The story behind “People Like Us”

67402951_127330658574772_3050347179340135022_nI’m officially a published author!

My short story, a fantasy thriller titled “People Like Us” is out in the 2019 American Night Writers Association short story anthology Wards and Rumors of Wards, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

This is particularly special to me because I initially wrote this story to prove to myself that yes, I can actually complete something.

In middle school I hand-wrote my first complete book and started another one. Then right before high school, my family moved half-way across the country and I stopped writing, partly because I didn’t want to be the weird girl. I’m pretty certain I never mentioned my dreams of becoming an author or an editor to any of my high school friends because by the time I started college, I no longer thought of it as a possibility. It was something I wanted to do someday, whenever I was good enough.

Despite being an English major and an editing minor, I never wrote for fun. Then when I was interviewing for my first full-time position for after graduation, the man interviewing me asked if I liked to write. I very nervously tried to down-play it, but yes I did and I had even tried writing a book. He said “Great!” and wrote it down in his interview notes.

Turns out, the man who became my boss and several team members all wrote as well. Outside of work. Frequently we’d chat about writing and after a few months, I shared my writing with him. Then I went to a couple of writing conferences.

Fast forward a couple years and I somehow was accepted to Brandon Sanderson’s writing workshop and had my first baby. That was a rough semester. I had extreme impostor syndrome and was absolutely convinced that I would be kicked out as the fraud that I was. I was still working on that book I started as a 13- or 14-year-old AND I was taking care of a premie baby, so I wasn’t even making that much progress. But somehow I still managed to write more than I had prior to this class.

For a YEAR after the class ended, I felt awful about my writing. Something was broken with my story and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wrote only 1000 words in that time period, which made me feel even more pathetic.

Finally I told myself I was going to work on a short story for Camp NaNo. Something completely different, just to get me into a regular writing routine and to prove that yes, I could finish something and that *I* wasn’t broken.

I started writing about a narcoleptic martial arts instructor. But then the story changed on me. It became a story about a telekinetic and telepathic martial arts student who would save her instructor’s father in a world where telepathy and the like were illegal. Basically it was a world where the Mutant Registration Act (from the first X-Men movie) existed. Next, I dropped the plot with the instructor and his father and focused on the student.

Finally, the story became “People Like Us.”

Almost two years after I initially wrote the story, I made a couple tweaks to include a Marsha Ward character per the call for submissions from the American Night Writers Association (ANWA) and pushed submit.

This story is completely different than anything I’ve written and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Story blurb: Registered micro-kinetic Hannah Medina fought hard to be accepted into med school but Dr. Booth would kick her out in a heartbeat if she knew about Hannah’s secret power. When Dr. Booth’s life is threatened, Hannah can walk away to keep her secret safe, but doing so goes against everything she stands for.


Writer Chat with Anneka Walker

It occurred to me that I have a lot of fabulous friends who are published, so I thought it’d be fun to chat books and writing with some of them. Our first guest is Anneka Walker, a hybrid-published author. Currently she’s focusing on writing Regency-era romances (think Jane Austen). So without further ado, here’s Anneka.

71fm-fzhxblHey! I’m Anneka (Ann-eh-kah…yes that’s Ann with an E just like Anne of Green Gable except with a cough at the end). My parents named me after Darth Vader. Okay, they had no idea I’d marry a man with the last name Walker. I’m just super lucky.

I am first and foremost a romantic. I have a strong belief that there can never be too many love stories, because love is such an integral part of our existence and purpose on this earth. My family is my life! I have five kids ages 12-3. Motherhood fulfills me like nothing else does even though it’s a constant challenge. My husband works hard to support me…whether it’s in building me the playhouse I dreamed up for my kids, or in listening to me read ten different versions of every first chapter I write. Love in Disguise is my debut novel and I am thrilled for the opportunity to talk about it!

60192973_536420803556839_7003213225817472960_nLove in Disguise is a story of whirlwind courtship which leads to an even more complex engagement. William tests different women to see which one will fit best into his lifestyle. He picks the one girl who despises him—Marion. She is hoping to marry quickly because of her mother’s health and is desperate enough to give William a chance. But while love becomes an unexpected factor, there are plenty of obstacles keeping them apart. The wedding date is set, but both are left to wonder if there will actually be a ceremony.

