On the need of sensitivity readers…

If you follow me on Twitter then you may have seen me have a mini-meltdown yesterday. If not, I’ll summarize it.

I’ve been reading this book written by a New York Times Bestselling author and thirty pages, give or take, into it I was disgusted. This author proceeded to write in such a manner that promoted the idea that Wiccans and Pagans were considered serial killers and reviled by their towns/cities of residence simply because of their religious beliefs. Furthermore, Wiccans and Pagans should hide who they are and their beliefs.

Guys. NO!

I’ve been a Pagan Wiccan for over twenty years, though I choose to follow a pantheon other than the Celtic, and that’s something else. Pagan and Wiccan are not synonymous. Yes, all Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. There are MANY DIFFERENT TYPES of Pagans and Wiccans. Some call themselves Hedge Witches, some will identify simply as Witch. Some follow the Celtic Pantheon, others the Greek or Norse or Aztec or even a mixture of several. One of the biggest turn-ons about Paganism is the opportunity to ‘self-style’ your beliefs. Even within Wicca, there are tons of different paths for a Wiccan to take.

Pagan and Wiccan paths are as individualized as the person that makes the decision to practice these beliefs. However, there is an underlying current, or rule if you will, that doesn’t really change regardless of the pantheon or path that is walked. Mostly it can be summed into …

‘An’ it harm none, so shall it be.’

This is the foundation of the Three-fold Law of Magick. You see, we believe that whatever we put out into the world comes back to us times three. So, think about that. Why would we send out a curse or mutilate another person or murder someone, if we believe that it will come back to us three times? I’m not saying it isn’t possible. It is, but it’s rare. Take Gray Witches, for example, they aren’t afraid to do the magick that’s needed. Chaos Magick hinges on much darker magick too.

I could go on. I could write a whole book, but this isn’t the whole point of this blog post. The need for sensitivity readers is, so moving along.

I am aware that society sometimes feels like Paganism is dead. That Witches aren’t actually a ‘thing.’ That’s dangerous. Because we are. There are real people that practice witchcraft and magick. Real people that identify as Pagans and/or Wiccan. These real people have feelings. They can be hurt as easily as Christians, Muslims, Hindus or any other religious group.

I’ve read books that project Wicca and/or Paganism in a favorable manner, so it isn’t every book. Yes, I’ve even read books that fantasize witches and pagans, but they don’t do it in a hurtful manner. I love the movie HOCUS POCUS; it is a terrible example of true witchcraft, but it isn’t offensive.

Most of the offensive books I’ve read are from authors trying to outright villainize contemporary witches for the sake of their plotlines. Need a mystical-type death – Cool! I’ll make the killer Wiccan, cause that’s the modern word for witches. Then, I’ll make up some stuff about pentacles, candles, herbs, because that’s something I glanced at once in a book in the bookstore’s metaphysical section. Then, I’ll make the murder look ritualistic for an added OMG! to the plot.

No. Please don’t do this.

Also, for the record – Wiccans don’t believe in Hell or Satan’s existence. Pentacles and pentagrams (aren’t the same thing nor are they interchangeable) are cast for protection from negative energy. Candles are used in esbat and sabbat rituals, but the colors are important. Herbs heal the ill and wounded. I have never killed a single thing for any of my rituals, nor do I know of any other Wiccan that has. Wicca and Paganism are about BALANCE. Balancing Nature from all of the causes and effects of the positive and negative energy forces. Wicca and Paganism are about HELPING, not hurting.

Seriously folks, the witchhunts ended in the seventeenth century. Let’s not revive them, okay? A lot of innocent people were hanged, or in Europe burned alive, and for what? Simply because of misunderstanding and the fear that misunderstanding stirred up.

Both Paganism and Wicca teach acceptance, so isn’t it time we were accepted as we are too? If you elect to write a story or book on these belief systems, and you don’t understand – for the sake of the Goddess; ASK. We don’t bite. That’s where a sensitivity reader will be your best friend. We understand, and we can help you. We want to help you and end the vicious cycle of misinformation and misunderstanding.

