Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Worried my Best just isn’t Good Enough

I don’t think it’s any secret, I just finished a revision on a project. No one asked for it. No one said “Hey, Rena, you know what would make this better?” I decided to do this thing on my own. I poured myself out into a novel that was probably too broken to receive that level of revision. I probably should have left this book behind.

But I didn’t. Inexplicably, I chose to pour months of work into a novel I thought was broken. I chose to put in more work on the novel that had already received more full requests than any manuscript before. And so I did. I changed characters, I added scenes, I deleted whole chapters. This great bit didn’t work? GONE. This character too unlikeable? Change it. No chemistry? CUT!

I was ruthless. I did my absolute best by this novel in that revision. All I have to do now is proof the new chapters and send it on. It is the very best I can do with that novel at this time.

If I lived in an 80s movie, I’d have a contract, an agent, and someone hounding after the movie rights by the end of my 90 minutes, but alas, this isn’t a movie. In reality, it doesn’t really matter unless that one person falls in love. In short, my very best, may not be good enough.

Ah, the cruelties of reality. I have seen people get agents with books that they thought were cast offs and only sent out query letters because, why not? I’ve seen people toil for years and years, then not have anything to show for it when their book is considered not good enough, new enough, romancy enough. And these are my fears.

But whenever I get to the part where I’m staring down the possibility of retiring yet another project, I look back and ask myself what have I learned from this? Was this all a waste of time?

What I learned is that I have a stubborn streak that will serve me well. I’ve learned that I am capable of things I didn’t think I could do. I didn’t think I could push through. I wanted to quit, but I kept finding the place to do the work. I remembered how to write for me because the idea of leaving my character in a substandard novel when I knew a way to fix it, bugged me. So I fixed it. 

I learned that my other projects will wait. They are beautiful shiny things, but I’m giving this one a shot.

So there it is, three months of editing a novel and it’s within 500 words of the length of the previous version, but I’ve cut and changed ~30,000 words. I really hope it’s good enough, but it’s already making the next book better.

As always, check out Mr. Linky at the Ninja Captain’sHideOut. Say hello and thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Inefficient at being insecure

Like most things I’m insecure about, it turns out that there’s a numb place. At some point, being insecure about everything sort of wears off. I like to think of it more like polishing a piece of wood. The first pass with sandpaper is very rough, lots of grit, and it removes a lot of the bits and pieces we create of ourselves, the things we let go when we’re under ridiculous stress. The next time that stressor comes through, we’ve either built those pieces up again or abandoned them completely, but either way, when the sandpaper comes for us again, there’s a lot less of us that’s sticking out.

If I follow this analogy to the end then we’d have to sort of accept that life just kind of grinds us down, which isn’t exactly true, but at the same time, doing the same task that makes us insecure, eventually the sand paper goes to a finer grit. It’s less abrasive. Sure, it still grinds big chunks away, but it’s still less than before. Do that enough, and it gets less still.

So it’s not that my insecurities are less insecure, it’s that the part of me that worried so hard has been ground away a great deal. I understand the shape of me more, and that causes the loss of my extraneous bits to be, somehow, less painful. In short, for today, many of my writing based insecurities are living in the place that I label “true, but inefficient.”

It’s a nice box to have. I put my fear of public speaking there. I keep my anxiety about work there. It’s just inefficient to spend that much time worrying about some things. I’m trying to move my social media presence into that box, but I don’t think I’m going to manage that, we’ll see.

How about you, do you have a place like that? Or are you a completely awesome person without insecurities?

As always, be sure to check out the Ninja Captain Himself, Alex and his co-hosts today are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Compulsory New Year Post

I know, that title makes it sound like I’m a little bit under-enthused on the matter, and let me just clear that up right now: I am happy to leave the past in the past, but I’m suspicious of the optimism people express with the coming of a new year.

