Am I writing in a “dead” genre?

Recently I got some exciting news: one of my novellas took first place in a contest. I was excited, but the final round judge’s comments weren’t especially heartening: a cute story, she said, but a tough sell in today’s market.

So I started doing some research. Apparently there is a huge glut of paranormal romance stories out there. Apparently as early as 2013, editors and agents were calling this a “dead” genre. In other words, paranormal romance is on a down cycle. There’s too much supply and not enough demand.

As I read more and more articles proclaiming the genre I write in to be “dead,” my heart sank. Two years ago to the day, I quit my magazine job to write fiction full time. What if I’d made a mistake, dedicated my waking hours to stories no one wanted?

So where does that leave me? I plan to start querying next year; what if no editor is interested in my paranormal romance stories?

I only know this: There are no guarantees. All I can do is write the best stories possible, regardless of genre, and hope that they find readers who love those kinds of stories. I do know that romance readers are voracious, that paranormal romance fans are passionate about the stories they read.

I know that each and every day, I am writing the stories of my heart. I love romance; I love magic; and I love fantasy. So I keep writing. And I hope that readers love my characters and their fantastical tales even half as much as I do.

Lastly, this week’s ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 3,606 words in The Broken Mirror, a YA retelling of Snow White.

Reading: Read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, et al. Reading this book was literally transformative. I plan on following the nine steps and seeing where I end up. I also started reading The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

So what do you think? Am I writing in a “dead” genre? Do you write or read paranormal romance? What do you think of the idea that the genre is dead? Is there hope for those of us who feel called to write it?

Striving for Balance: A Brief Midweek Check-In

photo from stock.xchng

photo from stock.xchng

Sometimes it feels like life is about finding balance. Balancing work and play, planning for the future versus living in the present, balancing what we need to do with what we want to do.

I think for writers this balancing act is especially relevant. Many of us are balancing a writing career with working day jobs or raising a family. On a daily basis, I attempt to balance caring for my elderly animals with teaching at a university, writing fantasy/paranormal stories, and spending time with my husband—not to mention the day-to-day items such as paying bills, cooking meals, and hometending.

I’m thinking about this because my husband and I are trying to find that balance. How do we ensure we have adequate savings for the future—for emergencies or for our golden years—with living in the present? We want to travel, to see Hawaii, California, Paris, England. But we also don’t want to be broke during our retirement. And we do want to retire someday.

Ultimately it’s about balancing what we want to do with what we need to do. We need to cook healthy meals, walk the dog, pay the electric bill, and save for retirement. We want to take ballroom dance lessons, visit the Grand Canyon, or remodel the kitchen.

As for me, writing is something I need to do to be happy and fulfilled in my life. It doesn’t pay the bills (not yet, anyway), but it’s an essential part of my life.

I think about the kind of life I want. A life spent writing stories, doing yoga or tai chi, meditating, honoring my faith and walking a nature-based, goddess-centered pagan path. I want to drink tea, read books, care for my animals, and spend time with my husband. And then I have bigger dreams—like walking the streets of Paris or becoming a best-selling author.

Dreams take time. Balance takes work. And, more importantly, it takes sacrifice. We can’t have everything we want—not all at once, anyway.

All we can do is take small steps every day toward our goals, big and small.

At the end of the day, I can’t say I have the answers. And if you have any advice on the subject, please feel free to share in the comments section!

ROW80 check-in:

Writing: So far this week I’ve written 2,362 words in The Broken Mirror, a retelling of Snow White.

Reading: Continued reading Once Upon a Time: Red’s Untold Tale by Wendy Toliver.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? What are you trying to balance in your life? How do you find balance–or does it remain elusive?

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Dusting Off Old Tales: Sunday Summary

I’m writing a fairy tale retelling, and it’s got me thinking a lot about fairy tales. The archetypes. Their sheer endurance and popularity. We love these tales. We come back to them time and time again.

When I was a little girl, Little Red Riding Hood was my favorite fairy tale. I used to act out theatrical versions in front of the family room fireplace. And now, as an adult, I’m seeking out new ways to tell the stories I love.

How do we make an old story new? How do we add an unexpected twist? How can we create a suspenseful, surprising story out of something so comfortable and familiar as a fairy tale?

Once Upon a Time has certainly done it. Give Snow White’s evil stepmother some nuance, turn Red into a wolf, give Snow White herself some agency, make Rumpelstiltskin the ultimate bad guy and have him constantly reminding us that magic always comes with a price.

There’s something special about these stories. They’re magical, sure, but they also tell tales of good triumphing over evil. They are, in their own way, precious.