Thank you for reading. I’ve got a Yule sabbat to prepare for, so I’ve got to scoot. Tomorrow will be here in a flash.

A Blessed Yule’s Eve to all!

 

 

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That magical connection…

Of course, I’m talking about finding that elusive literary agent. I found mine! I signed the contract on July 20th, 2017. I know there are lots of people that are still looking, so I thought I’d write the obligatory — How I Found My Literary Agent — post. My story is a bit wonky but hang in there.

It was a dark and stormy night….

Yeah, no it wasn’t. Gotcha! Here let’s do this thing correctly.

About ten years ago, I wrote this terrible book. Of course, I didn’t think it was terrible then. I thought it was sure to earn me lots of agent offers, a television deal would surely follow, and I’d become a millionaire within a year. None, and I repeat NONE, of those things happened. I finished it and I queried it. It all came to nada.

In fact, over the course of the last decade, I have written six books. Five of which I have shelved after months (painful months) of rejection. I was almost ready to give up, but there was one more story idea that popped back up in my mind. It was an idea that I’d had about three years ago but had never written more than an outline for. So, I started prowling through my basement (this is the partial book, outline, story idea notebook graveyard in my house) to find that one elusive idea that just wouldn’t leave me in peace. Pieces, yes. It definitely left me in pieces, but not peace.

I finally found it. The outline and three different chapter ones that I had written by hand before deciding three years ago that I was WAY out of my wheelhouse to try and write this cozy mystery. I read it again. Yes, all three chapters were still poo. I tossed them all, but the outline wasn’t half bad. So I started tweaking it. Soon, the main character’s voice became louder and louder. Then, I had a good outline, beginner’s synopsis, and even a chunk of a decent query.

I moved to my laptop after deciding to give the first chapter one more attempt. It wasn’t terrible. The main character and her secondary characters started ‘talking’ to me, and I kept writing. Fourteen days later, I had a completed first draft. FOURTEEN DAYS! Yep, you read that right. It only took me fourteen days to complete the first draft. So, I tweaked, added words, fluffed up bits, and then I realized I was done. Within one month, I had completed a submission ready manuscript.

Annie Bomke of AB Literary is an agent that I followed on Twitter. She was always super kind, and we had some great non-writing related conversations prior to now. One night we even talked about the possibility of tree monsters when I tweeted that one of my neighbors was felling a tree with a chainsaw at nine o’clock at night. These tweets were public, so I don’t think she’ll care that I’m sharing this story now. She was just one of those people I enjoyed ‘talking’ with (if you want to consider that talking involves tweeting on Twitter back-and-forth). I had even queried Annie before with various other submissions, but she’d always gracefully (and super nicely) rejected me. I knew she liked mysteries though, so I decided to give it one more try.

To be rather blunt, I made a list of agents to query with this new, shiny cozy mystery, and she was one of the top three (She was the first one on the list, I willfully admit it.). I sent out those queries and I waited. I sent out those queries on June 21st, 2017. On June 22nd, Annie emailed back asking for the full manuscript. My heart stopped. I couldn’t email her back right away because I had never in my ten years of querying agents EVER gotten a full request for any of my other books. I was in a bit of a pickle too, because I was going to be away from my computer for the weekend. So, when I finally got a grip on myself, I emailed her to let her know that I was away from my computer for the weekend but would it be okay to send the full to her on the following Monday. She said yes. I will swear to each and every one of you that was the longest and most panic-stricken weekend of my life.

Finally that Monday afternoon, June 26th, the requested full manuscript went to her mailbox. Then, I settled in to wait. We writers are good at that, aren’t we? Being all patient and waiting and stuff. Yeah! I had resigned myself into a nice long wait, but it was for nothing. On July 19th, my cell phone rang. Some number that I didn’t recognize from California. IT. WAS. HER!!!!

I had done a bit a research on THAT CALL, you know the agent/hopeful writer call, but I forgot absolutely everything that I knew when I answered and she said it was her. It was okay though. We talked around some, but eventually, we got to my book and the best sentence I have heard yet to fall from a literary agent’s lips – I would like to represent you. I think my heart actually stopped for a quick three count. I got teary eyed after we hung up, and I didn’t sleep at all that night.