2017 was a hard year for me. It was good in many ways. It was BAD in many others.
2016 was a hard year for me. It was good in many many ways. It was horrifying in many others.
2015 was a hard year for me. It was amazing in many ways. It was terrible in many ways.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Every year has some good and some bad. Most years have a mix, and some tip one direction more than others. Sometimes the things we perceive as being terrible actually turn out to be really good for us.

2017 was hard in ways I still find difficult to talk about. I lost one of my dogs the day before the new year. I lost my other dog the day we swore in a president who has thus far shown himself to be very unconcerned for anyone who isn't male, white and rich, and I’m not very optimistic about the trajectory of our nation. Never have so few controlled so much. I am hopeful that in 2018 we will be able to express to our leaders that they do work for us, and this ridiculous destruction of our nation will not be tolerated. For this, I am cautiously optimistic.

I accomplished things in 2017 I hadn’t expected to. I finished a novel that had been giving me fits for years. I edited three other novels and published a fourth. It was a good, if slow, year for writing. I went to my first ever writer’s retreat, my first ever writer’s conference, and joined SCBWI for the first time. A lot of firsts for me.

I started to produce art projects again. I participated in my local Pastels in the Plaza. I entered paintings and drawings into the local fair.

So, on a personal level, I have persevered in the face of terrible adversity. I have tested my mettle and found it strong. I have wanted to quit all the things, but somehow, I keep going.

In 2018, I want to keep on keeping on. I am always frustrated that my art forms are not truly great (in my own opinion). I never quiet have the depth I hope for (probably because I’m always picking up totally new art forms, be it writing in new genres or deciding to sculpt Christmas gifts), and this year is the year I would like to add depth to my craft. I want to take my writing to the next level, and I want to take my art to something more (well, you know more than I think that stuff is cute, funny, or whatever). 

So, hopefully, this year will go well.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thoughts on the Last Jedi: This contains Spoilers

Okay, so I’m going to write a post below these words and it’s going to contain spoilers. However, because I am a kind and generous soul, I’m going to give you a lot of space between this intro and Spoiler land.

I feel like the saddest girl in sad town.
Luke has always been there in my mind. I loved the movie, but I wanted Luke to join the league of Badass Old Dudes, you know, with Uncle Iroh, and Sifu the sword master.
On the other hand, Yoda’s words could have been written just for me. As in, I needed to hear those words, that failure is a teacher, not an ending. Mistakes were made, and we have to move on. That’s big stuff, and it’s big stuff that I needed to hear. But at what cost??? Why do the masters always go just when they reach enlightenment? It’s like there’s no room in the mortal realm for such powerful understanding.

Okay, enough of the navel gazing, on to the good stuff:

I love me some using a spacecraft to do things it’s not supposed to, and that was brilliant. Even more brilliant for the use of sound in that moment. A+
My favorite image is the moment of Luke standing in front of the At-Ats.
I loved that they let the droid drive some things.
I appreciated that they gave Luke an opportunity to come full cycle.
I’m enjoying Kylo Ren’s ascension to darkness.
I’m pleased that Rey is like “I’m not just a badass, but I’m more of a badass than Luke was at this stage in his training.”
I love that Leia got to use some Force Stuff, because Space Mom is Awesome.
I am completely down with how many women there were with speaking roles in this movie! Amazing! LOVE IT!
Middle Trilogy movies are always so difficult, but this one worked as a story. I can sense the next one will destroy me emotionally.

In short: I loved it. I loved it’s message. I loved the battle scenes. I enjoyed the humor. I LOVED the imagery (cinematography was ON POINTE!). Will see again, probably in theaters. WOW. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Insecure about self-made barriers

Don't forget to check out all the other Insecure Writer's Posts at Ninja Captain Alex's blog, hop on the Linky and thank this month's co-hosts: Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

This has been a heck of a year for me professionally and personally. On the writing side, I’ve done more new things than ever before.

