It all started with a simple dream: to complete my first novel. It took about three years – plus another two to type up the handwritten manuscript – but I did it. By the time I was finished transcribing, my heart was crowded with more dreams: write some short stories, get published digitally, get published in print, learn to write a screenplay, pen a piece of fanfiction (and have the guts to actually post it). One by one, all of these dreams came true…save #3.
I love getting published in e-zines for many reasons: your story is free for anyone to read, you can link to it on your website, and it’s just a great thing to have a sample of your work in such an easily accessible format – not to mention the awesomeness of instant reader feedback! But I must admit there’s something magical about being published in print. Just seeing your story in the pages of a book, being able to hold it in your hands and run your fingertips over the words…I wanted that. I think a lot of writers do.
And, for one reason or another, the dream just kept drifting out of reach. My very first acceptance was for a print newspaper in the city where I attended college. I was thrilled. Then it didn’t happen. No explanation, never heard from the editor again. I spent long months feeling baffled and hurt, then eventually moved on.
My next acceptance – or, as I like to call it, my first real acceptance – came from Every Day Fiction. One of the many things that drew me to them was that they were a digital market, but they also put out an annual print anthology of their best stories. Sadly, they stopped doing this shortly after I started submitting to them. As far as I know, they’ve never restarted. I think it was just too expensive. Completely understandable, but once again, I had to put the dream on hold.
Then, just last year, I got the acceptance I’d been waiting for: one of my stories had been selected for a print children’s collection. Cloud Nine, here I come…right? Wrong. In December, I received an email from the publisher that they were no longer doing multi-author children’s collections and there was no guarantee they would ever publish my story.
I started to think I might be cursed. I started to think this particular dream would have to stay just that: a dream. I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.
Thankfully, I didn’t listen to those little whispering cockroaches of doubt. I kept submitting to print markets, and finally, it paid off. A few months ago, as I shared right here on ATHF, I received notification that my story “The Greatest Gift” would be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?
But the awesomeness didn’t stop there. A few weeks after that, I got another email from Chicken Soup for the Soul: my dog story, “Legacy,” had been selected to appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?
A few weeks after that, the unimaginable happened: my werewolf story, “Burn,” was accepted to appear in the August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate, a dark paranormal romance magazine presented by Alban Lake Publishing. A print magazine.
After all those times the dream had slipped away, it seemed just too good to be true. When the hyper excitement wore off, I began to worry that maybe it was too good to be true. Both of these publishers were very reputable, but still, I’d been burned in the past – multiple times. I couldn’t truly let myself believe – not until I could hold the books in my hands. Like, for real.
In mid-July, I got my wish: the first batch of contributor’s copies arrived, and I ran my fingers over the glossy cover of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? for the very first time. I touched my name on the page, saw my words in print at long last. Less than a week later, I was holding a contributor’s copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?, caressing the pages, smelling the crispness of fresh ink on paper. Then, about a month after that, my third baby arrived. Trysts of Fate was just as glossy as the other two, the striking cover art looking even better in person than it had on the publisher’s website. There was even something special about just knowing that they were advance copies – something most people weren’t able to read or touch just yet.
Nowadays, of course, anyone can hold my babies. Anyone can read them. The Chicken Soup books officially came out on August 19th, and can be purchased in bookstores and online. The August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate is available in Alban Lake Publishing’s online store.
The dream has finally, officially come true. And in the process, two other dreams got fulfilled, as well: 1.) I got a non-fiction story published for the first time, and 2.) I got published in a book with one of my absolute favorite authors: Beth Cato. (Her wonderful stories “Welcome to the Navy” and “All About the Balloon” also appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?)
So, now that I’ve had a month or so to bask in the glory, what’s next?
More dreams, of course! I have so many waiting in the wings: do a non-profit book signing, run a workshop with my writing group, finish my nano novel (yeah, still working on that…I think it’s become a trilogy at this point), have one of my stories illustrated, write a TV pilot, write a spec script for Castle, write a movie script, attend the Austin Film Festival, and of course the biggie – become a published novelist!
But that’s just me – what about you? What are your writing dreams, and how are you pursuing them? Maybe the only difference between a dream and a goal is doing something to make it happen…or simply not giving up the hope that it actually could.
Whatever your dream is, don’t give up on it. Even when Fate seems to be telling you, in a firm and convincing voice, that things are simply not going to work out for you. Sometimes there’s a nice surprise – or three – waiting just around the corner. :)
At long last, I’ve finished catching up on my tapes, and am ready to declare the winners of this year’s season-long battle for my fangirly heart. Some of my shows let me down this year. Others rose to the occasion. And a rare few delivered action, emotion, and surprises in ways that blew my mis-matched kitty cat socks right off my feet. (Now my toes are cold…)
And so, without further ado, this year’s top winner is…
Supernatural! Yay! It was a surprise to me, because despite a strong season, I just didn’t see this one taking the top spot. The favorites were Castle and Grimm, no question. I definitely felt more excited about those two, leading up to the finales. And then Supernatural just delivered this KILLER, shocker of a season finale, and it totally warped my mind – in a good way.
There are three elements that factor into a show’s final score for the season: 1.) Overall quality of the season, 2.) Surprise factor, and, most importantly, 3.) How badly I want to tune in next season.
Supernatural’s Season Nine was the strongest season since Kripke left. Current showrunner Jeremy Carver seems to have learned from his Season Eight mistakes (e.g. the unrealistic storyline of Sam not searching for Dean), while keeping up an intense season-long mythology. Frankly, I really liked the mytharc in S8, and just thought Carver needed to do better on the brothers’ relationship – which he totally did. Kudos to Carver for listening to fan feedback and incorporating it into his plan for S9. Well done!
Now, let’s talk a little bit about that finale…Whoa. Okay, in the beginning, it was pretty much like a normal ep. A good ep, but not spectacular. The real “wow” factor came in the last few minutes of the episode, as the fight between Dean and Metatron heated up on Earth, coinciding with Castiel’s search for the tablet in Heaven. The way the scene was building, you just knew how it was going to go. Dean had the pulp royally beaten out of him, but he was looking at the First Blade, and it was going to fly into his hand, and at the very last moment, when all hope seemed lost, Cass would destroy the tablet and Dean would stab Metatron DEAD. So, I’m sitting there, all nestled in the couch, entertained but not enthralled, waiting for expected things to come to pass…And then Dean takes an ANGEL BLADE right through the middle of his chest!! What the…???
