Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

Submitting to an Anthology in 5 Easy Steps

By: KJ Scrim

Having your work published in an anthology is a great way to expand your writing horizons and add another notch on your writing resume. Most anthologies are open to everyone, no matter if they are a seasoned professional or just getting started.

Submitting to an anthology is, in general, simple.

  1. Write a story – be sure it is well written, grammatically correct, and it fits the theme.
  2. Find an anthology open for submissions
  3. Have a cover letter or query just in case
  4. Read and follow every step of the guidelines
  5. Hit that submit button

Simple, right? Now, let’s look at each step in more detail.


There are two basic ways to write your story. You can either write the story you love, then find an anthology that fits it, or write a story specifically for a themed anthology. I have found the latter is somewhat easier to write for. If you have a story already written, the hunt for a matching theme is tedious.


Finding the perfect anthology for an already written story can be, as I said, painstaking unless you use a couple of tools to help with your search. Like anything in this digital world, searching on the internet is a good first step. A few other resources that you can use are online data bases like Duotrope, Submittable, or New Pages. Be aware that some of these require a monthly fee.

Easier yet, is to do the same search but read what they are looking for and write to the theme. This can be a great exercise to expand your skills as a writer and increase your diversity.


Not all anthologies require a cover letter or a query, but if they do, I suggest you have this ready to go. You may find that perfect publication only to learn their deadline is in an hour. If you already have a cover letter written you won’t have to put yourself through any unnecessary stress.


I’d like to put this in huge letters, all caps, highlighted, and in red ink. READ THE GUIDELINES!! No matter how many times you read the guidelines, read them again until you have precisely what they editors want. If your story only “kind of” fits the theme, don’t send it until you have made the necessary rewrites, so it fits perfectly. If they say, “no gratuitous gore”, take the time to do a simple rewrite to remove any unwanted portions. If the guidelines specifically want the metadata removed, get it out of there. Check and double check your submission to be sure it meets every point the guidelines make. These steps are a sure way to avoid the reject pile on the first pass.


STOP! Don’t hit submit quite yet. No matter how sure you are of a submission this is the stage of no return. Once you hit that submit button, it is gone. There is no turning back. Take a deep breath and review the submission guidelines one more time. Open your story and re-check it for typos and grammar one more time. Check the formatting one more time. Review your query one more time. You will be surprised at what you might find that you missed the first 50 times you went over everything.


Once your story is in the hands of the editors. BE PATIENT. Most publications will send an auto response saying they received your submission so trust that they did get it. If you haven’t heard back from them by the deadline set, then it is ok to inquire what the status is. Until then, maintain a level of professionalism by sitting on your hands and waiting. Some publications can take up to six months to let you know if you have been accepted, others just a few months. The best way to pass the time while you wait? Write more stories and submit them on a regular basis then repeat. Time will fly.

Having your work included in an anthology is rewarding to say the least. Following these easy steps will help you stay out of the reject pile and get your work read. You never know, you might find yourself published alongside someone you admire.

Additional reading:

The Advantages of Being in an Anthology
Editing an Anthology
Fresh Starts, PPW’s Anthology

KJ Scrim, head shot

Kathie “KJ” Scrim, Managing Editor of PPW’s blog and Co-Editor of Fresh Starts (PPW’s first anthology), is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.

Space Opera

Can you hum a few lines?

Whenever I’m asked what I write and I tell them space opera, I either get a blank look, or the inquirer exclaims, “Space opera? Oh, I love opera!” I then have to explain to them, no, it’s not OPERA. My characters don’t sing their way across the galaxy. So, what IS space opera?

Back to the Beginning

Let’s take a trip back in time, to the 1950s, back when radio was the main means of communication and entertainment. Radio stations broadcast serial dramas during the day, mostly when housewives were at home. The serials were often melodramatic, as operas tend to be, and open-ended, continuing with the story each weekday, and they were often sponsored or produced by soap manufacturers (“This program has been brought to you by Palmolive. Softens hands while you do dishes”), hence the term “soap opera.” Going back even further, to the 1930s, “horse opera” was first coined to describe a clichéd and formulaic Western movie. The term “space opera” was a play on words from both genres.

What Makes It “Opera”?

First of all, there’s no singing involved, just like there is no singing in soap operas, though the lone cowboy may sing about his troubles in a horse opera. In 1941, fan writer and author Wilson Tucker first used the term space opera, describing it as a “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn.” You can see why it was first used as an insult to describe some science fiction back in the day.

“Opera” in Italian means “work,” referring to the collaborative labor of all involved. Soap operas are known for their melodramatic plots, which is also true of most operas, and could also be said Westerns, and some science fiction. Take Star Wars, which is considered space opera. It also has its collaborative work, and the melodramatic storyline (save the princess, fight the bad guy, the hero saves the day), but is also (with its spin-offs and Expanded Universe books) an on-going story like the soaps.

Why Not Call It Science Fiction?