I joined SCBWI
I went to a writer’s retreat
I went to a writer’s conference
I went to a class visit

All of these were terrifying to me, but I went and did them anyways. And, I didn’t die. I’d even be willing to do repeats on all of them. But the funny thing about these items were these were all items on my list of markers that denoted a “real author.” These were all things I had seen other writers posting about and feeling jealous about. And, like most things viewed from the outside, they are different once you do them.

I’m a little suspicious of Moving Target Syndrome, the sensation that you long for a thing, but once you achieve the thing, you long for something else to feel gratification. I’ve experienced this before with writing, and well, it’s real. But somehow these markers were a litter different:

I was the one lurking in the shadows not joining SCBWI for more than a year after publishing—you can join at any time, by the way! I just hadn’t felt worth it, somehow. Going to a writer’s retreat was amazing because there were people at literally every stage. There were people with multiple books, people with agents and sales, people with agents and no sales, people with no agent, and people who had never written a book. It was awesome. And that was another barrier I had given to myself, thinking that I needed to be wildly successful to participate in that.

I could go on (the class visit was fun, and I’ve taught a lot, so I already knew how to handle a group). My point is, these markers of success that I had were all things I could have done years ago, but I felt too much like an imposter to do them. If you can learn one thing from my fail, please learn this: if you’re writing, wherever you are in the journey, don’t write yourself out.

Anyone else suffer from False Barrier Syndrome?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Widow of Papina Reveal!

Widow of Papina
Katie Hamstead
Published by: Soul Mate Publishing
Publication date: December 2017
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance

Forrest and Braydon Miller moved to the small town of Papina to follow their dreams and start a family. Braydon loves her new life in the quiet town, kept alive by the prestigious boarding school overlooking the valley. She is so proud of her husband’s work, helping the teens on the reservation.

Until one day, Forrest doesn’t come home.

Scandal spreads when it’s discovered that one of the teenagers is missing, too. But, Braydon refuses to believe her husband would leave her. When the teen is found, she isn’t talking–literally.

While Braydon’s heart is breaking, she must hold her crumbling life together, raise her son, trust in the Sheriff’s loyal, and ever-growing devotion, and find a way to love the MUTE teenager enough to discover the truth of what happened to her husband.

Add to Goodreads

Author Bio:

Born and raised in Australia, Katie's early years of day dreaming in the "bush", and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.
After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.
She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing.
When her debut novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, climbed into bestselling status, she believed she was onto something, and now has a slew of novels now available, and is published through Curiosity Quills Press, Soul Mate Publishing, and REUTS Publishing.
Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports, and be a good wife and mother. She now works as an Acquisitions Editor to help support her family. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Prom, Magic, And Other Man-Made Disasters: a Book Birthday!!

Today, I have unleashed my book onto the world:

Before Tessa can confess her feelings to her long-time crush, he beats her to the punch and confesses his love—for her best friend, Maria. Missing the crush of her dreams and her stag wingman for prom, Tessa’s on the prowl to make it a night to remember, and for more than the humiliation. Determined to not be the only dateless girl at the prom in Small Town USA, she asks the new guy. He has all the qualifications of a fun date: polite, mysterious―pulse―but the way Sean talks about magic like it’s real could ruin the illusion. But desperate times call for desperate dates.

To make matters awkward, Maria insists on double-dating for the pre-prom dinner. When a wizard shows up and kidnaps Maria, things go from jealous to deadly before the cummerbunds hit the floor. He’s mistaken Tessa’s friend for a powerful mage whose blood could help him conquer his world, but he’s got the wrong girl. Using the wrong blood wouldn’t make Maria any less dead, and Tessa has no plans to let some whack-job villain from another dimension murder her best friend. Working with Sean, she tracks the wizard to his home, a land filled with strange creatures, stranger customs, and a five-hundred year grudge match between three nations ready to explode into all out war.

Tessa’s starting to think she has a chance against the wizard so long as she has Sean by her side, but his kind words and sweet smile aren’t what they seem. He’s the wizard’s son.

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to Goodreads.