THAT made me sit up. My eyes got huge and I think I actually said, “Whoa.” So, that was Big Shocker #1. That whole part was great television, building the scene one way, and then veering in a drastically different direction. My attention was riveted in place from that moment onward, because I had no idea how they were going to get out of this – Dean’s injury was clearly fatal. Then Metatron escaped. Fortunately, Castiel took care of him with a clever trap set in Heaven. However, down on Earth, the boys were left in a very dire situation, brightened only by the following exchange:
Dean: “What happened to you being okay with [me dying]?”
Sam: “I lied.”
Aw, Sam – that’s all we needed to hear. That’s all Dean ever needed to hear. I had no problem with Sam and Dean’s relationship this year, because no matter what jerky things they said to each other with words, it was clear all along from their actions that the bond was just as strong as ever. So this exchange, at the end, was just icing for me – sweet satisfaction on top of an already yummy cake.
And then something not-so-yummy happened: Dean died. And I don’t care that they’ve both died about ten thousand times by now, or that it’s obviously not going to be permanent – somehow, these actors still make me care that it’s happening. Their performances keep me in the moment, and bring a little tear to the corner of my eye. :(
So, Sam takes Dean home, and, predictably, sets about summoning Crowley. Deal time. I settled back into the couch. But then, Crowley was already there, sitting next to Dean’s body. Hmmm. Crowley actually seemed sorry about what had happened, but also strangely excited. As he began to talk to Dean about Cain, I started to sit forward again. The writers had cleverly reminded us, at the beginning of the ep, that Cain was a demon. So as Crowley reached the end of his monologue, the anticipation built to a climax, and I’m betting about 80% of fans, myself included, knew that not only would Dean’s eyes open, but that they would open to reveal pools of jet black.
So, Big Shocker #2: Dean was resurrected as a DEMON. Now, I’ve heard some fans call the end of this episode predictable. I even said myself in the previous paragraph that I knew his peepers would be black when he opened ‘em, and many others likely did, too. So, how is that really a shocker? Because if you’d asked me at the beginning of the episode what would happen, neither dead!Dean nor demon!Dean would be on my list. Because if you’d asked me at the beginning of Crowley’s speech what was about to happen, I still couldn’t have told you that Dean was about to morph into something demonic. I only knew in the seconds before it happened, right when the writers wanted me to know, and not an instant before. That, my friends, is great writing.
And, as with all great finales, we were left with questions that have burned all summer long, filling the air like the sweet scent of barbeque smoke, making our stomachs growl for a taste of Season Ten: How will Castiel survive? Is it possible for him to reclaim his own stolen grace? (Anna did, but hers wasn’t used in a spell). Is Dean a regular demon, or a Knight of Hell? Will he have more loyalty to Sam or Crowley? When and how will Sam find out the truth? Will he be able to cure Dean, or would that be a death sentence, considering the mortally-wounded state of Dean’s body? (Demons can live in dead/dying bodies, e.g. Meg in Season One, but once the demon is out, nature kind of takes its course…) How much human emotion will Dean retain? After all, we’ve seen demons in love (demons in “Sin City,” Cain) and also cases of very loyal demons, like Ruby, demons who have parent-like affection for others (Azazel), and even a demon with a crush on an angel, so the possibilities are wide-open. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where they go with this!
Supernatural Final Score: 9
All right, now that I’ve got the gushing out of my system, let’s look at how the other shows finished out their seasons:
The Mentalist and Castle tied for second place, with Castle leading most of the way, and TM sticking its nose out at the last instant for a photo-finish. Both shows had strong seasons, with The Mentalist’s total creative reboot and Castle churning out one epic episode after another. As Castle drew to a close, we had the emotional arrest of Senator Bracken, the icky politician responsible for murdering Beckett’s mother, and the build-up to the much-anticipated Castle/Beckett nuptials. The Mentalist finished its run with a poignant human trafficking storyline and a hard-core, not-even-a-little-bit subtle push towards a Jane/Lisbon romantic relationship.
While many viewers were probably celebrating this last item on the list, I spent most of the final few eps of TM in Mixed Feelings-ville. It’s not that I don’t like Jane and Lisbon together – I’ve been reading shipper fic since I started watching the show. It’s just…I don’t know whether the writers like Jane and Lisbon together. The nature of the Jane/Lisbon relationship has varied wildly from season to season: gently flirtatious in Season One, strictly friendship in Season Two, platonic but very close in S3, occasional shippy hints in S4 and S5, and finally an aggressive and blatantly shippy S6. Is anyone else’s head spinning?
Castle may have sometimes overbaked its Castle/Beckett UST moments in the past, made the attraction a little too in-your-face obvious, but at least there was never any doubt that these two characters were, indeed, attracted to one another. On The Mentalist, for me, there was doubt. The writing was inconsistent. Rare moments like the “I love you” in the S4 finale were dropped like hot spoons and never picked up again. There was no apparent jealousy on Lisbon’s part when Jane dated Kristina, and as for Lisbon/Mashburn, it was never revealed if Jane even found out, much less got jealous over it. Fanficcers were left to explore these issues on their own. Actors and writers on The Mentalist suggested in post-Season One interviews that the Jane/Lisbon relationship was more brother/sister than romantic, a definite contrast to the Season One interview in which Tunney said that Lisbon probably bought a new pair of shoes for work when Jane started his job at the CBI.
Overall, I got the strong impression that the show had no intentions of ever putting Jane/Lisbon together, and was just throwing occasional bones to the shippers in a sometimes-unsuccessful attempt to make them happy (I know of at least one shipper who bailed early in S2 – she seemed to feel what I did: a complete removal of the flirtation/romantic hints we saw in S1).