I feel that space opera is one of those genres that gets lost in the shuffle. It’s a sub-genre of science fiction, but as opposed to hard science fiction, which is the more technology-based aspects and usually adheres to the laws of physics, space opera is “lighter” (for lack of a better word) though it can have hard science fiction elements, as seen with Dune. Space opera often emphasizes space battles, melodramatic adventures, and maybe a little romance, on an epic scale.

Because there is little understanding of what space opera is, I’ve taken to calling what I write “space fantasy” but that really isn’t what I write. The word fantasy tends to relate to made-up ideas and magic, which could be true about some space opera, but also could mean that no real technology is involved, no science, which space opera does have, albeit in unexplained or poorly explained ways (midichlorians, anyone?).

You may have inadvertently stumbled upon some of the best space opera authors. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams are just a few books which can be classified as space opera books.

Next time when someone mentions “space opera” perhaps now you will think more along the lines of Star Wars, and less along the lines of La Traviata, characters blasting their way across the galaxy instead of singing about their tribulations.

Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

How to Write the Other Queer Character

By: Jason Evans

We have returned for the second part of our conversation with queer authors Nonir Amicitia and Olivia Wylie. (Read Part-1 HERE).

Jason: When writing about the queer community, what are some things, you find, that the queer community worry about, fear, or have anxiety over? Can you give me some examples?

Nonir:  Though there are some common fears that involve things like our rights being taken away, getting misgendered, being outed in a unsafe place by people who don’t know better or aren’t thinking. Basically, depending on where they are and what society looks like there, it’s varying shades of worrying about safety—which, again, can also apply to cishet folks as well.

Olivia: We’re not carrying any more diseases than you are. We’re not contagious. We’re not infectious. We’re not self-loathing by default. We do not have awful lives. Those are harmful tropes. Please dump them.  If someone gets to know us and then talks about being under the rainbow themselves, it’s because we gave them the freedom and the language to describe themselves. Oh, and we’re not here to fix the straight main character. The magical negro is a trope that needs to be tossed, right? So is the Supporting Queer. Don’t make us sidekicks by default.

Jason: How, would you suggest, I incorporate that into my writing?

Olivia: Write characters who you could see living in your neighborhood. They will be embedded in a matrix of friends and family. They will have close ties to their community, their favorite hangouts, and the person they call when they’re down. Don’t tokenize your queer character by writing them like something exotic. They’re not a zebra. They’re a person FIRST.

 Also, read more materials on the experiences of these communities. I’ve included a list of non-fiction resources below. For fiction, read these books with characters all over the rainbow. I tried to get something in from all sorts of genres.

  • The Bird Bright Shadows Series– E.V. Grieg
  • Psions of Spire– Alex Silver
  • The Dalí Tamareia Series- E.M. Hamill
  • The Nel Bentley Series– V.S. Holmes
  • The San Andreas Shifters Series– G.L. Carriger
  • Bone Dance-Emma Bull
  • A Fall In Autumn– Michael Williams
  • Waking the Dead-Jason Dias
  • The Voyage of Cinrak the Dapper– A.J. Fitzwater
  • The Out of Time Series– C.B. Lewis
  • The Custard Protocol Series– Gail Carriger
  • The Stars May Rise And Fall– Estella Miari
  • Also take a look at this listing: 13 Nonbinary Writers and Comic Creators Changing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Jason: What are some HUGE misunderstandings people outside the queer community have about people inside the queer community? Do you address those issues in your writing? How?

Nonir: The most common ones that come to mind are: a) being queer doesn’t define your personality or who you are (unless you want it to); and b) not everyone in the queer community is supportive of everyone else. As much as I’d like to say we’re one big happy rainbow family, it’s not true in the slightest. Though we do tend to travel in packs if we have the opportunity.

Olivia: We’re not all sassy. We’re not all slutty. We are NOT BROKEN. You can’t ‘straighten us out’ by showing us good straight sex. Or by scaring us about who we love. There is nothing to fix. There is nothing wrong with us.  And I repeat: We’re not carrying any more diseases than you are. We’re not contagious. We’re not infectious. We’re not self-loathing by default. We do not have awful lives. Those are harmful tropes. Please dump them. 

Oh, and last thing: we’re not all in-your-face. We’re not all sensitive. We’re not all ANYTHING. We’re people. Please treat us that way.

Jason: Do you have any suggested readings that would help our understandings?

Nonir: Blogs and nonfiction books by a variety of queer folks, especially those in the subsection of the community you’re interested in writing about.

Olivia: Reading list below

Trevor Lifeline: If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Or text START to 678678. 