(Paperback versions available soon!)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Things I love: The Jack edition

This is Jack:

Yes, he's a cat

No he shouldn't be up there.

Note how much he cares about where he should or should not be

He likes to join in

And yes, he has a natural habitat:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ragnarok: Things I love, now Spoiler Free!

I went and saw Thor: Ragnarok this weekend, and I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a fun romp, almost exactly as advertised. There is no romance (it's been replaced by the buddy feels), and it was always entertaining enough to keep my inner curmudgeon from raising it's head. Were there plot holes? Yes. Did they play gags? Yes. But it was fun. I cannot stress how awesome it is to have fun.

The interesting part is that it felt like the first Avengers movie.

I'd go see it again. Heck, I'd go pay to see it again.

Any thoughts? Any haters? No spoilers in the comments please, but if you want to have a longer discussion, you can always @RenaTheWriter and we can keep it going there (where I will talk to people in 280 characters, practically a novel, really!).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

But teenagers aren't like that! An IWSG post

I think the thing I’m most insecure about is ever connecting with my audience and who that audience might be.

I am constantly under the attack of “that’s not what teenage girls are like.”

I think that’s my favorite statement ever. I love it because it seems to always come from men, but also because it completely ignores the fact that there’s no one thing that teenage girls are like. If you had fifty teenage girls in the same room, yes there are going to be some commonalities, but there’s going to be a huge spread about what they like and what they want to do. More importantly, there’s going to be a huge spread about who they think they are.

Caveat: I say think because the first encounters you have with college and adult life afterwards sometimes destroy who you thought you were in highschool. And sometimes, it only hardens it. One of my favorite quotes after coming back from college was that someone said “Wow, you haven’t changed a bit.” To which I replied, “I’ve changed a lot!” And the kind person said, “I know, but you’ve become so much more you than before!”

I digress. My point is that people are different and they have different desires. When I was in high school, there was this terrible choice you had to make: You could either be tough and sporty—able to change your own tire and throw a pass—or you could like pretty things. I see now that it was just another way for society to try to change me into a less powerful version of myself by letting me be tough, but denying me something that I really wanted.

As an adult, I see that it was a falsehood. Who would have stopped me from wearing pink fingernail polish while changing sparkplugs? Would the fashion police have stopped me if I’d worn a cute dress before the game? (okay, well, after the game, that might not have been as practical, but still). My point is I liked to do things where you got your hand dirty AND I liked pretty things.

This is something that I try to write into my characters, but it’s really hard because I’m constantly up against the “but teenage girls aren’t like that.” It’s something that I’m always insecure about. I’m always checking myself, when I start up a new character, are teenage girls like this?

And then I remember how I was forced to choose, how society didn’t seem big enough for my peers to not tease me mercilessly for have diametrically opposed likes. How could I possibly like fingernail polish and soccer? They teased me when I dressed nice. They teased me when I painted my nails. They told me I wasn’t taking my sports seriously enough.

It was all a lie.

Every scrap of it.

So when people tell me that “teenage girls aren’t like that,” I tell them to fly a kite. My only concern is that when you write a book with a character like the person I was, constantly rubbing against the grain of what others want you to do, it can be hard to find my audience.

Because my audience are the people who are still struggling with who they are and what they like and how life has pigeon holed them into “but that’s not what teenage girls are like.” I know there are people out there who are struggling, but trying so desperately to fit in, and I’m worried that their trying so hard to fit in makes them close off to the things they might actually love. And those people are my audience. I’m literally trying to reach the kids who are hiding who they are because they fear being called out the same way I was called out. In short, the people who might literally be afraid to pick up my book for fear of not fitting in.

Whelp, if you made it this far, fantastic! Consider hopping on the link and checking out the Ninja Captain himself, Alex! And a special thank you to this month’s co hosts: Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Things I love: The FLASH

Now let’s be clear, if we’re talking about the DC universe, my favorite has always been Green Lantern (though, Wonder Woman is making a heck of a comeback!), but Flash is a close second. And the Flash on CW has been no disappointment!

