Progress Report: Good News/Bad News.

Good news: I’m a prophet. I said in my last post I might not make it through the pitch round of ABNA this year and I didn’t. I know the future! The disappointing future!
Bad news: see above re: ABNA. I’m not gutted. As I said in my previous post, the contest is unpredictable, particularly in the first round where everything hinges on 300 words or less. I’m happy with the pitch I wrote. It’s not much altered from the one I wrote last year which resulted in the same book reaching the semifinals. It didn’t help my odds that this year there was only 400 available slots in YA as opposed to the 1000 of last year. I think I likely got a perfectly decent score on my pitch, but it wasn’t enough to squeeze into the top 400. I’m okay with that. And echoing again my last post, there is much to be gained from ABNA that doesn’t include winning or advancing in the contest. This year I got another awesome critique partner (outside of my regular critique group), who already has a great YA book out. I’m looking forward to reading and possibly helping with the sequel, as well as getting her take on Random Acts.
Good News: several of my friends from the board and members of my critique group did make it past round one. I plan on cheering them along to the final round.
Bad news: I heard back from the three agents who had requested the full manuscript of Random Acts. They all passed. Two said they were open to reading it again should I revise and would look at my future projects. One of those two rejections made me cry. Not because it was mean, it was anything but. The agent said they loved the manuscript and thought long and hard about offering to represent. But they didn’t think it was ready.
I wept bitter tears. I wasn’t expecting to take it so hard, I’m usually pretty good at brushing off disappointment and soldiering on.
Sometimes it is hard to see past the “no” and absorb the helpful and positive things the agent/editor/ critic said along with the rejection. All I could see when I read the letter was that I’d come very close to succeeding but it WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH.
After indulging in a tiny pity party, I could then take in that this agent had said they loved my work. That they wanted to see more of it. And had given me good advice on how to improve it. Yes, they’d said it wasn’t good enough, I just hadn’t been able to see the “yet”.
Good news: an editor from a small press saw a twitter pitch* for Random Acts and asked to see the first few pages. Not long after sending the requested pages the editor responded and asked for the entire manuscript. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but just having it looked at by a publisher is a big accomplishment.
Good news: I finished my fifth manuscript, The Living UnDead. It is the final book in a trilogy. And the farewell to characters I created in my very first novel. It’s also my longest book, coming in at 126,000 words (in the first draft. The count is bound to change once I start editing.)
I started it in the summer of 2010, making it the book it took me the longest to complete. I also started and finished both Outlook Grimm and Random Acts of Nudity between starting and finishing this one.
Bad news: I’m not writing. For the first time in two and a half years, I don’t have a work in progress. I know what my next project will be, but since my critique group is planning on doing our own not-National Novel Writing Month in April, I’m waiting until April 1st to start drafting. I plan on using the time until then editing Living Undead to send to my beta readers and on planning the new book.
Good news: I made a chocolate mousse cake!
I got the recipe from the One Pot Chef YouTube channel. It’s probably the got best ease of prep to decadence ratio of anything I’ve ever made.
Bad news: My elliptical broke about a month and a half ago and I haven’t been doing my daily hour of exercise as a result. I was already gaining back some of the pre daily exercise weight, because of all the baked goods before it broke. So I’ve ordered a new elliptical and am trying to cut back on the treats. We’ll see if that helps.
*AS a part of a Twitter pitch event. Authors were invited to pitch their book in a tweet and agents and editors could view them and request. It is never a good idea to randomly pitch to an agent on Twitter or facebook, or any other social media platform, unless they say they re open to that.

I Fail! (don’t worry, it’s cool)