  • Oh Joy Sex Toy: Oh Joy Sex Toy is the sexual education that everyone in the world needs. One of the most queer-friendly, colorful, and out-right positive webcomics out there. Got questions, go here:
  • Susan’s Place Transgender Resources: a peer support website for transgender individuals. The site is intended to be a safe space where transgender people can assist one another, and it has the additional mission of educating the public.
  • ACLU LGBT Rights: The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. If you are having legal or workplace issues, go to
  • Transgender American Veterans Association: Founded in 2003, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) is a 501 (c) 3 organization that acts proactively with other concerned gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for their medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration’s Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity . . . as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on issues regarding fair and equal treatment of transgender and transsexual individuals.
  • Everyone Is Gay: This is a collection of voices lending advice and support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) youth, and also offers comprehensive lists of nationwide LGBTQIA resources.
  • Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities: This book, written by Lee Harrington, is a solid and approachable manual on transgender issues with an entire chapter of resources. If you’re exploring, it’s a great read. Take a look on the Zon at
  • Transcending Flesh: Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings, by Ana Mardoll: This guidebook contains a series of essays covering settings which feature fast, easy, and widely-accessible body alteration, including the futuristic BodyTron5000 (“step right in and we’ll jiffy up a uterus!”) and fantastical trips to the Gender Witch for magic potions. These settings have ripple effects on trans people both on and off the page, and writers must consider multiple angles of gender presentation and body diversity when creating new worlds. Grab it on the Zon at

Jason: What’s the one thing you want to leave the reader with?

Nonir: Writing queer characters doesn’t have to be hard, and shouldn’t be intimidating. Approach it respectfully and create interesting three-dimensional characters who are more than their sexuality or gender, and you’re off to a great start! 

Olivia: Remember that you’re writing for people who are looking for characters they can see positive representation they can identify with. They’ve been denied it a very long time. It is a responsibility. But it is worth taking on.

Beyond that, just write people. We are people, with all the wonder, diversity, insecurity joy and pain that encompasses.

We are people. Just like you.

Read more about Nonir and Olivia’s hope-punk series at:

Check out Nonir at and at You can also follow them on Twitter @wanderingjotun

Visit Olivia’s author page:, Olivia’s also hangs out at

As a followup, see these reports:

Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Producing a Novel – Part 5

Hooking Your Readers

By Donna Schlachter

Writing a novel is a lot like fly fishing: you tease, you tantalize, you toss your quarry a tidbit, and once they are so captivated by your offering, you reel them in.

And while our readers are a lot more intelligent than a fish, the principle works the same.

Readers want to get caught up in your story. They want to keep reading your book. They want to end with a huge sigh of relief because the story has concluded in a satisfying manner, answering all the questions that your opening paragraph, the cover, the genre, and the back cover copy promised.

If you don’t, they probably won’t read another of your books.

Unlike fishing for fish, hooks in books don’t just happen once—they’re an ongoing event. Every scene and chapter should begin and end with one. Readers won’t care about your characters and their predicaments unless you dangle a dilemma, pose a problem, or catapult a catastrophe at them.

So let’s look at hooks, their purpose, and their construction.

What is a Hook?

In literary terms, a hook is a sentence or paragraph, either at the beginning of a scene or chapter—the opening hook—or at the end of same—the closing hook—that makes the reader want to keep reading. We accomplish that goal by:

  • Asking a question
  • Suggesting a problem
  • Foreshadowing something to happen
  • Leaving our character in trouble (hence the old-fashioned term cliff hanger)

The form doesn’t really matter, but it’s wise to change up the structure so you don’t always begin with a problem and end with a question. That gets boring quick.

Opening Hook

The first opening hook, in either the Prologue or Chapter 1, is designed to draw your reader into reading the rest of the paragraph, the scene, the chapter, and ultimately, the entire book. This hook makes a promise to the reader that you will resolve the issue by the end of the book, in a satisfying manner.

Which is exactly why dream sequences are such a let down to the reader, since nothing is really resolved by starting the book with a dramatic nightmare. You get the reader wanting to know what’s happening, and why, but then CRASH! Ha, ha, it was all a dream.

The opening hook doesn’t have to be in the first line, but the sooner you grab the reader, the better. Absolutely the hook should be in the first paragraph. We get fifteen seconds from a reader for them to decide if they want to keep reading. They’ve already used some of that for the cover and back cover copy. Don’t waste time—let them know trouble is on the way.

That said, here are other ways to ensure the opening hook is well-constructed and reader-grabbing besides no dream sequences:

  • No weather, unless it’s used as a metaphor for the tone of the book.
  • No everyday stuff, like a character shopping, watching TV, making dinner, unless you get to the problem right away.
  • Anchor the reader immediately in the setting and time period.
  • No useless telephone chatter like, “Hi, how are you?” Go right to the punch line.
  • Make sure the tone and language is appropriate to reader expectations for the genre.
  • If possible, introduce the Point of View character for this scene immediately.


Bad: Mary stared out the window. It was raining. Would the rain never stop? She felt so bad because her husband just died.

Better: Mary turned from the window. Staring out there wasn’t going to get the laundry done. Or the kids fed. Or the bills paid. And she was the only one left to do all three.

Best: The rain buffeted the window like gunshot pellets. Mary jerked back, the image too raw. Too new. Sheets of water obscured her view of the pier where her husband’s fishing boat bobbed on raging waves. No, not her husband’s. Hers.