And then along came S6. It was clear from early on that the writers were going to “go there.” Which would have been fine, if they took their time and made it natural. I am happy to go anywhere my shows take me, as long as it’s done right. This, however, felt very rushed. And forced – more like a desperate attempt to save the show than something the writers really wanted to do. If they had intended to put Jane/Lisbon together from the beginning, they would have laid a strong and consistent foundation all along. Instead, they thrust Lisbon headlong into a serious relationship with some guy the audience didn’t know (or care about), for the sole and transparent purpose of creating a jealousy storyline for Jane. I felt physically uncomfortable watching Lisbon interact with Pike – I love Lisbon, and here she was, this person I care deeply about, kissing and making plans with a total stranger – not just a stranger to the audience, but a stranger to her. Yikes.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad – we had those gemstone moments in private between Jane/Lisbon, those gut-twisting, all-show-and-no-tell scenes where both characters grappled with her new relationship and the possibility of her leaving. Their dialogue was sparse and simple, leaving emotion to overflow from between the lines. Awesome, powerhouse stuff.
And in the end, with the finale, that’s what won me over. The writing for that last episode was brilliant, and the performances were somewhere in the stratosphere. I’m still not completely comfortable with it, and I’m not sure the writers are, either, but they gave it 100% – everything Jane and Lisbon did in that last S6 ep was in character, from Jane’s trickery to Lisbon’s hurt to Jane’s painful and liberating confession of love. Very sweet, very romantic, very Jane and Lisbon.
The freeze-frame at the end definitely scared me – I mean, it was a nice image and all, but I thought it might very well be the last image of TM I’d ever see. I’m sure the writers were thinking it, too, and were trying to make the ending as happy as possible for a large (but not necessarily the largest) part of the fandom – the shippers. Needless to say, I breathed a long happy sigh when I found out TM was coming back for a Season 7. With all the bold moves the writers made this year – killing Red John, bringing aboard a whole new team, putting J/L together – they deserved a chance to show what they can do with a new year and a totally fresh start.
For me, I’ve never cared so much about how a couple gets together as I do about how their relationship is once they are together. Therefore, I’m way more stoked about seeing how Jane and Lisbon will navigate their new romance than I was about this whole jealousy/engagement thing. I truly can’t wait for next season, and I’m SO GLAD there is a next season. As long as the writers keep it in character, this relationship is going to be SO MUCH FUN!
The Mentalist Final Score: 8.5
Okay, now let’s talk about Castle for a quick sec. Yes, just a quick sec, because I honestly have no complaints here. The resolution to the Bracken storyline was wonderful, emotional, epic. The finale was full of humor, woe, genuine scares, and a flaming shocker of an ending that leaves me wondering who was in the car following Castle, what they did to him, when and how Beckett will find out the truth (he’s obviously not in the fiery wreckage, as she currently believes), and where it will all go from here. Castle is the perfect example other shows should look at when trying to decide whether the main couple should get together, or whether that would ruin the show. The answer: it can ruin the show – or it can make the show stronger, funnier, more romantic, and more exciting than ever! In Castle’s case, it’s the latter, and I’ve never loved the show more than I did this season. I even recently poked my nose into some Castlefic for the first time ever – and was not at all disappointed.
Castle Final Score: 8.5
With a last-minute tie for second, front-runner Grimm ended up coming in third. I loved the end-of-season addition of the new character “Trubel,” a young Grimm with brains, attitude, and some serious fighting skills – she fits right in with our gang without taking away from anyone’s screen time. The storylines all season long were excellent – it’s the perfect popcorn show, and I thought for SURE it would either win the race or at the very least come in a close second. But then something happened. Not something horrible that made me hate the show or anything like that – but just something that made me shave a few points off the final score: the finale.
Was it enjoyable? Yes. Exciting? Totally. But surprising? Not at all. Maybe the blame should fall on the person who put together the commercials for the finale, and not the episode itself, but there was nothing that happened in this episode that you couldn’t predict from the previews. We knew Adalind would replace Juliette. We knew Sean would get shot (still was totally traumatic – he’s one of my favs). We knew Monroe and Rosalie would tie the knot, and it was strongly implied that Nick would lose his powers. Really, the only thing we didn’t know was that Nick and Adalind would actually sleep together – and I don’t count that so much as a surprise moment as I do an “ew” moment. Ew.
Moving forward, I couldn’t be more excited – I seriously cannot wait to find out if Sean survives (he’d better – he’s one of the most complex, intriguing characters on the show), how Nick fares without his powers (wouldn’t that be terrifying, to know these things are out there, and not be able to see them anymore?), whether Juliette and Nick can weather the Adalind storm, and how newlywed life agrees (or doesn’t) with our favorite lovebirds (love-wesens?), Monroe and Rosalie. Also, what’ll Hank be up to next year (me-thinks powerless Nick will need his partner more than ever)?
Despite the predictability of the final ep, it was still a great ride that left me aching to see what’ll happen next. If Grimm keeps up this level of awesome, we may just have a new winner next year.
Grimm Final Score: 8.3
Chicago Fire finished its strong second season in a respectable fourth place. “Reliably lovable” is how I like to think about this one – I sit down, and I know I’ll be entertained. I’ll laugh, I’ll jump, and I might even cry (see “Best Tearjerker Moment” below). The storylines surprise me and make me think – every single time. The characters make me care – every single time. The two-night CF/CPD crossover event was a thing of beauty. Finally, NBC actually delivered something that was both a “crossover” and a “two-night event,” just as advertised. Bravo, Peacock Network!!! I’m so glad it was a two-nighter, too, because I couldn’t have waited a whole week to find out if Shay was okay! And major kudos to Amanda Righetti, because not once did I look at her and think “Van Pelt.” She was a totally new character, and I loved it. They almost had enough storylines with the hospital staff to make a third show: Chicago Medical. Hey, I’d watch it! ;)
The only downside to the two-night event was that it was SO wonderful and SO epic, that the finales for both shows were a little weaker by comparison. I did love that the CF finale focused on Severide, his guilt at overlooking a victim inside a burning building. That was pretty dark, actually, but the Chief’s wedding added some humor and light to balance it out. And of course we had the obligatory cliffie at the end. But overall, it did feel like a regular ep – not the final ep of a pretty dang awesome season!