Love in Disguise is your debut novel with a traditional publisher but you have some self-pubbed books too. Why did you decide to go with the hybrid approach?
Anneka: I spent years agonizing over which route of publishing would fit me best. I read so many opinions that pulled me back and forth between the two. It came down to my goals. I wanted to reach readers searching for clean, uplifting books. Covenant was a publisher I could trust with my material and with my covers. It was a perfect match!
Self-publishing allows me to put out more stories a year than would otherwise be possible. I use it to get my name out to hopefully help me market my traditional books. I also write across genres, so I know I’ll face this decision again when I’m ready to publish my fantasy books. That being said, I’ve only dipped my toes in both industries. I have so much to learn!

What does your “typical” writing routine look like?
My writing routine used to be naptime and bedtime like most young author moms. However, I’ve entered a new life phase of no naps and sports in the evening. Thank goodness for summer! I start my day with morning jobs (both for me and the kids), then an outing with my children, lunch, write while my kids fight or play with friends in the afternoon (words are typed frantically and sporadically), then stop for dinner. Occasionally, I sneak in some evening time. But come fall, all that will go out the window. I home school one of my children and will be teaching in a preschool co-op along with many other responsibilities. I’m a Christian writer so I believe if I do all the things the Lord asks of me first, then I will have time for myself. Doing things in this order has blessed me to writer better and faster over the years. Those little snippets of time end up being the most productive!

Do you have a favorite writing resource? (Either craft or historical)
The internet is my favorite resource! There are so many Austen fanatics and their research blogs are fantastic.

  • British listed buildings for manor houses.
  • Nancy Mayer at for titles.
  • Save the Cat for plot structure.
  • What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens knew (great for overall Regency and Victorian research)

What advice would you give a beginning writer?
Believe in yourself. Don’t overthink all the do’s and don’ts and write what you love. Then do all you can to learn your craft to tighten the beautiful story you created. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment and someone out there is going to love it as much as you do. I can’t say enough for writing groups, whether it’s critique groups or Facebook groups. People are so generous with their knowledge. Don’t reinvent the wheel! Drafting is a solitary exercise but being an author doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t.

What’s next for you?
I hope to learn as much as I can and keep writing! That might seem like an obvious goal, but it’s still a choice I have to make on tough days. I have a couple projects in the works with my publisher that I am really, really excited about. One I submitted the end of June and the other I’m two-thirds the way in. In the meantime, I have a short story releasing soon in an ANWA anthology. It’s a contemporary rom-com set in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. I might have laughed out loud while writing it, because I am that weird. I also have two novellas for my Regency Ever After series in the works. I have one of the covers already and the sassy girl on front is so perfect for my Lady Mary Contrary. I can’t wait to share it with the world!

If you want to learn more about Anneka, visit her Facebook page, or Instagram. And of course, check out her books! 

The Business and Craft of Writing: The Importance of Accountability and Stickers

I wrote my first book back in middle school. I was in fifth or sixth grade when I first put down the story in my head into a spiral notebook. I made some occasional progress. Then in seventh grade, one of my teachers found out I was writing a book and asked me to read it to her English class. Suddenly everything I’d written over the last couple of years wasn’t enough. I had to pick up my writing pace or else I’d show up without anything to share.


I did finish that book, but then stopped writing stories for a long time.

After college and with my first job, I cautiously made my way back into writing stories. But honestly, I spent more time talking or thinking about wanting to write than I did actual writing.

Pro Tip: only dreaming about writing does not a writer make.

Once I found myself with a critique group and a commitment to *someone else* to bring in at least 1000 words each week, my writing output increased. But then, I moved away and that critique group fizzled out. I tried getting a couple friends together to do an online group, but nothing really stuck.

The year after that critique group, I think I wrote 1000 words in total. Double yikes.

I needed something to hold myself accountable.

Enter this video from Victoria/V.E. Schwab:

I admit, I was skeptical. I’m not really a sticker person.


The first month I tried the stickers, I wrote a total of 7 days. I was both amazed and horrified. I had written more that month than I had in over a year. Wohoo! But also, I knew I wasn’t writing that often, but surely, surely, I was writing more often than that?

Pro Tip 2: The stickers do not lie, folks.

I kept going with the stickers and cheered as my numbers and my stickers went up.

At this point in time, the sticker calendar is the best thing I’ve found to keep myself accountable. Critique groups are amazing, wonderful things and the people who make up the groups I’m currently in are even more so, but people are more understanding than stickers.