I was able to accept her offer immediately because, during the course of sending her the full manuscript, the other two agents had declined. One did so after requesting a partial, the other was one of those no reply means no agents, and the time limit had passed.

It was an easy decision for me to accept her offer, because I felt like we had the same vision for my novel, and basically my career. We got along well (our phone call lasted for right around three hours – yeah, that’s how well we got along), and Annie was my dream agent. She represents the kind of stories I discovered I had to write.

You see, I’ve learned in the last decade of writing what the industry is about and what it isn’t about, and I had it wrong. Once you find your genre, you’ll find your voice. Once you have those two tools in your writer’s toolbox, everything else seems to fall into place. And, it’s okay that you have to write a lot of stories and books in genres that wind up not being YOUR genre because the more times you discover what doesn’t work, the sooner you’ll figure out what does work for you. So, keep on writing, writers! After all, that’s what we do best!

If you’re one of those statistics and charts people, below I’ve written out my journey from just writer to agented writer.

  • June 21st – Queried Annie Bomke of AB Literary

  • June 22nd – Annie requested the full manuscript

  • June 26th – I actually sent the full manuscript

  • July 16th – Annie called me to offer representation

  • July 20th – The agency contract was signed

Time to write the first draft: 14 days

Time to revise and edit for submission: 1 month

That’s it in a nutshell, and now I get to work with the fabulous ninja agent Annie Bomke of AB Literary to make a book and a beautiful writing career.

Keep on, writers. The next agent you query may very well be YOUR version of Annie.

A Book Birthday! …and do you have what it takes?

My book recently released to the wide, wide world via my publisher.

While this is excellent news and I’m over the moon excited about it, I’m also scared to the point of being terrified.

So very many thoughts ricochet around in my head constantly that I can barely make any sense at all of what’s really going on up there in my gray matter. The most paralyzing fear I’m having is what if everyone hates it. What if it’s a horrible book? I’m sure there will be trolls, and how will I deal with them? What if I never sell any copies? What if it’s just some sort of dead literary weight there floating around for the entire length of its contract with my publisher? How much more of this can I take before I need to sign myself into the funny farm?

I guess this is one of the biggest problems with deciding to go indie or choosing a small publisher. Unless you’re a marketing goddess, you’ve probably bitten off an awfully large bit. I’m good at marketing. I worked in marketing departments even of small presses before, but the problem isn’t that I can’t market it. It’s that I can’t market MY book. I feel like I’m begging. Please. Please. Please. Buy MY book! 

I’m not a beggar. I’m just not. I’ve gone so far as to turn down state financial assistance because I just can’t accept it. I’ve always been the one to say, ‘Thank you, but no. I’ll find another way.’ There was a time in my life when I had no choice but to use state assistance and I felt dirty for even having to do it. I’m not saying that state assistance is a bad thing. I’m saying that I just can’t ask for it because that too makes me feel like a beggar. The only reason I even filed for disability was because I was told to do it. Sure. I needed help, but to be honest, when the government told me no, I was actually happy about it.

What does any of this have to do with a book birthday?

Maybe nothing. But, maybe a lot.

I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m also stubborn. I can schmooze when I need to. My entire personality is like oil and water. I overthink. I worry about things that have less than a millionth of a chance of actually happening. These facts are what’s making even working out a marketing plan; difficult. People suggest contests, but I’ve hosted critique contests in the past. I’ve hosted a giveaway where people stand a chance of winning an entire bookshelf of brand new books from Scholastic Publishing. And no one even entered. I have loads of people participate in my #AdPit and #KidPit contests and that makes me deliriously happy but any other sort of contests I host, I get nada. So, that begs the point, how can I get my book in front of readers? How can I get it out there in a manner that will draw people in and not cause me to have a stroke from anxiety?

So with my birthday on May 15th came my debut novel’s birthday on May 18th and a whole slew of new issues and problems for me to work through. I’m a fighter, always have been, and I’m sure that somehow I’ll figure all of this out. Until then, if I ever go missing you might want to check the nearest looney bin. I’m sure I’ll be sitting there having a carrot with Bugs Bunny and sharing a therapy session with Wylie Coyote.