Chicago Fire Final Score: 8.2
CPD falls just a hair behind its older sister. For whatever reason, CF owns a little bigger slice of my heart. Maybe because I’ve known the characters longer, or maybe just because while cops are out there firing guns and trying to catch bad guys, firefighters are simply trying to save people. There’s an innocence to that, an uncomplicated core of “goodness” we can all relate to. CPD is a great show, but it’s just a little darker, a little meaner, a little less pure than CF. The gruesome death of Jin in the finale showcases this. Antonio’s wife leaving him added yet another shadow to an already pretty bleak season-ender.
Nonetheless, I love the characters, and I’m compelled by the show, especially when it gives me delicious treats like the budding Lindsay/Severide romance. I wanted that so bad, but didn’t let myself hope. It seemed like they were pairing her with Jay, and I figured doing a cross-show romance would just be too daunting for the writers. And then they went there! And my fangirly heart jumped over the moon, landed on the sun, burned to a blackened crisp and was joyfully reborn from the ashes. I ship Lindsay/Severide!! Looking forward to many more scenes between them on both shows…assuming Severide made it out of that explosion…:/
Chicago PD Final Score: 8.1
Honestly, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should have ranked higher than sixth place. It is an action movie, a comedy, and a sci-fi masterpiece all rolled up together in a hotdog bun. And I can sum up, in one word, why this show fell so far behind in my race: Ward. I’ve just never liked it when shows take a character you really care about and turn him or her “bad” as a way to shock the audience. It always feels like something that was just done on a whim to shake things up. Now, I do recognize Joss Whedon’s a genius, and I can give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he DID plan to have Ward be evil all along. But that doesn’t make the twist any more palatable to me. I feel like I wasted my time getting invested in something that wasn’t real. And that’s probably what I was supposed to feel, because that’s how Coulson and his team felt. The problem is, it didn’t make me like the show more. It made me like the show LESS. Like, a lot less. I missed parts of most of the last few eps, and honestly didn’t care that much. It’s still a great show, but not quite AS great. There’s an emptiness to it, now – a reluctance on my part to become overly attached to characters who might suddenly be revealed as evil to boost ratings.
I do give the writers credit for making Ward a complex shade of gray, rather than a cut-and-dried Prince of Darkness. And yes, the performances were excellent, and the finale did make me laugh out loud when Coulson broke out that huge gun, shot Garrett’s head off, and was all, “Guys, I found it!” Classic Whedon humor. All in all, this show is still very much worth watching, I just hope they don’t make me regret it…again.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Final Score: 7.5
Oddly enough, S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t the only show to turn one of its good guys not-so-good last year. Maybe it was something icky in the water? Whatever it was, Beauty and the Beast drank some, too. (Probably didn’t taste very good!) I know I didn’t like the flavor of evil!Gabe after a season of loving him! Yeah, yeah, I know he started out as a bad guy, but still, I thought he’d redeemed himself, and the return of Gabe The Murderer and, ultimately, Gabe The Murdering Beast just didn’t quite sit right in my stomach. Seemed too easy, too uncomplicated: Gabe is bad, and Cat and Vincent are meant to be. End of story. I would’ve liked more layers. I would’ve liked Gabe not to be a total psycho! It didn’t help that I apparently missed an episode. I have no freaking idea how, either – all I know is, Cat got kidnapped and Gabe was still a good guy, and I couldn’t wait to tune in the next week. When I tuned in the next week (or so I thought), Cat was no longer kidnapped, and Gabe was completely evil. WTH???? Not the smoothest transition for this viewer.
Maybe I got abducted by aliens. There was certainly missing time involved – like, a whole week of it. Whatever the case, I shook off my disorientation and tried to enjoy the remaining episodes. Thanks to the charming cast and funny writers, this wasn’t so difficult. I am thrilled X 1,000 that JT wasn’t killed off, and super-pumped about the potentially X-Files-y type supernatural investigations that Cat and Vincent may plunge into next year. Which we will thankfully get to see, since BATB got renewed! Yay!
Beauty and the Beast Final Score: 7.4
And in last place, we have Elementary. Which sounds bad, but considering that I only watch truly awesome shows, even last place isn’t such a terrible spot! When this show decides to bring it, they bring it like crazy. Problem is, they don’t always decide to bring it, and I think we had a bit of a sophomore slump going on last season. Certain moments and individual episodes really sparkled: Bell’s shooting and its aftermath, Gregson’s marital issues, Watson’s kidnapping, Moriarty’s return, Mycroft’s MI6 storyline. But then, in between those moments, we had some dry, unappetizing filler that didn’t seem to have any real direction or taste (other than cardboard).
My RX for next season: More Mycroft! My mom is always complaining about him getting together with Joan, how they have no chemistry. To which I reply: WHO CARES? Honestly, what does it matter if Mycroft has chemistry with Joan? He has chemistry with SHERLOCK. When those two brothers are onscreen, there is a crackle-fire intensity the likes of which I rarely see on TV. The emotions are all tangled up and crazy – the rivalry, the resentment, the jealousy, and yes, deep down, the LOVE. Mycroft returned to MI6 to save Sherlock from prison time. Baffled, Sherlock asks, “Why? You didn’t owe me anything.” Mycroft: “We’re brothers.” Oooh, watch out Sam and Dean – your spot as Top TV Bros may just be in jeopardy…
Elementary Final Score: 7.3
Miscellaneous Mini-Winners (FYI: I just spelled ‘miscellaneous’ correctly on the first try! Go me!):
Favorite Night of TV: Tuesday, cuz it’s got three in a row – S.H.I.E.L.D., Supernatural, CF!!
Best Tearjerker Moment: Tie: Chicago Fire’s heartfelt reunion between a disabled, alcoholic fire chief and the firefighters who once hated him for saving their lives and Elementary’s episode-closing scene between Sherlock and his dead friend, Alistair (Why did they have to kill him off??? And why did they have to write the ep so beautifully??? **sob**)
Here’s hoping for many more memorable moments from all of my shows next season!
May this fall bring on the best race ever!