I can fudge how much I’ve been writing when I talk to other people. I don’t realize that’s what I’m doing, but deep down, I don’t want to admit that I slacked for whatever reason on my writing, even if it was a completely, 100% totally valid excuse.

But when I look at the stickers on my calendar, I can see how much I actually did.

Pro Tip 3: If you want to be a writer, then you gotta write. It doesn’t have to be every day or all that much. But if you want to get *published,* then you gotta be accountable for your writing. Ain’t nobody who gonna hold you responsible for the rest of your life, except you.

If you find yourself in the same position I’ve found myself in multiple times, may I suggest you make your way down to the dollar store and buy a cheap set of stickers and a calendar?

Even if you decide not to keep going with that method, you’ll learn a lot about your personal writing method.

Quick Update And A Plug For Lit Service

The blog’s been a bit neglected the last few month, but I promise, I haven’t forgotten it!

Between Edgar and Bartholomew getting sick (repeatedly), myself getting sick, and trying to keep up with my writing during April’s Camp NaNo, I was quickly approaching burnout and took a couple weeks off to recover. And then promptly went on a long road trip halfway across the country and had to deal with ear infections and car sickness in my kids.

So. I’m sorry. I promise I’ll try to do better (but I can’t make any guarantees).

I’m currently part of two different writing support/critique groups and I *love* both of them.

This month I’m going to start submitting a short story for publication as soon as I make a couple more polishing tweaks. Several people have told me they were disappointed when they finished reading it because they wanted to keep reading, so I’ve got some high hopes. They’ve also requested that I expand that story into a full-length novel. We’ll see when I get around to that, since I’ve got some ideas for how to do that.

My Victorian romance is also coming along nicely. Assuming that I can stick with my ambitious daily wordcount goals, I’ll finish by the end of August.

And the love-of-my-heart swampy-island dragon fantasy is trying to sneak back into the foreground, so I rewrote the first page and I’m *so* excited about the direction it’s headed now. But it has to wait until the Victorian romance is finished. Boo. (But also, yay since finishing books is always exciting.)


And a quick plug for Lit Service Podcast. Some of my friends from Brandon Sanderson’s class have this awesome podcast where they talk writing stuff for 15-20ish minutes, then they critique the first chapter of submitted works. They have guest authors, agents, and editors on at least once every month. You should check them out and consider submitting your first chapter. Seriously. These guys have some great feedback. Here’s their website:

The Business and Craft of Writing: Expectations for Book Lengths and a Bit on Genres

I finished writing my first book when I was 14. I was so proud of that thing. I had hand-written 150 pages of fantasy. And a 150-page book isn’t the shortest book out there, especially for a middle-schooler.

Here’s the thing that I didn’t know then: there are certain expectations about book lengths and genres that are a decent indicator of whether or not a writer is a beginner.* And everything about my story screamed NEWBIE.

First thing you should know: when you’re writing a book, most people in the publishing industry go by word count. Page count is often inaccurate because there are so many variables (including font size, font type, spacing, and even what version of Word you’re using) that affect what each individual is actually seeing. But I could do an entire post on formatting.** In fact, I will do a post on formatting in the future.

Second, there are so many different genres you could be writing in, and those affect word counts. Usually when I say genre, I’m referring to where on the bookshelf would someone who’s selling the book place each book. Unfortunately, there are several different definitions of genre, which makes it very confusing. For example, there’s nonfiction, general fiction, genre fiction (which is romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.), children’s books (which even that entails more than you’d think), and on and on and on.

A novel is what most people think of when they think “book.” A novel can be anywhere from 40,000 words on up. 110K-120K is typically the safest high-end word count a novel can reach before people get antsy about the length. If you’re writing for children, those numbers are lower.

For adults, here’s a guideline that can at least get you started.

Short Story: 0-7,500

Novelette: 7,500-15,000

Novella: 15,000-40,000

Novel: 40,000+

A book like the one I wrote is considered middle grade fantasy or MG for short. Excluding the two missing pages, which I’ll generously guesstimate totaled 1000 words, that story is 26,000 words long.

Middle grade books are typically for kids 8-12 years old and are approx. 20,000 to 40,000 words long. Technically, yes, my book was in the correct MG word count range, but since it’s a fantasy, it’d get a few side-eyes from agents just on the length along. (Fantasy books for any age are generally longer since you need more words for adequate world-building.)