However here’s a couple of things to consider for yourself as a writer.

1.)  If you’re considering going with a small press with your manuscript, do you have what it takes? Take time to be honest with yourself, before you make your decision. Because something to consider here it that:

a.) Small presses tend to have smaller marketing divisions, and you’ll have to really step up.

b.) Small presses tend to have smaller editorial divisions, and you’ll have to be really comfortable with the oxford comma and all the other nuisances of grammar.

c.) You’ll be going at it alone. You won’t have the support a professional can give you, like a literary agent. You either need a lawyer buddy to talk to or be somewhat proficient with contractual law yourself. Otherwise, you may wind up losing more than you want, like character rights, series rights, item rights, and so on.

2.)  While it usually takes less time for a small press to take your manuscript into production, thusly you’ll get paid faster. You have to be willing to put out a bit of money for yourself too if you aren’t too comfortable with that A and B above. But the pay often excludes any advance of royalties (which is something larger presses offer), and if we’re being completely honest, you won’t make as much money in the long haul.

Am I saying that one is preferable over the other? NOPE. Not at all. It just depends on you. Just you. Not every other Tom, Dick, and Harry. That’s why it’s so darn important to be honest with yourself when you decide what to do with your completed manuscript. If you lie to yourself, you may land in a big, heaping pile of buffalo dung. And if you’re already a signed participant in a contract, then to get yourself out of that pile of dung may (and usually does) require hefty legal fees. And my friends, lawyers do not come cheap. At least not decent ones, or those you’d want anywhere near your book baby.

Now, I’ll take a cheap shot totally out of my wheelhouse.

My book RUNAWAY SAGE is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. If you love historical fiction or stories about how an insurgent supersedes all odds, then it just might be the book for you.

RUNAWAY SAGE on Amazon

RUNAWAY SAGE on Barnes and Noble

Chance to Win a Query Critique …

From yours truly.

That’s what this blog post is about. Yep. You see I promised one to those that played for #AdPit and #KidPit back on April 6th. That doesn’t mean that the participants from those pitchfests are the only ones that can join in the fun now though. So, if you need/want a pair of fresh eyes on a query that’s been bothering you, read on.

How many query critiques are up for grabs: 3.

When are we doing it: Right now, this week.

Who can win: Anyone.

Here are all the fun details for you:

Starting today and lasting through next Monday (April 24, 2017), I will be accepting submissions from everyone who would like a query critique.

Here’s what you have to do to be eligible, I’m posting a prompt at the end of this post. To enter, all you have to do is write a 250 word story that follows the posted scenario/prompt into the comments section of this post.

*In an effort to slice spam out of the comments section, I will be leaving the filter on where I have to approve all comments – but no worries, if you’re posting an entry it will be approved to be posted.

Here are a few rules to make sure you follow, or your entry will be rejected.

1.) You are allowed to write your 250 word story in ANY GENRE and for ANY AGE.

2.) Your entry MUST BE 250 words or less. (Yes, I’ll count.) Each entry must be a complete story. That means that it MUST HAVE a beginning, a middle, and an end.

3.) If you participated in either #AdPit or #KidPit, let me know in your entry and you’ll go into a different group.

4.) Your entry should be posted as such:

– Your name or pen name

– Add it here if you participated #AdPit or #KidPit on April 6th

– Your story’s genre and targeted audience age

– The 250 word or less story

5.) Each person is allowed ONLY ONE ENTRY EACH.

Failure to follow any of these rules will result in me tossing your entry out of consideration.

In an effort to save time, you will not be notified if your entry is rejected from consideration. If you have any problems posting or have questions, please contact me on TWITTER. There are only five rules. I’m not asking too much, I promise. Just double check your entry before adding it to the comments section.

Depending on how many entries I get, it may take me up to ONE WEEK from the last day (April 24th) to post the winners. So, winners will be posted by May 1st. In the winners post, I will have further information on where you can email me your query for your critique.