One of my writing group members told me about this contest over the weekend, and it sounded so cool, I just had to post it on here! This is a flash fiction contest for stories 100 words or less, and each story must somehow tie into one of two themes: Creation or Destruction. All stories must be scary (it’s a horror contest!), and any given author is allowed to submit only one story per theme. The top ten stories will be posted on the Horror Novel Reviews website to be judged by readers. Winners in each category will be awarded fifty dollars via PayPal, and the best stories may even be published in an anthology. Sound cool? Go check out the details:
Personally, 100-word stories have never been my strong suit. Matter of fact, anything under 500 is not really what I consider myself good (or even competent) at writing – but that’s why I love it! I want the challenge! I want to get better at writing those super short-shorts! So, I am definitely in. I hope you are, too! Dial up the spook factor, and send in your submissions before the deadline on September 30th.
May the best creepy stories win! :)
When I read that USA Weekend was doing a special on pop culture in the ’90s, I just had to send in some fond memories about what is possibly my all-time favorite TV show – The X-Files! – and how it shaped my teenage years. Imagine my surprise when the “Nineties” issue of USA Weekend came out, and I saw my own name in the reader comments section! :) They published a shortened version of my letter in the print edition, and the full version – photo included – is up on their website:
So if you’re a fellow Phile, go dive into the joys of years gone by, and recall your own favorite experiences involving the dynamic duo of Mulder and Scully. And even if you weren’t into X-Files (I’ll try not to hold that against you), there’s plenty of other ’90s nostalgia to love, including memories of Office Space, Celine Dion’s first performance on US television, The Lion King, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, and LOADS of other great stuff. Go take a look:
Also, check out their cool cover image, which features tons of classic ’90s quotes:
I guarantee it’ll leave you all warm and fuzzy and saying to yourself, “Ah, the ’90s. What an incredible decade to be a fan!” :)
Hey, who doesn’t like a little alliteration? ;)
And who doesn’t love a hilarious fantasy story that makes you spray Pepsi all over your computer screen?
Unfortunately, although fantasy/humor is one of my all-time favorite genres, it doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of love from the publishing industry. Fantasy is supposed to be a long, epic journey filled with really evil dragons and sword fights and heroic deaths…right? So, if you’ve written a funny story about a disgruntled warlock, it can be doggone hard to find someplace to submit it. (Believe me, I’ve looked).
That’s why I was so thrilled to discover this new anthology that is specifically looking for funny fantasy stories: Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms. My first thought was, “They’re already on number three? How did I not find this sooner??” Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms is currently open to flash fiction (500-1,500 words) and short story (1,501-6,000 words) submissions. They pay half a cent a word plus one share of royalties for flash, one cent a word and two shares of royalties for short stories, and all authors get a copy of the E-book. They’re also planning a Kickstarter campaign to increase author payments and hopefully fund a print edition of the book.
The deadline for submitting to this anthology is July 31st. So what are you waiting for? Dust off that warlock story, polish it up, and send it in!
Looking for even more places to send your laugh-out-loud fantasy tale? Try Unidentified Funny Objects (you’ll have to keep an eye on their website to see when they’re opening up to submissions for their next anthology). Also, Every Day Fiction loves humor in all of its glorious forms, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is one of the few mags known to favor fantasy and scifi stories on the more lighthearted end of the spectrum. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is another option, as their guidelines state a continuing need for humorous stories.
All this talk about funny fantasy stories got you in the mood to guffaw? Go read “Letter to the Editor” by Joshua Brown. I guarantee you’ll be wiping Pepsi off your monitor. :)
So, it finally happened. That thing I’ve been dreaming about, striving for, and working my behind off to accomplish for the last several years. A few days ago, my story, “The Greatest Gift,” was officially selected for publication in the upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?
Thus, on August 19th, 2014 (that’s THIS year!), my writing will appear in print for the very first time.
Believe it or not, it’s actually hard for me to write those words. As a shy person with Asperger’s Syndrome, self-promotion is probably the most difficult aspect of writing I’ve faced so far. The way I was raised, you don’t brag about yourself and your accomplishments – you just plain don’t.
And yet, when you’re a writer, you almost kinda have to.
It’s just the way of the business. I know this. I accept it. But still I’ve continued to cling to my shyness like it’s my old, faded-blue security binky. Hardly any of my friends know that I am serious about writing. I think only two of them are aware that I’ve been published before. If you’re wondering how many of them know about this website, that number drops to one. For some reason, telling strangers about my writing life is actually easier than telling the people closest to me.
It’s not that I don’t WANT to tell my friends. I do! I fantasize about it, imagine their reactions, and feel my pulse-rate go up a few notches. But when I finally see them face-to-face, my courage always seems to scurry away like a spider trying not to get stepped on. I keep my head down, and when my friends ask what’s new in my life, I just smile and say, “Same old, same old. Nothing interesting here.”
But now, this book is coming out, and it’s a BIG deal. It’s my chance to show this really awesome publisher – and potential future ones – that I can successfully promote a book and generate some sales. With dreams of getting my novels published some day, I can’t afford to stay in my shell. I plan on attacking this challenge with the aggression of a hungry Grizzly Bear – seeking out opportunities for book signings and media coverage, using every connection I have, and yes, telling my friends and family about my story’s publication.
(Even if it means blushing furiously and ducking my head while I do it.)
Whatever results I get – positive or otherwise – you guys will be the first to know. :)
And more powerful than ever before!
(Okay, not really – it just sounded good :) )
First things first: a huge, teary-eyed “thank you” goes out to anyone and everyone who’s still around after a year of infrequent updates and long periods of static silence. For those who don’t know, my family’s home was struck by lightning during a violent storm on May 31st, 2013. The house subsequently caught fire, sustaining major damage from the flames and the water used to put them out.
In the 365-plus days since then, my family has experienced a long list of “firsts.” First time landing on a family member’s doorstep with literally nothing but the smoke-scented clothing on our backs. First time living in a trailer. First time not having home internet access in over a decade. First time having people slow down as they drove past our house, just so they could take in the destruction.
It wasn’t the easiest year in the history of us. But in many ways, it was one of the best. Sometimes, it takes losing a few possessions to show you that the real treasures, the things that could never be replaced, are the people – and pets – you love. And sometimes, it takes a hard fall to show you just how many folks you have standing around you, willing and eager to help you right back up.