So yeah, I’m totally loving this TV show, and I have a hard time getting into TV shows (I blame the cancelling of Firefly and the wishy washy handling of the end of Babylon 5).  But why do I love The Flash?

I find there are some tropes that I love coming back to (super hero loses power, friend rescued, betrayal of teacher figure, magical girl transformation), so as you can see the first season absolutely played in my wheelhouse. Season two played it strong as well. For me, the weakest season so far was season three (with a few notable high points), but I suspect my not enjoying season 3 was that I have a hard time with the self fulfilling prophecy trope, which was played on REALLY big for the whole time. I have my fingers crossed for Season 4. 

Alright, this one’s just a short post because I’ve got some writing work to do (OMG, Less than a month before my next book comes out!!!!!). 

What TV shows are you into? What's are your favorite tropes in stories?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A terror of beauty, hungry and angry

There are fires all around, and luckily, many of them are starting to be controlled by the relentless work of some amazing fire fighters. The pictures are stunning. At one point, I was close enough to see the flames in action (at night), and the fire is both terrifying and beautiful in person. It is a force of nature, like the veil slipped open and spilled something uncanny on the world.

I’ve been struggling with what to write since last week when it started. I spent last week with my ear glued to a scanner, trying to follow the progress of the fire and the efforts to contain it. Lately, I feel guilty. It is a form of survivors guilt because everyone I know is safe, and my families’ homes are all okay. I sigh with relief, but there are hundreds of others whose houses burned down. My heart breaks for them. They are my co-workers, my neighbors, people I went to school with. It is horrible.

The stories that are coming out of these fires are harrowing to say the least. Fire is terrifying. Wildfire is like a march of demons set to destroy the world, and this one moved so fast, just so so fast.

I had started the month doing a bunch of #inktober drawings, but now, all I can seem to muster is fire paintings. I don’t think I’ll be sharing those any time soon.

There’s rain in the forecast, and I can honestly say, I’ve never hoped for rain more. 

I'll be back to my normal schedule soon, but in the meantime, stay safe people. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Thief or a Vanishing Act: IWSG

I once wrote about where I find the time to write. I said I didn’t look through my pockets to find loose time. I said it had to be stolen, pilfered, and sacrificed to the god of words.

I’m clearly not making the right sacrifices lately. My word counts have been REALLY low this year. I finally drew a line in the sand and said “enough.” I went to a retreat and pounded out 11,000 words to finish a book I started in 2014, (a small miracle as far as I can tell), but since that retreat, I haven’t been able to just sit down and make the magic.

I worry that I’m broken.

I worry that the magic is gone.

I listen to podcasts and they talk about writing exercises and I despair at ever having enough time to write those exercises to try things on. How would I find the time?

And that’s when I realize I’ve caught myself in a trap. Doing a writing exercise is a literal act of improving the craft for the sake of improving my craft. If I can’t improve my craft prior to writing a book (or the second draft of said book) then how will I write a better book? Yes, all writing moves a writer in the direction of better writing, but sometimes, you need to spend a couple dozen pages of words figuring out a character. It’s worth the time to hone the craft before diving into the words, as the choice is really write it better the first time, or rewrite it, it seems more efficient to take the time out of my writing schedule to work on the elements of craft.

But my writing schedule has been insanely tight with edits and proofs, and marketing plans.

So, I’m insecure about the fact that I’ve been writing and publishing and I feel like there is SO MUCH to learn, and I’ve been blithely sending books off into the world without these elements. Which isn’t true, they were just there without me having to think about them because my betas stuck them in, or my editors pushed me to write those things in. But it’s time to level up.

What about you, dear reader? Do you feel like you have the time to work on craft as well as piling on the word count?

Don't forget to visit the Ninja Captain, Alex and this month's lovely co-hosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


I’ve decided that it’s time for my internet version of me to start lining up a little bit more with the real me.