Here we see, in the Best example, showing, not telling. Rain buffeted. Gunshot. Sheets of water. And questions are raised: why did the sound of gunshot pellets upset her so much? And why is the boat now hers, not her husband’s? Is he dead? Did they divorce?

Closing Hooks

These are the sentences that end a scene or chapter, and are every bit as crucial to keep the reader reading. That’s our goal. We want to hear that our readers couldn’t put the book down, that they stayed up all night and slept in the next morning. Like the opening hook, closing hooks pose a problem, suggest a situation, or quicken our hearts with a question.

The closing hook can lead directly into the next scene or chapter, or the topic of the hook may not be addressed or resolved again for several scenes. However, once that point of view character comes back on the scene, the bigger the issue, the sooner it must be resolved. In real life, we don’t simply ignore problems and situations—we deal with them.


Bad: She could do nothing about Tim’s love for her right now, so instead she went to the mall. Shopping always cheered her up. She didn’t need a man, right?

Better: Tim was a jerk, and the sooner she was rid of him, the better. Now, should she go shopping, or should she fix dinner? Shopping it was—fewer calories.

Best: She strode into the mall, her heels tapping an angry staccato. She passed a bridal shop but kept her eyes straight ahead. A month ago, she’d window shopped at this very store, envying the slim models and trying to figure out how to make even the least expensive frothy gown fit her budget. Well, no more worries about that. Not only wasn’t the gown worth it, neither was Tim. The jerk.

In the Best example, once again, we see the scene instead of just hearing about it. Strode, angry staccato. Kept her eyes. . . ahead. Envying . . . slim models. We hear her heels. We feel her anger. Her humiliation. A suggestion about her body image. Even a mention of her small budget. Then we see her determination to get over it and get on with her life.


The best hooks will do what good writing should: show, not tell. They will be full of description, strong nouns, and active verbs that convey the mood and emotions of the character. They will also quicken the reader’s heart rate and page turn rate, endearing you to them so they continue to purchase subsequent books.

Did you miss previous installations of Producing a Novel?
Generating—and Testing—Ideas for Fiction and Non-Fiction Books – Part 1
Genre and Markets – Part 2
Building Believable Characters – Part 3
Character Sketches and Backstory – Part 4

Donna Schlachter

Donna Schlachter lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
Find Donna on:  FacebookTwitterAmazonSmashwordsEtsy

Setting Writing Goals

By: Tammila Wright

Think back to New Year’s Day. We were optimistic. Were you setting goals with your writing in mind? I was. Armed with a new topic and one book set to launch by March, my excitement mounted, and then, COVID-19. Daily uncertainty became our new reality. Would anyone have money to buy books? Then, a new horror went to the extent of people using books as toilet paper! With the world on “fire”, how could I focus? Will there be an entertainment market left? We don’t know what is coming, but I do know that when everything calms down, I will have something, maybe a lot, to deliver.

Get Control of Your Life By Setting Goals

Goal setting is crucial to success in all areas of our lives. It is one of the few things we have control over in our new world. But first, how about dreaming by identifying what you want your life to look like in a month, and then, a year. It has been all the rage to look at a five-year plan, but for now, with so much uncertainty, lets focus on no more than a year.  What do you want? Why do you want it?

Dream Big

Some of the best scenes created are written backward. Why not goals? Start with what you can see for yourself first in the end, a big commission check, or holding a finished book in your hand. Analyze multiple paths that lead to the result you want. Think hard, jump on the internet to research. What do the goals look? Maybe you will expose a path that would have lead to nowhere because you didn’t have the correct tools, but now you know.  

Create a plan with small steps and write them down to make them real. Remember that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Here is a little secret. Word count goals do not work for me. Oh, spitting out 2,000 to 3,000 words is easy, but my quality suffers. As a result, I set a scene completion goal and celebrate when I’m done. I did it. Find an easily measurable goal fitting your writing style. Some writers like a “consequence” if they don’t complete a goal in a certain amount of time. For example, one author writes a check, gives it to a friend with instructions to deposit it if they don’t reach their goal. The check is written to the political party they hate.

My Goals Are Haunting Me

Create a vision board and place it somewhere you have to see it. Place a picture of a trigger object that represents your book’s subject, along with items that remind you of the result of your goal list. The vision board doesn’t have to be big but obvious. For example, place a small vision board on the bathroom mirror where you brush your teeth, morning and night. Don’t worry. Your family is used to your odd behavior because you are a writer.

Before March 2020, I would have encouraged everyone to set a time limit on your goals. But the one thing that we have learned from the pandemic is that we can’t add time to the mix. Time is the one unpredictable factor for now. Which leads to “expectations”.

Managing Expectations With Flexibility

One cannot talk about goal-setting without mentioning managing expectations. Summers filled with swimming pools of happy, splashing children, picnics filled with tons of family, fireworks on the Fourth of July, and lawn concerts. It is what we expect. My book was supposed to be released in March. But it is delayed. Most things are delayed or canceled. Of course, our goals will come with expectations that we placed on them. But, say hello to flexibility. Check your goals each day, week, or month to see what changes need to be applied. “Life” is a toddler with pudding covered hands heading your way. It’s cute but messy. Flexibility gives you a choice to get out of the way, laughing at the absurdity of it all, or stand there and get messy too.