This article on Writer’s Digest gives a better breakdown of acceptable word counts per genre and age group.

*Like anything and everything with writing, there are definitely exceptions. Some best-selling books are shorter than the norm and others are waaaaay longer. (I’m looking at you, Branderson.)

**Design and layout is one of my other true loves.

The Business and Craft of Writing: What is publishing?

This seems like a funny, no duh kind of question, but seriously, when I was 14 and looking for publishers, I thought that writers wrote their book, sent it to a publisher (i.e, paid the publisher), and then it’d show up in bookstores after the publisher made the word document into an actual book.

Ha. Haha.

Not even close.

I was aware enough to know that there were fake publishers/scammers out there, so I searched for publishers who didn’t cost a lot. (Also, I was 14. I had no money.) When I found a publisher who would PAY ME for my book, I was so thrilled! And then because I’m a procrastinator and my family moved halfway across the country, I never sent them my book.

*Current me wipes relieved sweat off face*

Turns out, there are different types of publishers beyond scammers and legit publishers. Forteen-year-old me had found what is called a vanity press. Technically, yes, that particular publisher would have paid me, but only after I had covered the cost of printing. More on that in a bit.

What I really wanted is what is referred to as traditional publishing. A traditional publisher takes submissions, decides if they want to publish that book, and if they decide YES, then they will contact the author with an offer. The author can then accept and sign the publishing contract as-is, negotiate for different rights/more money, or reject the offer. The publisher will then edit the book, design the book (both the cover and the interior), market the book, print the book, and get the book into bookstores. While an author has some input once a traditional publisher is working on their book, they actually don’t have that much control over most of what happens, (like the design and marketing of the book).big-five

In a later post I’ll cover contacts and payment. But for now, this is the basics of what a traditional publisher does. At no point does the author ever pay a traditional publisher.

Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins are known as the “Big 5” US publishers, but there are many other legitimate traditional publishers out there.

Next is self-publishing. There are so many ways to self-publish now that I’m not even going to attempt describing all of them, but essentially self-publishing means that the author is paying for and/or actually doing the work to publish their book. Self-publishing gets a bad rap since a bunch of authors either don’t know how to produced quality work (whether it’s the actual writing, the editing, or the design) or can’t/won’t pay someone else with the appropriate skills. Fortunately, that’s not the case for a large number of self-published authors. The upside to self-publishing (compared to traditional publishing) is that the author has complete control over every aspect of the publication for the book. It’s just more work for them.

There is something called hybrid-publishing. Essentially it’s a combination of the previous two. The vanity press that I found when I was 14 is a great example. They would have done much of the work of a traditional publisher, but I would have had to pay the costs of printing and done the marketing myself. There are various combinations to hybrid publishing and there’s a debate on whether or not it’s a separate category from self-publishing.

Whew. That’s a lot of info and I’m really just skimming the surface of what publishing is. For the majority of this series, I’m going to focus on traditional publishing since that is what I’m most interested in. I may touch on self-publishing a bit, but I’m not particularly familiar with it.

Let me know if there’s a specific publishing- or writing-related question you and I’ll do my best to answer it in another post!

Introducing The Business and Craft of Writing Series

22159317_1509436672426752_1079978262542680064_nI’ve been meaning to update for months, but I’ve been busy with life and my writing. (So it goes… Sigh.)

Anyway, last November, I did an Instagram photo challenge for writers. One of the items was to post our “Author Bucket List.” I hadn’t ever specifically thought of what my bucket list would be, though I did have some long term goals and hopes. Two of which kind of go hand-in-hand: 1) Present at a writing conference and 2) Teach a creative writing class.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to do with this blog and my bucket list, several things occurred to me.


A) My passion is publishing and writing. I majored in English and minored in editing, but I frequently said that if my minor had been a major, I would have dropped English in a heartbeat. And maybe someday when my kids are out of the house (or basically out of the house), I’ll actually work in publishing.

2) I LOVE to advise people on writing and publishing.

3) If I want to teach or present, I better start practicing.

All of which is a very long-winded way of me saying that I’m starting a new blog series! At first it’ll probably just be a random compilation of various tidbits about the publishing industry and writing craft, but eventually I hope to have a system worked out.

The first few topics will be things that I wished I knew back when I was 14 and looking at getting my first novel published. I’m already working on the first post, so keep your eyes out for that one!