Thanks to the unending support of friends and family, the bravery of firefighters, and the resilience of the human spirit, we survived this challenge and emerged on the other side, stronger, better, and ready to embrace a whole new list of “firsts”:
First night spent in our brand-new house. First time enjoying high-speed internet at home. First time having people slow down as they drive past, just so they can admire the beauty of a skillfully rebuilt home.
Thank you again for riding along with me on this bumpy journey. I hope you’ll stick around for some of the awesome stuff I have planned, including:
Great Reads: Fiction and Fanfiction Recommendations
The Race: Results will be in as soon as I catch up on my tape viewing (though, I must say, having seen the Supernatural finale, I have a hard time believing anything can top that!)
Movie Reviews: Going to see X-Men: Days of Future Past tomorrow, so you’ll definitely be hearing about that! Also will be doing mini-reviews of the superhero movies I planned to write about last year, including Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, and Wolverine.
Fangirl Nostalgia: I’ll be taking a look back at some of my earliest fangirly obsessions, including some classic Mary Higgins Clark books and my favorite couple on General Hospital: Kevin and Lucy!
Fiction Versus Faction: Examining the difference, and knowing when one crosses the line into the other.
New Market Research Tools and Calls for Submissions: Just because I didn’t have home internet access doesn’t mean I didn’t find a few nifty things in the last year :)
And finally, Book Promotion: My Journey. Just days ago, one of my non-fiction stories was selected to appear in the upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? (release date: August 19th, 2014). It will be my first time in print, and also my first time facing the challenge of promoting a book. My successes, my failures, and anything else I learn along the way will be shared with my readers here on ATHF.
“Your cover letter is beautifully written, but it needs some different formatting – the punctuation marks come out as strange characters!”
This frightening message came to me in an email from a family friend. She had graciously allowed me to send her a copy of my cover letter, so she could give me feedback before I sent it on to a publisher. I thought she might make a few tweaks here and there – change a few sentences around, nothing major. I never expected her to tell me that my cover letter looked like alien symbols and gibberish!
Soon after this exchange, I came across an article detailing what happens to the formatting of a Microsoft Word document when you Copy and Paste it into the little “Compose” box of your email. To sum it up: bad things. VERY VERY Bad Things can happen when you C&P from Word into any web browser.
Luckily, I had sent this most recent cover letter to a friend first. But I’d already sent more than a dozen email cover letters in the past, without any idea that even though they looked perfectly normal on my screen, they looked dramatically different to the person receiving them.
And all this time, I thought I was doing a good thing by composing them in Word. I didn’t want to just dash off some sloppy cover letter right in my email. I wanted to pre-write the letter, perfect it, and print it off so others could read it and edit it for me, even if the letter was only five measly sentences.
(Side note: Just to be clear, sending an attachment in MS Word is totally fine. If you’re sending a story or even a cover letter as a .DOC or .DOCX attachment, it should look exactly as it’s supposed to, as long as that’s the format requested by the publisher. The problem only occurs when Copying and Pasting something from MS Word into the body of your email, be it a letter or even a whole story (yes, some publishers want your whole story in the body of the email).)
There are several simple things you can do to make darn sure the content in the body of your email looks exactly as you intended. The easiest way is just to directly write your message in the “Compose” box of your email. This is the method I now use for very short cover letters and other succinct messages. For longer content, however, this would not be practical. (Who wants to re-type their whole 6,000-word zombie pirate adventure?) In the case of longer material, I would recommend Copying and Pasting from Word into Notepad, and then from Notepad into your email. (You will have to go through and redo all the italics, bolds, etc. in your email if you choose this method, because that formatting will be lost in Notepad.) The final safeguard: send the email to yourself or a friend before sending it to a publisher. You want to start off that writer-publisher relationship on the right foot – not the ugly alien foot with sixteen blue toes!
Last note: I wrote this post with full knowledge that most people are already completely aware of this issue. In fact, most people reading this post probably think I’m an idiot for not being aware of it. Nonetheless, for that one person who might not know, for that one poor soul who’s about to unwittingly send out an important query letter filled with wing-dings and squiggly lines, I decided to put this out there.
Hope it helps!
Keep writing and submitting!
(Okay, when I wrote this post, it was actually a lot closer to midseason than it is now. Nonetheless, the scores still stand!)
So, time’s been winging its way along like a carrier pigeon, and here we are, over halfway through the TV season. Well, the network TV season, at any rate. This is the time when I’m starting to ask myself some important questions, like:
“Which shows am I looking forward to the most?”
“Is there a breakout star in the pack?”
And the real biggie:
“Which shows do I want to start reading fanfiction about?”
Right now, the shows fall into three categories:
Old Favorites – the ones I already read (and even write) fanfiction about
The Mentalist and Supernatural both land firmly in this category. They’re both having strong seasons this year, although The Mentalist has been hurt recently by a super-long hiatus. Thankfully, the drought finally ended with the first new eps in what feels like months. We got to see a playful Jane, fulfilling the secret childhood wishes of his coworkers (it bothered me at first that he didn’t get anything for Lisbon, then I realized he already fulfilled her secret childhood wish when he got her the pony – no way he could ever top that!). We also got to see Jane’s new, er…vehicle. Yeah, I guess you can call it that. Personally I was a fan of the Citroen. This silver thing will take some getting used to. What’ll take more getting used to, however, is the show minus one of its most interesting and unique characters. Why did they have to kill JJ off? WHY? I so was not in the mood for the cheerful preview that aired moments after his death scene. Couldn’t we have had more than a commercial break to mourn him?
Midseason Score: 8
Fortunately, Supernatural only had a short hiatus before kicking out brand new content for us to snuggle with. There was just one bad egg in the new batch of eps – the ep with Crowley and Dean hunting together and Sam and Castiel working to remove Gadreel’s grace from Sam’s body. I liked that Dean got the Mark of Cain (Dean-girls always get a thrill when he’s part of the mythology) and I love the actor who played Cain, but there was just something missing in this ep. Maybe it was the disappointing PB&J storyline with Cass (He may have recently experienced being human for the first time, but he’s had humanity – and morality – for years. Even back in Season Five, Cass refused to kill Sam to stop the apocalypse).