You Are Not Alone

Even though we have to social distance, finding an accountability partner is easier than ever. Someone you can set writing goals together and motivating you to write. Pikes Peak Writers is a great source by connecting to their Facebook page and posting a request. Joining as a member of Pikes Peak Writers will give you access to an entire local writing community at your fingertips.

Time to Get Defensive

You have your list of goals, you know your path, now defend it. Here is your license to protect your path with a vengeance. Because if you don’t believe in it, who will? Respect your goals, and others will respect them too.

We are all going to make it through this new reality because writers contain a unique mental edge. Not because we are social distance masters but because we can focus on our projects, keep moving forward, and thrive during the pandemic.

Here are a few additional resources to help you set your goals:
Set SMART Goals
The Benefits of a Crash and Burn
What’s in Your Planner

Tammila Wright

Tammila K. Wright is a fifth-generation Colorado Native and self-proclaimed history geek. She writes, talks, and even acts out her love of history. She is a commissioner for the Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission contributing articles for the Pikes Peak Bulletin Newspaper. Tammila has been involved in projects for Pilgrim Films & TV, Greystone Productions, Taurus Productions, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, PBS and Animal Planet. Her first full novel, Mirror Memory, will be released in May 2020 and is a member of the Scriveners of Manitou Springs and Pikes Peak Writers. Learn more at Tammila’s website.

What’s in Your Planner?

By: Margena Holmes

Okay, show of hands—who bought a planner (or you have one on your device) expecting to put all sorts of fun writing things in it for the year (or already had fun things written in)? *raises hand* Back in December when I wrote about planning out your year using a planner I had no idea that 2020 would be the equivalent to playing Jumanji. How many things have you deleted or crossed out because of this pandemic? Probably a lot. There was a meme going around which said the planner was the most worthless purchase for the year. Maaaaybe—or maybe we just need other things to put in it! So what CAN you put in your planner as a writer during these uncertain times?

Protect your writing time

If you’re finding it hard to keep writing during these odd times with family perhaps at home now, add in your writing time and protect that time. With a lot of us out of work from our day jobs (or slowly going back to work, working part-time, etc.) demands for our time from family may have increased. Of course you want to spend time with your family, but make sure you schedule in time to write. That book won’t write itself!


As writers we still have deadlines to meet and goals to reach. I kept a few of my entries in my planner, though some have been moved around quite a bit (which is why I should probably be jotting down my deadlines in pencil!) since I lost my motivation for a while. Putting in deadlines for getting your book edited or published gives you the feeling of being in control and having a purpose to get stuff done.

The What and When

Also, WHAT are you working on that day? World-building? Editing? It’s sometimes helpful to write in what you’re going to work on. If I know I’m going to be working on world-building, I’ll probably need a little less time than, say, if I’m editing a piece.

Another thing you can keep track of is your word counts. Having it written down you can see your growth as a writer. Don’t obsess over it, however. If you only get 100 words written one day, it’s still progress.


My planner has boxes for each day to write in, so why not write down how you’re feeling that day? I know with this pandemic, some of us are not feeling our best. You may be able to work out what you’re feeling and who knows? It could turn into inspiration for a story.

Plan your blog posts

I know I’m pretty lax about planning my blog posts, both here and on my author page, and I need to do this more often—jotting down ideas to follow up on later. Take your themes you’ve thought of and plan out your posts. Will you be writing about craft? Or maybe a great story about what happened at a workshop?

These are just a few ideas to make use of that planner you bought back in December. Hopefully things will be back to normal soon and we’ll have lots of events to write into our planner (and don’t tell me you didn’t read the title of this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice). Happy planning, all!

photo of margin holmes

Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

How to Write the Other Queer Character

Part 1

By: Jason Evans

Jason Evans recently interviewed two queer authors, Nonir Amicitia and Olivia Wylie who discussed writing the queer character.

Jason: Please introduce yourselves!

Nonir: I’m Nonir Amicitia, one half of O.E. Tearmann. I use they/them pronouns, play too many video games, and have two giant Sterlite containers of old writing under my bed. In addition to writing as O.E. Tearmann, I also run Wandering Jotun Crafts, which is dedicated to providing art and spiritual services to uplift and support marginalized communities. 

Olivia: Hey, I’m the other half of this writing team wearing the O.E. Tearmann trenchcoat. I’m a bisexual, biracial cis girl with a blue streak through my hair and my soul, a jack of all trades and a master of none. My first love is folklore, but I’ve branched out into sci-fi, ethnobotany, and non-fiction horticulture writing. Trained in ornamental horticulture at CSU, I own the residential landscaping and garden-related artistic business Leafing Out Professional Gardening, write for the Brehon Law Academy, create art and illustrated books of ethnobotany and folklore under my own name, and am moderating too many facebook groups focusing on folklore, research and art.