I’m keeping all of this in mind as I write. What can I add to the tale that’s new? How can I dust off a beloved old story and make it fresh? How can I surprise readers?

So far, I am happy to report, my retelling is surprising me. It’s gone in a direction I didn’t expect, following Snow White’s granddaughter as she unravels the truth of her family’s past and digs into the tale—what’s real, what’s not, what isn’t what it seems.

ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 8,361 words this week in The Broken Mirror, a retelling of Snow White. That’s way more than my usual word count—I average about 4-5K a week. Needless to say, I’m happy with this progress. I know it will slow down later in the month when I have more papers to grade, but I’m trying to get as many words as possible in. Not sure I’ll be able to finish this one by the end of the year, but hopefully by the end of January.

Reading: Finished Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. Started reading Once Upon a Time: Red’s Untold Tale by Wendy Toliver. It’s a sweet, simple story that I’m enjoying so far. To date I’ve read 60 books this year—my goal is 70.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

Have you ever attempted or thought about attempting a fairy tale retelling? What tale did you—or would you—choose? If you’re attempting NaNo, how is your progress? How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along?

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Midweek ROW80 check-in

Right now I’m in a place where I’m looking forward, and I’m trying to stay grounded in the present moment. I like being a planner, but sometimes we need to focus on what is rather than what might be. That means getting a few of my many WIPs ready for publication, whether that’s self-published or traditionally, and really focusing on building my author platform—something I still struggle with as an introvert.

But focusing on today. That means doing yoga or meditating today, not saying I’ll do it tomorrow. That means getting words on the page today, not thinking about the next manuscript. Overall, I’m trying to balance living in the moment with planning for the future. Like my stories, it’s a work in progress.

ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 2,144 words in The Broken Mirror, a retelling of Snow White. I’m debating whether I should plot/outline this one or if I should just pants it. Currently, pantsing it. We’ll see if that works.

Reading: Started reading Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale by Wendy Toliver. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I’m loving it. That might be because Little Red Riding Hood is one of my favorite fairy tales, or because the book is sort of a prequel to Red’s story on the show Once Upon A Time. So far it’s shaping up to be a sweet and fun young-adult novel.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, are you off to a strong start or still feeling out your story?

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The Power of Fairy Tales

I have a confession to make. I love fairy tales. And I love a good retelling. I love the new spins that Once Upon A Time takes on the characters—although I wish Ruby/Red Riding Hood featured more prominently. Here’s how much I love that story:

Ryan and Denise Halloween 2015Yes, that’s me as Little Red Riding Hood. And my husband, Robin Hood. (Get it? We’re the Hoods.)

And I’ve always wanted to write a retelling. But somehow, every time I start, the story either stalls or veers off in some non-fairy tale related direction.

But this week I started another retelling. It’s called The Broken Mirror and is based on Snow White. It follows her granddaughter, Mirna, as she explores her family’s past. I’m hoping I can see this one through from beginning to end. And it’s definitely firmly planted in fairy tale territory.

I think there’s a good reason that fairy tales endure, that we keep telling these stories over and over. Partly it’s that they tell of good triumphing over evil, justice being served, the good getting their happy ending. But it’s more than that. I think it’s that these stories belong to everyone. No one owns fairy tales. They’re inside each and every one of us. They’re our stories. And that makes them special.

ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote 3,101 words in The Broken Mirror. It’s my first attempt at YA in a while—and I’m excited to be working on a fairy tale retelling.

Reading: Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Amazing. Seriously. Read it. Also reading Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. I’m already fairly organized, so it wasn’t super-helpful, but if you’re overwhelmed by clutter, I’d recommend it. It’s got a humorous, conversational tone, so it’s fun to read.

Decluttering: My massive decluttering has ended. I took two large boxes of miscellaneous items, two small boxes of dishes, and one large bag of clothes/blankets to Goodwill. I also have four boxes of books to donate to the library. Now all that’s left is to go through the attic.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

Happy Halloween/Samhain!

What about you? Do you like fairy tale retellings? What are some of your favorites? I’m always looking for recommendations. How did you celebrate Halloween?

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Why I’m Simplifying

As many of you know, I’ve been on a mission to declutter my home. I moved (twice, technically) earlier this year. Once we put all everything in storage and lived with my in-laws for several weeks until our townhouse was ready. And then we pulled all of those boxes out of our storage units and packed it all into our new home.

I realize if I move again, I don’t want to be carting around that much stuff. So that’s one reason I’m simplifying. But I’m also doing it for peace of mind. I need space so there’s room for energy to flow in my home. I need less to take care of so I can devote time to what really matters.