Anyhoo, I’ll forgive one dud ep, seeing as most of this season has been above, beyond, and just plain better than the last three combined. The Garth-as-a-werewolf ep was entertaining (who doesn’t love Garth?) but I DID mind that they messed with the werewolf “rules” on the show. Apparently, now werewolves can change at will – not just when the full moon beckons – and can control their behavior if they “try hard enough.” This means Madison in the episode “Heart” could have been saved. Which detracts from the episode “Heart.” Nothing should detract from that ep, dang it!!
Other than that, though, the Garth ep was cool. The first really AWESOME ep of the new batch was the one where Sam and Dean went undercover at a health spa to hunt a Peruvian (?) Fat Sucker. Really cool storyline that went back to basics, but also had some cool new twists. The episode with Kevin’s ghost and Tiger Mommy (YESSSSSSSSS!!!!) was just plain sublime, and revisiting the Ghostfacers was fun and sad at the same time. Also of note: “#Thinman” was probably the scariest episode we’ve had to date this season. So, kudos. All in all, this season is a bulging container of awesome, ready to explode all over the place.
Oh, and for those people who might be worried about the strife between the bros? For me, it’s only adding to the pleasure. Because I’m hoping – really, really hoping – that Sam’s going to eventually prove himself wrong. That he really would go to the same lengths to keep Dean as Dean went to in order to keep Sam. And seriously, for a guy who “doesn’t want to be brothers,” Sam sure does run fast whenever Dean calls for him. :)
Midseason Score: 8.5
Rising Stars – the ones I don’t read fanfiction about, but am starting to get tempted
These two were a bit of a surprise. But when I asked myself which shows I look forward to watching the most, which ones I think about when they’re not on, which ones are really starting to get my fire going the answer was pretty simple: Castle and Grimm.
For some reason, these two are just working. Grimm has never been more entertaining. The cast is just overflowing with great characters, and the writers seem to be on the literary equivalent of a runner’s high, churning out great story after great story. Getting to meet Monroe’s parents for the first time was cool and painful at the same time. The parallels to real-life racism are all too real as the show continues to explore “mixed” marriages and friendships. We all knew Wesen weren’t supposed to hang out with Grimms, but who knew a Blutbad couldn’t get engaged to a Fuchsbau without severing family ties? The writers have also unleashed a slew of new baddies for Nick and Co. to fight, resulting in high-octane action and super-creepy monster moments. Those hair-wearing warriors were the ultimate Big Bads, while that Aswang thing that attacked the pregnant lady was just plain EW. And Adalind’s Hexenbiest baby, though perhaps not technically a villain, might be the scariest of all with those freaky, glowing eyes.
Midseason Score: 8
Equally on fire is Castle, which continues to find new and interesting ways to explore Castle and Beckett’s relationship without allowing it to grow stale. From intense episodes like Beckett undercover as an assassin, to more lighthearted installments like the ones featuring Carrie-like telekinetic powers or a Miley Cyrus-ish pop star gone dark, I am always Velcroed to my seat when this one is on. It makes me laugh, it keeps me guessing, and it makes me awful happy Caskett are a couple right now. Only the best shows have elements of comedy, drama, mystery and romance. This one has it all.
Midseason Score: 8
Dark Horses – the ones I love to watch, but I don’t see the relationship developing into full-on fangirl obsession anytime soon (though there can always be surprises – that’s why they’re called dark horses :) )
The majority of my shows fall here, including Elementary, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Beauty and the Beast, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and even some I watch but don’t review, like Tomorrow People, The Good Wife, and Blue Bloods.
Make no mistake – these all are Must-See TV with a capital M. Chicago Fire has been just as amazing this season as it was last year. Katie’s attack, Benny’s revenge, Matt’s memory problems, Gabby’s struggle to become a firefighter, and Jones’ floundering as she tries to fit in at the firehouse are just a few little morsels in a non-stop chocolate chip conveyer belt of great stories. You just love the characters – even as they add more and more, it never feels too crowded. I was bummed when Rafferty and Katie left the show – I hope they will be back, because even after a short time, I had already grown attached.
Midseason Score: 7.5
Same goes for Chicago PD. A big pile of likeable, loveable, and even just plain interesting characters. Couple that with wonderful acting and stellar writing, and this show is a big, fat WIN, just like its big brother, CF. From drug mules to street justice to covering up a family member’s involvement in a murder, the storylines just get stronger and stronger. The crossovers between the two shows are a bonus treat for people who watch both – which, hopefully, is everyone.
The only crossover disappointment was the “2-hour SVU/Chicago PD Crossover Event.” Once again, we have NBC doing the false advertising thing. In no way was that a “2-hour crossover event.” I watched an entire episode of SVU, thinking that the storyline was going to in some way relate to the Chicago PD episode that was airing next. I spent almost fifty-five minutes waiting for CPD characters to show up at any moment, only to have a brief cameo by Erin in the final five minutes of SVU. I can’t believe I missed Tomorrow People to watch the first hour of something that couldn’t even loosely be construed as a “2-hour event.” The sad thing is, NBC has a great line-up right now – they don’t need to lie about their programming. Hopefully, they haven’t hurt themselves too much with this crying wolf business.
CPD Midseason Score: 7
Over on Elementary, the writers have continued adding emotional depth to this season by having Sherlock serve as a sponsor to a recovering young addict, and by revisiting old Scotland Yard friend/foe Lestrade for a two-episode arc. Throw in a couple of reformed roosters and a couple of ears grown on the back of a lady who faked her own kidnapping, and you’ve got a pretty darn entertaining show.
Midseason Score: 6.5
Speaking of entertaining, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is a total powerhouse, delivering action, emotion, great characters and butt-kickingly awesome special effects. I am super-glued to the screen for the duration of this super show. Even a healthy splash of nailpolish remover couldn’t unstick me from the couch while SHIELD is on. When Skye got shot, I felt like I was the one who couldn’t breathe. I liked how they went back and showed the different timelines for each character, showing how each ended up where they finally ended up when Skye was wounded. The battle to find the Guest House and the miracle drug needed to save her life was riveting. Who wants to see these characters in the next Avengers movie? **Raises hand and waves it exuberantly** Me! Me! Me!