Jason: What do you write?

Nonir: I tend toward fantasy and scifi with strong romantic plots. Lately, I’ve been working on some queer romance and erotica short stories I’ll be publishing under the name E.S. Argentum sometime soon (fingers crossed).

Olivia: I really love doing research, so I do a lot of work on Old Irish cultural artifacts like the Brehon Law, the Triads of Ireland, and the Ogham. Currently I have a book out on the Victorian Language of Flowers, the Old Irish Alphabet of Trees, and the Triads of Ireland, with a forthcoming volume on the history of invasive weeds in America.

When I’m in the mood to be less cerebral, I like to write folklore-based works, and I’m the artist on the folklore-based webcomic Parmeshen. With Nonir I write the hopeful queer cyberpunk series Aces High, Jokers Wild, which is our way of getting catharsis for everything going on in the US and showing others how to light candles in the darkest night.

Jason: What are the top three things I should know, in your opinion, if I want to authentically write queer characters?

Nonir: One: queer characters are just as nuanced and varied as any other type of character; they have interests and likes/dislikes and personality quirks that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender. Two: please don’t fall into the “all queer people are promiscuous and only think about sex” stereotype. Again, just focus on writing well-rounded characters. Three: don’t write just one. Practice, practice, practice, and avoid tokenizing or fetishizing your queer characters.

Olivia: A) We’re people. Not classifications. This is life, not D&D. Don’t write a trans woman character; write a girl with a thing for race cars who has a hell of a time sourcing good jumpsuits in her size, maybe, and mentions that the only time being trans sucks is when you try to find something cute for a woman your height. See the difference?

B) Read Before You Write. I can’t stress this enough. Go read a ton of Own Voices stuff from queer authors in every shade of the rainbow. Go read books like ‘Transcending Flesh’ by Ana Mardoll. Read ‘Traversing Gender’ by Lee Harrington. Then go out and ask—and accept—what needs correcting in your work. Queer Sci Fi Writer’s Workshop is a good place. Put exactly as much research into understanding your queer characters as you would understanding an ancient Roman character. What you write could change someone’s life, for better and for worse.

Jason: When writing about queer people, what are some things, you find, that they are confident about? Can you give me some examples?

Nonir: Honestly, I can’t really answer this because queer people are just as diverse as cishet people. Everyone has their own things they’re confident about and things they struggle with, and there’s no real way to make a blanket statement about it.

Olivia: So, to answer this question, first we’re going to have to unpack it. Then we’re going to have to reword it. Then we can answer it.

The problem with this question is that it assumes several things. Firstly, it assumes the monolithic nature of people who aren’t cisgender and/or heterosexual. This assumption is false on the face of it. Like any other group, we’re made up of a wide range of people with all kinds of personalities, backgrounds, goals, and skills.

Living in the modern world, we must consciously overcome this outdated thinking. The term ‘queer’ is an extremely wide umbrella. Scratch that, it’s a circus tent, under which all sorts of folks have all kinds of lived experiences.

Secondly, this question assumes that sexuality and gender identity affects other specific personality traits—namely, confidence. These traits are not intrinsically linked. This is an essential point.

So, what are queer people confident in? Answer: it depends on the specific person you’re talking to. You can have any combination of gender, orientation, skillset, and personality. An extremely confident science whiz who’s asexual, romantically attracted to women, and absolutely sure she can talk anyone into anything. A straight trans guy who’s a great arborist and a little shy. The combinations are absolutely endless. Exactly as they are for cis-het people.

A better wording of this question could be: what are modern queer people able to feel confident in displaying publicly concerning their identity?

Again, this is completely dependent on the lived experience of the person you’re talking to. According to the Federal Hate Crimes Registry, 20.8% of hate crimes are based on LGBT identity as of 2013, up from 17.6% in 2008. Of these crimes, 72% are violent in nature. If you’re lucky, you live surrounded by a supportive community, whether natal or cultivated. If you’re not lucky…well, bluntly, you can still end up beat in an alley. Or worse. And where you get beat verses where you get bothered for dating advice all depends on what subculture you live in. It is, as a very broad blanket statement, safer to disclose your gender and orientation more openly in the US and Europe today. But some seriously nasty subcultures still lie under that blanket. Again: there is no one thing we’re all confident in.
Well, okay, maybe there’s one thing. We all know that you’ll never get all that glitter off. Glitter is forever. But that’s the only thing we are all completely confident in.

So, here’s the takeaway: treat LGBT people like people. Write LGBT people like people. Don’t assume they all do anything.  Ask people about what they’re confident in. Let them tell their life stories and their experiences. Ask them what they think. Oh, and keep the cap on the glitter.