In my ideal world, I’d do yoga or tai chi or meditate daily. I’d sit out in a nearby park with my journal and free-write. My home would be a serene and calm space for making art and connecting to my spirituality. And decluttering is part of that.

ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 4,507 words. Finished my short story “Into the Faerie Forest” and started a draft of a novella, Goblins and Grimoires. I also did some plotting for the latter, which is an expanded version of a short story I wrote last year.

Reading: Finished If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Get Rid of this Clutter? by Sallie Felton. It wasn’t my favorite. I think it’s that I’m already a fairly organized person—I just want to own less stuff. If you’re really disorganized, this book will be helpful. Started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for—a system for getting rid of a bunch of stuff and living with less. Highly recommend. Also started The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It is amazing. Another book I would recommend.

Decluttering: So, I abandoned my goal to get rid of five things a day for 100 days. The reason? It was too slow. Instead, this weekend, inspired by The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up, I went through all of my books, clothes, etc., and did a major decluttering. I would estimate I got rid of four or five boxes of books, a large bag full of clothes and blankets, and a large box of miscellaneous stuff. I also want to go through my dishes and get rid of some. That will probably take up two small boxes. I’ll still have to go through the stuff that’s in the attic, but I’m now happy with the number of books and clothing items I own. A big step forward on that front.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

Have you ever tried to simplify your life? Why? How would you feel if you owned less stuff? What would your ideal day look like?

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Midweek ROW80 check-in

One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is transitioning between projects. One day the words will be flying onto the page as fast as my fingers can type, and then I’ll type “the end” on a story.

And the next day, I’ll be stuck facing a blank page for a new story, or trying to reconnect with characters in an existing manuscript so I can revise.

I think I’m getting better at it. Like many things, practice helps. Daily word count goals help. Self-imposed deadlines help.

Yesterday I finished a short story, and after I’ve proofread it and sent it off to my critique partners, it will be time to start something new. I’m thinking of expanding another short story to novella length. The two main characters in the story are minor characters in an earlier story, and beta readers really seem to like them and want to read more about them. I hope to start that later this week.

Hopefully practice pays off and the transition between projects is smoother.

Midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing: So far this week I’ve written 3,186 words and finished my short story. Still working on a title, but it’s currently called “Into the Faerie Forest.” This is the second title, but I’m still not sure it works. We’ll see what my critique partners think.

Reading: Finished reading Corsets and Clockwork, a short story collection. I would recommend it to fans of steampunk. There are some really good stories in this collection.

Decluttering: Good news. Hubby is now on board with my quest to get rid of five things a day. He’s offered to contribute two of the five. I’m not sure we’ll last the entire 100 days, but we’ll see how far we get.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How are your goals coming along? Do you ever struggle with transitioning between projects? What helps you in this process?

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Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Chilly weather has settled in over the last few days. I’m not sure it will last, but it definitely feels like autumn out there. Soon we’ll be carving pumpkins, wearing sweaters, and drinking hot cocoa!

Today’s ROW80 check-in:

Writing: The good news is that I wrote 4,269 words this week in a short story. The bad news is that I only wrote two out of five days. Monday was dedicated to class prep. I wrote Tuesday and Wednesday, and then was sidelined with a migraine on Thursday. Friday I did some editing and then had to leave mid-afternoon to go to a doctor’s appointment about an hour away. Then I got stuck in traffic and had to reschedule the appointment for Monday anyway. Sigh. Such is life.

Reading: Continued reading Corsets and Clockwork. Some really good short stories in this collection! I recommend it to fans of steampunk—and there’s also romance, which is always a plus for this writer.

Homemaking: Yesterday was a big day. We brought our new front door home—though it’s currently leaning against the wall in our dining room. We’ve replaced one of the outdoor light fixtures and hope to replace the second today. I planted some flower bulbs—snowdrops and red tulips—so we hope to have some flowers come spring. And we got some stone samples so we can make a walkway out back.

Decluttering: Continuing to get rid of five things a day, but starting to have doubts that I can maintain this for 100 days. Hubby is starting to get a little nervous that I’m getting rid of so much stuff, and I’m realizing that a lot of what I have is already fairly pared down. But we’ll see how long this round of decluttering lasts.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How is the weather where you live? Does it feel like autumn yet? How are your projects, writing or otherwise, coming along?

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Midweek ROW80 Check-In

For about a year now, I’ve had this idea to write a short-story collection based around the Wiccan holidays—Samhain/Halloween, Beltane/May Day, Ostara/spring equinox, etc. I find short stories tricky to write—you have such a small space to develop your characters and allow readers to forge a connection to your characters and the story. I like the challenge. Last week I finished a second draft of one of my WIPS, so now I’m turning my focus to writing short stories.