I will pick three overall to win a critique. One from those that participated in #KidPit. One from those that participated in #AdPit. And, one from everyone else. I will pick the winners from my favorite entries. Yes. I will personally read them all.

Remember I want to see full flash stories. Why? Because writing flash fiction allows you to learn to focus your writing. It helps teach you how to cut clutter and slice out unnecessary words. Yes, I do care about grammar, but don’t worry if you have a comma or hyphen out of place. I’m not a monster. I just want to see the best you can come up with following the prompt.

As for the critique, I will critique whichever query the winners want to send me. No. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the prompt for the contest. If you’re getting ready to start querying agents or editors, send me that query. Or, send me the query to whatever your current work-in-progress is.

So, without further ado….

The prompt for your 250 word story —-

 

Two characters are arguing as they navigate a twisty road when suddenly an animal leaps out in the road in front of them.

 

 

 

Good – No EXCELLENT NEWS!

Have you heard yet?

I signed a publishing contract for my debut young adult novel!

And, I know a lot of you would like to know more about my journey. So, here we go!

The gritty basics:

1.) My novel is a historical set in Ancient Rome.

2.) The temporary title is RUNAWAY SAGE (this may yet change as I’m still working on final bits with the publishing company).

3.) The publishing company is BLACK ROSE WRITING.

4.) My release date, or my book’s birthday, is May 18, 2017.

5.) Yes, I have a whole slew of things planned to celebrate my novel’s birth with all of you.

My journey:

RUNAWAY SAGE took me five years to research, plan, write, revise, and query. As far as queries go, I queried for over two years. Then, I had nothing but rejections. I did stumble upon an agent that worked with me for over a year on revise-and-resubmits, but in the end, I got a form rejection. I was disgusted. That’s when I stopped. I stopped querying. I stopped pitching it in the innumerable Twitter pitchfests. I shelved it.

In my frustration, I tossed away the paper where I had listed all the agents I submitted to, but I can remember there were a bunch. In fact, I had pored over numerous agent websites, Writer’s Digest Market books, writing websites, and everywhere I could look for an agent, but I had submitted to all of the agents I could find that represented both young adult and historical fiction. I’m sure I missed some – positive that I did but at the time I made the decision to shelf this title, I’d done all that I could.

Then back in October of 2016, I stumbled onto a website called authors.me. I was leery of it. I mean, I’d read horror stories about people that posted their work online and it was stolen or worse. I researched around on the site, and found legitimate agents and publishers used authors.me as a means of submission. I hadn’t really considered small presses much until then, as most of them seem mostly interested in romance titles – and I didn’t have any submission ready romance wips. Still, I figured I had this title just sitting on a shelf, so what difference did it/would it make? So, I posted it and submitted it to two suggestions that the website sent me. One of those rejected it a mere month and a half later – no, I wasn’t surprised. I just assumed that it would happen with the second suggestion too. But, in early February I got an email from Black Rose Writing, offering me publication.

I really didn’t know much about Black Rose Writing up until then, so I started researching them. I found some interesting information on a few writers message boards about them, but they were dated from several years ago. The newer posts were a lot more positive, so I decided to take the chance. After all, if all the novel did was sit on my shelf then no one but my family and I could read it. Sometimes the decision to take the jump is singly the most horrifying thing you’ll do for your writing career.

So far I have been extremely happy with the gang at Black Rose Writing, and I feel like it was the right decision to take the plunge. My contract is legally legit, and they even negotiated with me to improve the contract for me. I understand that by going with a small press I’ll be doing a lot of marketing and such for myself, but that’s okay.  I have a background in book marketing, having worked for a few small presses myself in the publicity departments, and I even worked as a freelance publicist for authors for a bit.

In a nutshell, this is really happening. My dream to be able to hold my own novel – that I wrote – in my hands is coming true.

Thanks for reading!

~ H.R. Norrod

New details and a new THING for #Adpit & #KidPit…

I’ve posted updated information regarding the April 5th, 2017 #AdPit and #KidPit joint pitchfest on their pages here on this blog…

If you have a completed manuscript and are interested in pitching, please see the new details and a surprise for this round….