We will see you next month for Part 2.
In the meantime:

You can read more about Nonir and Olivia’s hope-punk series at

You can check out Nonir at and at You can also follow them on Twitter @wanderingjotun

To check out Olivia’s author page, go to, Olivia’s also hangs out at

Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. In 2004 he moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. He dedicated himself to public education and realized his heart was not in it. So he moved on. At the same time he stumbled into a creative world of art and literature he now calls home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Producing a Novel – Part 4

Character Sketches and Backstory

By: Donna Schlachter

Now that you have the foundation for your book that we covered in Parts 1, 2, and 3, you can begin the hard non-writing part of your book: deciding who your characters will be, and what their stories are.

Every Character has a Story

Yes, every single character in your book has their own story. That’s because, just like real people, everything that happened to your characters in the past affects who and what they are today or whenever your story is set.

The easy thing to do at this point is ignore this advice and move directly to the writing part of the story—but be advised: you’ll have to do this step at some point. Doing it now will save you time and heartache later on.

I made the mistake of skipping this step in my first full-length mystery novel, and I ended up three chapters from the end not knowing whodunit or why. I hadn’t written in any clues or red herrings, either, which meant I had to stop, figure out the criminal and their motivation, then go back and point my amateur sleuth in several wrong directions before revealing the real crook.

Not fun.
As I said, I suggest you do this now.

Where do you start?

Start with your main character. Ask a few questions, and make a note of the answers somewhere. I will discuss modes of information storage in another section, but how you keep the data is more about you and your preferences.

Some authors refer to this as their Bible—because it holds the truth about their story. I’ve found that deciding on a key element—such as the color of the character’s eyes or hair—is easier if I have a photo or image. You can download and print these pictures in color and keep them in a binder, a folder, or on your computer for quick reference and refreshing your memory.

But for those non-physical details, such as birthplace, schooling, first love, car preference, vacations, et cetera, you’ll want to write or type those somewhere. Again, images are good.

And while few of these details will make it into your story, they might aid in you deciding how the character would react in a given situation. For example, if you knew your character grew up in the Depression, the oldest of seven children, and their father died so your character had to drop out of school to work so the rest of the kids could eat, that might change your decision about whether your character would spend a year-end bonus or bank it.

What should you ask your characters?

You can find lists of interview questions for characters on various websites, which I will include below under Resources, but the primary questions to ask your character are:

Every Character has a Story
  • Name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Birth order
  • Siblings
  • Parent’s occupations
  • Parent’s ages at time of character’s birth
  • Parents’ education
  • First job
  • Pet preference
  • First memory
  • Did they live with grandparents?
  • Struggles in school, favorite subjects
  • Reason for being where they are now
  • Past wounds, including lost loves, marriages, relationships, etc.

Why is a character sketch important?

You might wonder how any of this is important to your story today. Let’s take parents’ education, for example. If the father is a college graduate and the mother is a high school dropout, depending on which parent your character was closer to could affect their attitude toward the importance of education. If they were closer to their mother, they might think education isn’t important since it wasn’t important to Mom. But what if Mom dropped out because she was pregnant, and has always wanted to return but there was never enough time or money? What if Mom was harassed at school by students, so she quit, then got her GED years later? That might change the character’s attitude.

The idea behind knowing who your character is will create a three-dimensional character. Don’t make your main character too much like you, because then this will become your story. Change up some details. If you decide your character dropped out of school because she was pregnant, talk to some women who made that choice. Ask them what their thoughts were at the time. Were they hoping for a happily-ever-after shotgun wedding? Or did they see their hopes and dreams sucked down the drain? Were they trying to escape a bad family situation, only to find themselves married to a man they hardly knew? Or was it the best thing they ever did? All of these will change your character’s responses to various situations.

Don’t stop at your main character.

Then do the same with your secondary character and your antagonist/villain. You want to know these three characters as well as you know your own family. Make certain to give each of them a different past. Be sure that your secondary character’s strength is opposite to your main character’s, and that their wounds are bound to bring them into conflict. And don’t neglect your antagonist/villain’s good point—everybody has at least one. Find something that your main and secondary characters can empathize with.

For any other characters, you don’t need to know much more about them than their name, occupation, one good quality, and one flaw, then play on those good qualities and flaws, using the flaws to create conflict and tension in your story.

Backstory is never dumped into the story.

As to backstory, that’s the compilation of all of this information about your primary characters. It’s important for you to know, and it’s important for your reader to know so they understand why a character says or does what they do. However, backstory is never to be dumped into a story like a biography. The best way is to reveal their backstory through internal dialogue.

Here’s an example: Your main character was bullied as a child in school. Now she’s dating a teacher who believes shouting is the way to get his point across.

Kevin slapped the table. “You need to listen to me on this!”
Sally sighed, stood, and walked away. For the final time.
Men, they’re all the same. On the playground. Or on the school board.

Do you see how we know something happened in her past without her having to say anything about the specific incident?

When you combine character sketches with backstory, now you have the building blocks to writing a powerful, multi-layered story that draws readers in.