Any tips on writing short stories?

This week’s midweek ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Last week I finished the second draft of A Prince in Patience Point. Woot! So far this week I’ve written 1,550 words in a short story. I’m still deciding on a title, but the working title is “Wisps of Moonlight.”

Reading: I’ve read several books on simple living in the last week. Last week I read two simple living books. I also read Yin Feng Shui by Tess Whitehurst. If you’ve read a lot on feng shui before, most of this book will serve as a reminder. If you’re new to feng shui, the book is a very good starting point since it’s not overwhelming. This week I’m reading If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Get Rid of This Clutter? by Sallie Felton. It deals with emotional and mental clutter as well as physical, which is a fresh take, and there are a lot of exercises to help you take stock of your clutter, but it’s not my favorite decluttering/simplifying book so far. I’m also reading Corsets and Clockwork, a collection of 13 steampunk romances. So far my favorite is “Wild Magic” by Ann Aguirre.

Decluttering: I’m continuing my practice of getting rid of five things a day. I’m starting to realize that while it’s difficult to part with my books, it’s those things that were gifts that are hardest to part with. Even if I’m not using something, there’s still this sense of guilt wrapped around those objects. But I’m determined to stick with the decluttering process. I simply want to own less stuff.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Have you read any good books lately? How are your writing projects coming along? Have you ever gone through a period where you focused on decluttering? What things were hardest to part with?

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Living with Intention

I just finished reading a book titled Choosing Simplicity by Linda Breen Pierce. It’s a collection of case studies of people who’ve drastically simplified their lives. Some still work nine-to-fives but live in smaller homes; others have scaled back their expenses so much that they’re able to focus on volunteer work or pursuing a passion.

But one thing all of these stories have in common is that each individual, couple, or family who shared their story was living a life of intention. They knew what they valued in life and pared away the excess until they could focus on what really mattered to them.

The idea of simple living has always appealed to me, but my lifestyle is hardly minimalist. In some ways I’ve simplified my life. My husband and I share a paid-off car, though we both take the bus to work, for example. But our recent move showed me just how much stuff we own—and all of that stuff is weighing on me.

Earlier this year, before the big move, I started getting rid of 10 things every day. These could be as small as a sheet of paper or a pair of socks. And I got rid of a lot of stuff, mostly papers I didn’t need anymore. I went from having two file crates full of papers to one file crate only halfway full. I got rid of other things, too, but letting go of those papers was especially freeing.

So I’ve decided to embark on another quest for minimalism—or at least as close as I can get. I’m going to get rid of five things every day for 100 days. At the end, my home will be 500 things lighter than it was when I started. Yesterday I got rid of five books—a couple of anthologies that were similar enough to others I already owned that I won’t miss them, and some books from my college days that I realized I was keeping because they reminded me of a very happy time in my life, a time full of knowledge and beginnings.

I recognize that I carry those things with me. Every book I’ve read, every class I’ve taken, every place I’ve been…All of that is inside of me, and I don’t need to keep every object associated with those times to remember them fondly. And then there are the objects given to me by people I love. Those will be harder to part with. On my entertainment center, for example, are several plastic cartoon characters that arrived one day in a box from my brother. It was a moment of spontaneous gift-giving, and looking at them makes me smile. Do I part with them? Or, since they take up so little space, do I hang onto them? I haven’t decided yet.

I’m changing my life in other ways as well. I’m trying to do some form of yoga, t’ai chi, or meditation every day, even if only for a few minutes. I’m working on spending less money, whether at Target or the grocery store.

Simple living is about intention. It’s about living with purpose as much as it is about living with less. And that’s the journey I’m on.

And now for a very brief ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Nothing impressive so far this week. I’ve written 595 words so far this week in A Prince in Patience Point. I’m a little stuck at the moment—probably a few thousand words away from the ending, but not sure how to get there. I might try reading through what I’ve already written and seeing if that helps me figure out how to end the story.

Reading: Read Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World by Linda Breen Pierce and Downsizing Your Life for Freedom, Flexibility and Financial Peace by Claire Middleton. Choosing Simplicity was extremely inspiring. Reading stories of how people have changed their lives for the better is always appealing. Downsizing Your Life for Freedom, Flexibility and Financial Peace didn’t do much for me. I think the target demographic was baby boomers and empty-nesters who’ve raised their children and are now looking to downsize. It was mostly about why you should downsize, not how to. I’m still searching for a good book to help me with the process of decluttering and simplifying. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Does the concept of simple living appeal to you? How would you simplify your life? How do you manage all of the stuff you own?

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