surreal experience of your life? It’s both comforting and horrifying to know that the conversations I’m having are taking place all over the globe.

I was supposed to be on vacation in Italy this week — spending my first trip to the country in Venice. Needless to say, that’s not happening. However, I took the opportunity to use my PTO for a staycation instead. My goal this week: Try on the life of a full-time author.

So far I’ve written 184 words. #productive

I’m finding it really freaking hard to concentrate. Even though I’ve worked from home for 7 years, there’s something uniquely weird and distracting about this experience.

That’s not to say I’ve done nothing. Monday, I spent all day working on client stuff. Tuesday, I sent out a few queries for Unrelenting. And today, I’ve been trying to tune out the news. I might even achieve an epic power nap.

I’m trying a few things that might help me recapture my focus.

I’ve hosted Zoom rooms to co-write with fellow alumni of the Writing Excuses Retreat.

I also migrated my weekly writing critique group to Zoom so we can stay accountable to one another.

I’m wearing my sound-canceling headphones to get in the zone.

I’m eating as well as I can and taking daily 3-mile walks.

And all of that is great. But…

None of it is quieting the buzz of anxiety in my brain. So I’m trying to be kind to myself by allowing myself to feel the feels, playing with my dogs, watching comedy shows with my husband, and curling up with some great books.

I’ve also found I’m feeling very disconnected from all of my projects set in the modern day or near future. The world has changed so quickly, and it’s hard to resonate with stories where characters do crazy stuff like go to coffee shops or hang out at a friend’s house.

So I’m switching gears from the novel I’m querying to focus on my main WIP. It’s set in a secondary fantasy world (yay, Gloomhaven!), so it’s already different from real life. That’s making that project feel strangely normal right now.

If you’re struggling to focus, you’re not alone.

But I believe we can get through this.

Be kind to yourself. Lower your expectations of yourself. This is traumatic and weird and stressful.

People are losing their jobs, wrangling kids, and wondering how they’re going to pay the bills. So give yourself grace if you’re not feeling 100%. I’ll try to remember my own advice.

Stay safe, wash those hands, and self-quarantine (if your situation allows it) like a boss! Love you all.

My 2019 Recap

My 2019 Recap

So long, 2019. It’s been a frenetic, crazy year. It’s also been good to me, but I’m so happy to put in the rear view mirror.

For years now, I’ve had a ritual of settling on a Word of the Year. My 2019 word was ACTUALIZATION. Knowing me, I picked it to avoid the woo-woo concept of “manifesting.” Equal parts woo-curious and woo-skeptic right here, y’all. 🙋

Basically, I wanted to actualize all the learning, growth, and self-discovery I’d started in 2018.

That meant creating a few things:

  • Epic growth in my business
  • More financial freedom in my household
  • Improvement in my mental and physical health
  • A completely edited manuscript for my co-written novel

Here’s how everything shook out.

Epic growth in my business

My business partner and I hit this one out of the park. We grew our team from 6 to 10, upleveled our clients, and invested in networking events that were a great fit for us. (Yes, this introvert networked. Hold the applause, please.) As a result, our 9th year in business was our best yet, and we made more than 2.5x the revenue of our next highest year.

In 2020, we’re focused on stability and optimization at this new level.

More financial freedom in my household

My husband and I moved to New Mexico three years ago and bought a house right at the tippy top of our price range. The result was a beautiful home on 3 wooded acres… with a mortgage that stressed us out like nobody’s business. We decided in 2018 to downsize our square footage and mortgage. It only took 6 months to sell our house 😓 but sell it we did.

The new home ticks all the right boxes. It’s smaller with a better layout for us, costs less, and is closer to amenities. The downside? It needs major renovations. Demolition kicked off before we moved in during March 2019, but it’s January 2020 now, and we’re still renovating.

I can’t even express to you the amount of frustration, angst, hours on hold, and dust storms this has created in our lives. We’re slowly unpacking, but we’ve been more or less living out of boxes since October 2018. Frus. tra. ting. (In a first world problem kind of way.) But we’re getting there, slowly but surely. And the lower mortgage is definitely easier on the pocketbook.

Our goal for 2020 is to wrap up renovations and make this house feel like a home.

Improvement in my mental and physical health

Until I was about 28, I was the picture of self-confidence and poise.

And then I started to feel like crap. I was filled with self-doubt and self-loathing. I didn’t trust myself, and I didn’t believe in myself.

Most of it stemmed back to unprecedented challenges I was facing. I no longer had a steady paycheck and was self-employed at poverty levels. I was traveling full-time in an RV, without a steady community or friend group at my fingertips (holla RV friends, I love you, but I couldn’t see you all the time… the internet only does so much). I discovered I was a conflict-averse people-pleaser, which meant I wasn’t as strong as I’d thought. By the time I was 31, I was desperate for help.

So I sought it out. I was, not shockingly, diagnosed with depression. Finally, I felt empowered, because I had a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Last year marked my 3rd year of counseling. Plus I added to my mental health treatment weekly personal training at the gym. The difference has been amazing. Even though I still have super-rough days, I’m feeling better all the time.

The key for me has been accountability. My therapist and my personal trainer are expecting me to show up… so I DO show up, and I do the work.

In 2020, my plan is more of the same — to continue caring for my mental and physical health. No compromising. This is the most essential thing for my well-being. (And yours, btw.)

A completely edited manuscript for my co-written novel

I flubbed this one, but not for a lack of trying.

My business partner and I have co-written an urban fantasy novel titled Unrelenting. We’re super proud of it. And a teensy bit perfectionistic.

In February, 2019, we got an offer from a New Mexico publisher to put the book on paper and get it into stores. Hello, dream come true!

We were in the midst of post-beta-reader edits at the time (which is a no-no… you’re supposed to submit a fully edited as-good-as-you-can-make-it manuscript to publishers, but fortunately he is SUPER gracious).

We’re now on a final pass of revisions. But between moving, living in a construction zone, business insanity, and life in general, that process has turned into a 12+ month slog. That super-gracious publisher friend also understands that we want to find an agent, so that’s next on our list.

In 2019, we did also attend a fantastic 9-day conference for fiction writers led by some of the most incredible humans, authors, and agents on Planet Earth. We loved it so much, we’re attending again this year.

In 2020, I’ll finally actualize my 2019 goal of a fully edited manuscript, querying it to agents, and starting on the next project! Can’t keep this girl down.

2020 is for boundaries.

In order to achieve what I want in 2020, I need to get serious about boundaries around my time, energy, and choices. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Happy belated New Year, everyone! May it be a productive, prosperous year for us all!