A few months ago I ran across a tongue in cheek quiz called the fantasy novelist exam.  It posed a series of questions about fantasy novels.  If you pass the quiz, your novel is original and could be worthy of publication.  If you fail you’re SOL, and should consider a new career.  My novel failed.  Other novels that would failed are: Harry Potter, the Song of Ice and Fire series, American Gods, and every other fantasy novel I can think of.  (Answering yes to any one of the over 70 questions means you fail.)
I really like this quiz.  (which can be found here.)  As I said, it’s obviously not to be taken one hundred percent seriously, but it is good at pointing out tropes that have become cliches.  If you do end up answering yes to the majority of the questions, it might be worth taking another look at your work.
I’m posting my results here.  Anything in bold is copied from the website and belongs to  My answers are in plain text.
The fantasy novelist’s exam
By David J. Parker
Additional Material By Samuel Stoddard
Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.
1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
Nope.  Stuff happens.
2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
No, because she’s already of age.  But otherwise yes.
5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
Not really.
6. How about one that will destroy it?
Sort of, but no.
7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
Nuh uh
8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
Nope, but there is a character that shows up at random moments to hit on the heroine.
9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
No, there is no king.
12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
No, but if you remove the forgetful bit, yes.
13. How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?
14. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
No, there is a character that refuses to give away information for personal and mysterious reasons, but he’s not a wise mystical sage, and the info isn’t that important to the plot.
15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
18. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
The main character is a pastry chef from our world, who’s never handled a sword in her life, so technically I suppose yes.  Though she does turn out to be a bit of a badass.
19. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
No, none of my characters regardless of gender are fearless, though they occasionally act it.
20. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
No, there’s an elf, but he’s happy in his elfness.
22. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
Dwarves get mentioned but don’t appear in the book, and the sole elf wouldn’t care about dwarfs unless they were attractive and female.
23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
No, I think all the characters are over four feet.
24. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
No boats.
25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
No, I don’t.  Is that important?
26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?
No, I didn’t draw a map.  There is an agony swamp mentioned in passing, but it’s sort of a joke.
27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
No prologue.
28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
30. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
31. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?
No, it’s a stand alone.
32. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?
34. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
No, I’m not in a role playing group.
35. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
38. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?
39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
Yes to elves.  Dwarves are mentioned but don’t appear.  No orcs or halflings.
40. How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
No, is that a thing?
41. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?
42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
43. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
44. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
No, but I probably would if they asked.
45. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
No inns.
46. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?
47. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
48. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?
No, they share what information they have when they have it.
49. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
50. Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?
No, should I?
51. Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?
Nope, but there is some chain mail.
52. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?
What the what?  Is that a gaming term?
53. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
Uh, can’t say that I do.  Don’t have anyone toting it around either, so not too concerned.
54. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
No, that’s why they fly, duh. (there are no flying horses in my books, but  maybe there should be.
55. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
56. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
No, but that would be cool.
57. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
No, but also cool.
58. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
59. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more?
That sounds impractical.
60. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
No she doesn’t.
61. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
62. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
No, that would really hurt.
63. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
Not especially, but sometimes you want to extra kill a guy extra hard.
64. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?
I do realize that, does that make this a yes answer?  Is that cheating?
65. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?
No, but it sounds like fun weekend.
66. Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?
Kinda, I don’t drink much.  Mead is yummier than beer right?
67. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
68. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?
69. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
No, but she might if she’s in the right mood.
70. Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?
71. Is “common” the official language of your world?
72. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
73. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
No, it’s a rip off of the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, and a bunch of fairy tales.
74. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
Okay there is a character that wears a gold ring on a chain around her neck and it’s an important plot point, but that was an intentional homa—yes, sigh.
6 yes out of 74.  As far as failure goes, it could be worse.

Welcome! Aka the boring introductory post

Welcome to my new site.  Some of you will be coming here because we know each other, either in the real world or in the nebulous webland.  To you folks, thanks for dropping by.  The rest of you are probably wondering who I am and why you should care.  I can’t answer the latter for you , but as for the former I’m a big old geek/nerd/dork.  You might have seen some of my nerdy ramblings over on Read Comics.  Or a few guest posts I wrote for Forever Young Adult.  I grew up in Chicago, but recently moved to Minneapolis.  I love comic books, regular books, baking, and baked goods in general.  I’m also an aspiring author.

I’ve completed four novels as of this post, with a fifth hovering on the edge of being done.  None are published, though I’m feverishly working on getting them in publishable shape and into people’s hands.

My young adult novel, working title: Random Acts of Nudity, was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012.  Which was a thrill.  I’m currently querying agents in an effort to sell it to traditional publishers.

I’ve also got a humorous new adult paranormal romance (that’s a mouthful), as well as one finished sequel.  I’m working on the third book in the trilogy right now.  I’m thinking about going the self published route with them.

Finally, I’ve got a stand alone fantasy (neither of the urban or the high variety).  I call it a Magic Land tale, since it follows the formula of say the Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland.  In which a person from our world is transported to a new fantastical world.  I’ve yet to see an official name for this particular subgenre of fantasy.  If you know of one please fill me in.  I’m not sure which path  I’ll take with it.

I have a short story in the anthology Horror, Humor, & Heroes Volume 3.  I’ll put up a link to its Amazon page for anyone interested– once I figure out how to do that.

I’ll be posting updates on how my writing career is going.  Could be entertaining on a train wreck level.  You’ll also see excerpts of the novels and short stories from time to time.  And maybe a drawing or two.  I’ll also post on whatever is going through my mind, mostly about things I love.  So expect to read about a lot of baked goods and books.

Until next time, Susie