Midseason Score: 7.8
One show that has upped its game – and its entertainment value – this season is Beauty and the Beast. I am loving the humor this season, from Vincent and Cat stuck in a crashed car together, to Vincent appearing on an episode of The View, I have laughed out loud so many times while watching this show, and that is a good thing. All great dramas need to be able to pull off the comedy, too. Another good thing: really cool beast mythology episodes. Beast skeletons? Shackles? Dungeons? A mysterious gemstone? Count me intrigued! But, of course, it wouldn’t be B&B without the love triangles, and Gabe/Cat/Vincent has me hooked like a small-mouth bass. Wish they hadn’t killed off Tori so soon, but maybe they’ll have another she-beast in the near future. Why should guys get to have all the fang-snapping fun? Only major quibble this season: did they have to make the gemstone green? Between that and Kristen, I’m having Smallville flashbacks here…
Midseason Score: 6.8
The Race: Week 16
Beauty and the Beast (9/8c, CW) – Missed it! Drat! I thought I could make it home in time, but I didn’t, so I only caught the last five minutes, but dang, it looked like Vincent was about to go public with…everything. So, holy crap! This obviously was not the one to miss. SCORE: Withheld.
Castle (10/9c, ABC) – Spy games! I love it! The return of Castle’s daddy added an extra thrill as the show’s most mysterious character enjoyed a reunion with his one-night-stand and the son who resulted from the tryst. Castle was realistically, heart-twistingly torn between his love of Kate and his loyalty to a father he’s only met once before, and I couldn’t get enough. Whenever Daddy Dearest is involved, you know it’s gonna be one heck of a ride. For the record, judging by the look on his face as he watched them in the window, I believe that Castle’s father genuinely does care for him. And for Martha. SCORE: 8/10
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (8/7c, ABC) – Wow. So many cool elements in this one – pun intended, of course! We finally learned Skye’s amazing and totally unexpected history – SHE’S an object of unknown origin? What the…? Coulson shared the truth, and both he and Skye found some peace. Great stuff. Also, we got to see a different side of Fitz-Simmons (THEY’RE the cool kids where they come from? Seriously?), we got our first look at the SHIELD Academy (wish we’d had a Boiler Room on MY college campus!), and a super-villian was born. Not bad for 52 minutes of network TV. Bonus points awarded for Lola getting to fly again. She should fly more often. SCORE: 8/10
Supernatural (9/8c, CW) – It was nine o’clock on Tuesday night. And all was not well. My TV screen, which should have been showing three of the handsomest hunks on television, displayed only two words: “no signal.” I tell you, people, my heart almost stopped. I think I did actually have a mini panic attack. Then I pulled myself together, did some fancy finagling with the rabbit ears, and soon enough two of the three hunks – Dean and Castiel – popped into view. I did have to stand with my hand hovering over the TV for about ten minutes, but it was totally worth it. I had waited for weeks, and I wasn’t going to miss this ep due to a crappy signal. This was probably the most anticipated comeback for me, and I have to tell you, it did not disappoint. From demons planted inside the NSA, to a Crowley vs. Gadreel showdown inside Sam’s BRAIN, this episode was everything I wanted and more. I LOVE it when Cass is all helpful and sweet, and I love it when Crowley fights for the good side instead of the bad. Abaddon was her usual awesome butt-kicking self, and Crowley had me howling several different times. Best of all: Sam finally got that THING out of him, and got to rejoin the world. Questions: Why DOES Cass need a car, and why couldn’t he immediately come flying over when Dean called, and bring Kevin back to life? Maybe there’s still a way. ‘Cause I really need Kevin back to life…Please? SCORE: 9/10
Chicago Fire (10/9c, NBC) – Matt’s violent episodes are scary. Realistic, but scary. He needs some help. I don’t know what to make of that chick at the firefighter academy. Sometimes I like her, sometimes I hate her. I’m glad she helped Gabby, but cheating – whatever the reason – is not cool. Neither is using your connections to stay in the academy after an instructor kicks you out (though, to be fair, that WAS a little harsh on Severide’s part). I hope Gabby lets the cheating go and doesn’t tattle, but it sucks. This thing with Severide’s sister and Otis is too hilarious, which is good, considering most of the storylines are very serious. Severide is the king of subtle threatening looks and his use of the chainsaw had me giggling. Poor Otis – he is really making you work for it, isn’t he? LOL. Shay’s inheritance storyline was both touching and disturbing – how sick is it that the dude’s own brother was stealing his military pension? Thankfully, the money ended up in good hands, helping honest people – not crappy thieves. Also, I’m digging the gradual bonding between Shay and the new Paramedic In Charge. SCORE: 7.5/10
Chicago PD (10/9c, NBC) – Gritty and intense. The rookie made a bold call, rushing that suspect. Stupid, but bold. Fallout from the cop’s death in the pilot was respectfully, realistically handled. Whenever a kid’s life is on the line, everything turns up a notch, and this episode delivered that high-stakes tension flawlessly. The team pushed themselves to the brink, and Antonio’s son came home safe. This is definitely a show I could get hooked on. Bonus points for continuing to bring on familiar faces from sister show, Chicago Fire. SCORE: 7/10
Grimm (9/8c, NBC) – MANTICORES RULE!!! Part lion, part scorpion – what’s not to love? I enjoyed this twisty-turny tale about getting justice for a soldier who’d been viciously assaulted. The whole “military vs. soldiers for hire” angle – something I first learned about on The Good Wife – added welcome complexity to the case. The reunion between Rosalie and her estranged family was emotional, realistic, and ultimately cleansing. I’m so happy that everything got out in the open, and Rosalie made peace with her mom and sister – with Monroe’s help, of course. Bonus points added for the coolest Wesen we’ve seen to date, and the snarling “don’t you hurt my little sister” scene between Monroe and his soon-to-be sister-in-law. SCORE: 8/10
And the winner is…Supernatural! The anticipation was at critically high levels, and the wait was totally worth it. Another A+ ep for one of my favorite shows. Vote Crowley!