Follow the links below….

Write for/ Pitching a New Adult or Adult manuscript

Write for/ Pitching a Picture Book through Young Adult manuscript 

 

 

Obligatory New Year’s Post…

So, we’ve put 2016 behind us, and are now looking forward into 2017. For me, this has been a trying and absolutely horrifying transition. I’m normally fairly optimistic with the new year that’s coming in, so I’ll try to get back on that horse for this post.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen where 2017 is going to bring about an overhaul of this blog. If you don’t follow me, I won’t hold that against you. But also now you know.

Here’s what I’m going to do…

I’ve been going utterly loco trying to keep several blogs up and going for a while now. I write the Critic Croc Review Blog. I write The Polyglot’s Guide to the Universe Blog. I write the Madam Money Blog. I also write the Wizard Russian Blog. That’s a LOT of blogs. When you include this one, that’s five. As a ‘side effect’ there are times when each and every one of these blogs have been neglected. I’ve been a terrible Blog Mama. And, I aim to clear that up. After all, no one wants to be a bad mother.

So…

Starting this month – Every Monday there will be a new post on this blog. Those posts will vary between the five that I have, so in an essence, I am funneling all of these blogs through this one. I hope to eventually be able to separate them again, but unless the FDA allows human cloning soon that may take a while. It’s hard work being an entrepreneur and trying to balance all the other things too. I already work like a fiend. That being said, here’s the breakdown of each of the blogs listed above…

1.) Critic Croc Reviews

– Be wary because here, I’ve been labeled a scathing critic. I give HONEST, no frills, sometimes acid-tipped tongued reviews of products, apps, books, films, and everything in between. I do NOT sugar coat things. If I don’t like it, I’ll tell you I don’t like it and why. If I do like it, I’ll tell you that and why. There is a reason I named this CROC. Sometimes, I bite.

– If you have something you’d like me to review (your book, your app, your software, your product or anything in between) feel free to contact me via TWITTER or EMAIL. Click the links…

2.)  Madam Money

– This blog is devoted to personal finance and shopping savvy. I help you understand your money better, and try to help you live a happier financial life.

– I’ve been a single mom for the entire length of my kids’ lives. (One’s 18 now and the other’s 16.) I’ve spent copious amounts of time working in retail, saving money, and trying to make ends meet – I know a bit about personal money management. I’ve raised my kids on less than a $1000/month or less for a big part of that time.

3.)  Wizard Russian

– This blog was intended to teach others the Russian language, the culture, and even the food. As so many of the Russian learning texts and apps on the market today teach archaic Russian from the distant past years of the Soviet Union. Hate to tell you this, but the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 90’s and the language and culture of the Russian Federation has evolved with it. More should be done to update all the Russian language learning ‘help’ that’s out there. But it’s not. Sure, you’ll find books, ‘new’ books even, that boast updated information, but take a look at the copyright dates – and you’ll find a huge percentage of them hail originally from the 1950’s. Dudes, even America has changed since the 50’s. I am happy to note though, it seems like a few learning paths are starting to recognize this. ( A tad bit of my Critic Croc is showing here.)

4.)  Polyglot’s Guide to the Universe

– This blog is my curious and wondering blog. I speak seven languages, and have been exposed to a great number of world cultures throughout my life, starting from my childhood. I think I look at the world differently because of it.

– I spend a ton of time on multiculturalism and acceptance of people with different points of view and backgrounds on this blog.

5.)  This blog

– This blog will remain the same. I’ll still have all the writing helps, tips, and tricks.

– I’ll still have all of the #AdPit and #KidPit information here. If this interests you, you may want to note that the next #AdPit and #KidPit joint pitchfest will take place on April 5, 2017. I’ll be changing things up a bit this round to try and help your completed manuscripts gain as much exposure as possible. That being said, the new rules will be up sometime in early February, as I’m still finalizing the details.

I hope that by spreading my wings you’ll decide to stay with me. I just like to think that I have a voice, and can possibly help the planet with it.

Thanks for reading,

~ Heidi