100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character
The Write Practice – 37 Questions to Ask Your Character
Making the Most of Character Interviews
The Writing – Get to Know Your Characters

Previous installments of Producing a Novel:
Generating—and Testing—Ideas for Fiction and Non-Fiction Books
Genre and Markets
Building Believable Characters

Donna Schlachter

Donna Schlachter writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, Sisters in Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and CAN; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests.
Find her on: FacebookTwitterAmazonSmashwordsEtsy

Bookstagrammer – The New Book Blogger

By: Jenny Kate

Remember book bloggers?

Back in the day, writers and publicists would reach out and build book blog tours for a writer with a new release – kinda like a virtual book tour – to increase exposure and sell books.

Well, today those have moved to Instagram.

Bookstagrammers are 2020’s book bloggers, and New York has taken notice.

Bookstagrammers are Instagram influencers who share book reviews with great overlays of the book cover on their feeds. Some of those influencers use their Stories for these as well, and some post videos routinely on IGTV with their review.

Those with more than 10,000 followers are generally paid and have rapidly built relationships with agents, editors and publishers. If you have an agent, have them reach out.

Influencers with followers in the 5,000 range are a bit choosy about the books they review, but they tend to work directly with the author. Expect to pay $50 and up for a review, so careful vet before you pay.

Those with less than 5,000 followers are still pretty powerful simply because of the nature of the internet. Having your book seen by new readers is a win-win all the way around, and these bookstagrammers are much easier for an author to reach.

To find a bookstagrammer in your genre, simply search the hashtag.

Good rule of thumb is if they have 5,000 or more followers, have your agent reach out to them via the Direct Messenger on Instagram.

If they have less than 5,000 followers, pitch them your log line on a DM and offer some swag.

Make sure you like and comment a thank-you to any bookstagrammer who reviews your book.

Some bookstagrammers to follow:

For more on social media, click here

More about Jenny Kate, head to

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Jennifer Lovett is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 19 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity.
You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest: @writernationjen

Listen and Learn

Writing Podcasts Worth Listening To

by: Brittany Lawrence

Are you still feeling secluded? Are you at home trying to improve your writing, but not sure where to turn? Here are a few ideas to keep you going.

From Apple, Spotify, Castbox, to Anchor, there are dozens of platforms for you to explore. With topics ranging from lawn care to auto specs. People share their thoughts and expertise like never before.

How does this help the writer? So many ways!

If you’re writing about a topic you’re not familiar with you can now turn time spent on chores into a learning experience from a pro. Or, if you’re starting to market your own work; start your own podcast! Discuss your books and processes. Cross market with fellow writers for even more exposure. Talk about your struggles, or your pets. No matter the topic, your fans will eat it up.

Below is a short list of podcasts geared toward writers of every level.

Happy Listening!


Writer Nation

PPW member Jenny Kate has conversations with writers, publishers, bloggers, agents and more. Discussions cover every aspect of writing from business plans, book launches, and social media, to plotting, worldbuilding, and editing.

Jenny is active on most social media outlets including, Twitter and Facebook.

The Functional Nerds

Functional Nerds is a weekly podcast (airing on Tuesdays) from author/blogger Patrick Hester (PPW member) and author/teacher Tracy Townsend focusing on science fiction and fantasy media: television, film, comics, and new media such as fan films, audio dramas, online animated comics and more, technology, gadgets and all things Apple as well as music and the occasional video game.

Ask The Bards

Authors Kevin Hearn and Delilah S. Dawson discuss writing, publishing, and answer questions from twitter with honesty and healthy dose humor.

You can find them active on Twitter @DelilahSDawson & @KevinHearne

Ink Feather Podcast

Lauren Zurchin, fantasy and sci-fi author interviews a broad range of both self and traditionally published authors.

You can find her on Twitter and Facebook in her private group.

Print Run Podcast

Agents Laura Zats and Erik Hane, discuss the industry happy hour style.

They also have a Patreon, a paid subscription, where they go in-depth on queries, and manuscripts submitted anonymously.

You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, and their website.

KT Literary Podcast

Agent Renee Nyen hosts KT Literary’s podcast. Here she discusses writing, the industry, and interviews fellow agents and authors.

You can find KT Literary on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and their website.

The Writer’s Market Podcast

You read that right, Writer’s Market has their own podcast! Robert Lee Brewer and Brian A. Klems discuss queries, agents, and all things publishing.

You can find them both on Twitter at @robertleebrewer and @BrianKlems

Beyond the Troupe

“Nerds and geeks unite! BEYOND THE TROPE was a writing podcast before we expanded into general nerdiness. Tired of snobs telling you that pop culture is rubbish? Join us in our crusade to push back in force! We explore the deeper side of pop culture, from science fiction and fantasy to cosplay, RPGs, comics, and writing.”

Brittany Lawrence

Brittany A. Lawrence has seventeen years of writing experience under her belt. From self-publishing her first novel at fourteen; to contributing to Felt Tips an erotic anthology, her writing experience is vast. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and tortie, Midnight. You can find her writing as B. A. Lawrence on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pintrest.