Wait, Rena, you LIED to us???

Oh, gosh, internet, how quickly we jump to conclusions. No. I haven’t lied. In fact, I’ve been super duper cautious to never lie on the interwebs (the Easiest to Fact-Check place ever). But, I have left certain things out. Like lots of things. I've spent a lot of my online existence trying not to "offend the wrong people" and I'm starting to realize, that's just silly. Who am I going to offend? My readers? My opinions are in my books! All writing, at some level is autobiographical, so it stands to reason many of my opinions have already been heaped on my readers. And many of my opinions are downright silly (Yes, I love Sailor Moon, and No, I don’t see a problem with how often she gets saved by Tuxedo Mask. She saves his buns a lot too. A LOT! That’s what we call partnership. Also, he’s never bummed out about being rescued by a girl, so in some ways, it’s pretty girl positive, but I digress).

To that end, I'm going to run a bit of a series this fall to get back into the swing of blogging. This series is going to be pretty simple: Things I love, enjoy, or am generally obsessed about. Expect a lot of book and movie reviews, lots of talk about painting and museums, and some pictures. 

I want to talk about the things that make me really excited, and right now, it’s Fall.

I LOVE FALL. It is easily my favorite time of year. I know people like the other seasons, but I’m all about Fall. I love turning leaves and grass getting green again (yeah, I live in California, and our wild grasses go blond for the summer, but with the coming rains of fall, they green up again). I love how the days can’t decide and start with frost that melts into day with skies blue like glacier, but a sun bright enough to cut your eyes. I love the stars of fall, turning overhead to the great lanterns of winter, guiding us (in my melodramatic feels) through the darkness.

I love Halloween, and only wish that we could celebrate it a little differently.

And yes, I even love pumpkin spice latte. I know, I’m a walking cliché, but there it is. I love Fall. (Spoiler alert, I also really dig Spring!)

Monday, September 18, 2017


Son Of A Pitch Entry #1:

Category and Genre: Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 90,000

When Zahara floats up from a lamp in Daniel Goldstein's NYC apartment, she's a jinn with her own wish: fulfill an easy request from a modern-day sorcerer and trick him into eternal servitude.

Zahara's never been able to live up to her infamous mother's demonic expectations, and a binding magical contract that guarantees her a human thrall would be just the thing to impress her family. But newbie magician Daniel, whose Moroccan grandmother has reached out from beyond the grave to command him to raise a jinn, wants to do good—to the tune of stopping two fallen angels bent on revenge against humanity. Daniel and Zahara end up on the run in Morocco, dodging paranormal mercenaries and bumbling terrorists, while trying to foil a massacre that will rip open the barrier between the jinn and human worlds and plunge the two sides into a devastating war. As Zahara and Daniel try to keep their friends close, they end up discovering their enemies are even closer.

First 250 Words:
Coming out of the lamp was such a rush. One minute Zahara was nothing but vapor, swirling in the icy storms of the last level of hell. The next, she streamed out into the mundane air of the human sphere. Her flesh solidified into a floating upper torso, while her lower body remained only a tail of black flames licking up around the brass vessel used for the summoning.

And what flesh it was.

Zahara pinched back her shoulder blades and posed with her hands on her hips to better accentuate her breasts. They were huge, because she liked her first impression to be a lasting one.

The resounding crack of thunder that marked the transition into the world of man faded away. With a fanged smile, she faced the sorcerer who had dared to call her, the most notorious jinnayah this side of Baghdad.

"Behold. It is I, Zahara, Dread Spirit of the Endless Desert." She’d made that up on the spot, and it sounded great. "I have journeyed, O Child of Mud and Dirt, from the land of smokeless fire to your dreary realm. What do you call yourself, and what is it you demand of me?"

She had decided to put as much formality into her speech as possible, to further impress upon him how fortunate he was to have summoned such a powerful jinn to do his evil bidding. Not too traditional, of course, since she was speaking in flawless English, not classical Arabic.