PitMad is almost upon us…

red blue and yellow textile

Since I’m finally at the querying stage, I’m getting ready for #PitMad as practice for pitching Fantastic America. I’m hoping Ashley, Daniel, and Jerry can find an advocate to take their story to the next stage in publishing. Fingers crossed, I hope for hearts during the event, but honing my pitch and query letter are important to me as I pursue a career as an author.

To double down on that idea I signed up for Kathy Ver Eecke’s Pitch Perfect Five Day Challenge. She has a course designed to prepare authors for #PitMad. Part of that process teaches writers how to pitch their work successfully no matter what format that takes. So far, I’ve at least made some new contacts with other authors on Twitter as we get ready for #Pitmad.

I’ve done some practice runs with #DVPit and #PitDark so I’m at least I feel competent with Twitter. Of course, I have a ton of other things going on the day of #PitMad, but it only takes a few seconds to copy and paste a tweet. I hope it goes well, and if I get any hearts this time, rest assured I’ll share that here. Wish me luck this Thursday!

This is my 200th blog post!

person pouring champagne on champagne flutes

This is a minor milestone for most, but I never expected to keep up this blog to begin with. I let the most of the first two years I had a website go without a half dozen posts. So for me, this 200th post is a bigger deal than it might be for others. For those of you who’ve stuck around for my rambling, I thank you!

My books are shaping up I ways I did not expect. There is more to the characters and their journey than I thought I could come up with. I’m reaching a depth with the stories I hoped to achieve but had no idea how to translate that from imagination to the page. Now I am sure I can accomplish all that and then some.

For those of you who are new to the Sorcerers’ Realm, the ride is far from over! In fact, I’m just getting started with the themes I want to explore. I have so much to share, but writing takes more of my attention than the bits I can share here before publication. Expect the Realm to broaden as I finish more books and explore more of the Fantastic America / Midwestern Magicians world.

I’ve been writing my debut novel for three years.

It has taken several starts and stops, reorganizations, and rewrites to reach this form. As it is now, I started writing Fantastic America: The Magic Unleashed from scratch in September of 2020. This blog has more or less kept pace with all of my excitement and frustrations along the way. If you’ve been here through that process, you know I’ve been learning as I went along.

My rough draft was ‘finished’ in October, and I took November away from the MS for Nanowrimo (to work on the next book in the series, Midwestern Magicians). F/A went through a professional developmental edit between Christmas and the end of January. From January till now I’ve been working through those edits, beta reader feedback, and chapter by chapter suggestions from my online critique group.

Tonight I reached another milestone, one that kind of caps off my efforts over the past three years. My goal in September was to write a 90K word contemporary fantasy novel. I came in way under that goal at 75K words on the page. Tonight, after a lot of writing and re-writing, I came in at 90,997 words. The book reads better, and I am overjoyed to have finally finished the book! (At least until an editor tells me differently – which I’d still be overjoyed to hear…)

The following is not public knowledge:

white and black moon with black skies and body of water photography during night time
The sea holds many secrets…

In Fantastic America, on the same night that ravenous undead poured into the world, another menace swam into Earth’s oceans. Actual sea monsters, described by witnesses as varying from giant tentacled creatures to long
serpentine monstrosities. Observers spotted monsters thousands of miles apart in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Indian Oceans. At each location, the monsters briefly surfaced, then dove deep underwater, and evaded further detection by modern naval vessels sent to investigate.

Although there were eyewitnesses to these arrivals, most news reports of the solstice events glossed over their accounts. Without direct evidence of their existence or clear dangers from sea monsters, stories were forgotten, especially after the coverage of so many other frightening phenomena. The United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Peoples Republic of China, Japan self-defense force, and Indian Navies are all actively searching for these creatures. It is only a matter of time before sea monsters cause further panic and damage to international shipping, fishing, travel, and tourism.

Daniel Forrester has tasked his research and development team with finding countermeasures for these monsters. A collision between humans and sea monsters is inevitable, but these measures effectiveness remains untested. A nightmare scenario involving international cruise ships and a group of terrifying creatures is on many world leaders’ minds. Much like the zombie curse and its cure through prayer, nations aware of the danger have kept this looming catastrophe from the public.

I’d like you to meet President Grander…

Michelle Leigh Grander (R) – Michigan. President Grander became the first woman elected president of the United States in 2008. She succeeded the scandal ridden Presidency of Troy Cameron (D) – California. When Fantastic America begins, she is fresh off a landslide second term victory. Considered hawkish on international affairs, her domestic policies stirred controversy throughout her first term. The solstice events that usher in the weirdness of Fantastic America totally derail her plans to overhaul immigration and naturalization.

President Grander personally tasks Daniel Forrester with developing a Federal response to the solstice events. She folds his plan into a larger effort to address the issues around the world, specifically those threatening America after the solstice. She provides Daniel and his teams with any resource he might possibly need.

The President is as proactive in this crisis, or series of crises, as possible. She sends help to American allies abroad, keeps our armed forces on alert, and looks for solutions from any avenue. She’s also responsible for building up Daniel’s Paranormal Response Unit into a force to be reckoned with. Her press conference the day after the solstice helped calm the nation, and her repeated voice of calm and steely resolve have kept panic from overwhelming America since then.

Querying is part of the journey…

man in black suit sitting on chair beside buildings

Though in some ways it is a more daunting task than writing a manuscript. Searching for a literary agent for Fantastic America is new for me. I’ve queried (and gotten plenty of rejections) for other short story projects. Querying for a literary agent is much more involved than submitting a story to a magazine editor, but the principles are similar.

At times, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming. There are thousands of agents, at hundreds of literary agencies. Narrowing down my search to an agent that is looking for books in the genre I write, who are open to queries is a challenge. A challenge I repeat over and over to get a good number of submissions going at once.

Once I’ve found an agent that might be a good fit, learning more about them takes a bit more research. What do they like, what don’t they like, and is my story something they could believe in? Following their submission guidelines is fairly straight forward. Waiting is not easy. Having more work to do while I wait is essential to my sanity.

So I’m a bit frazzled right now. Tracking submissions on my excel spreadsheet helps me stay on task. Of course the point of the spreadsheet is to remember on the page what my memory might not recall without it. Have sent anything to this agent before, did I hear back, has it been long enough to query anyone else at that agency? All of this and more, is part of how I manage my queries. Without a tracking sheet, I’d be lost.

I’d like to introduce you to L.o.R.E.

central park with skyscrapers in new york city

Henry Boyd Raft founded the League of Raftean Examiners in New York city in the 1930’s. Raft was an eccentric journalist who witnessed the disappearance of Cecelia Tremaine in central park. Henry spent the next thirty years of his life devoted to investigating weird and esoteric phenomena around the United States. Raft enlisted colleagues in journalist and academic circles to research events he could not investigate personally. He also founded the Raftean News, a monthly magazine that highlighted oddities for the public.

After his death in 1962, the magazine passed among several of his investigators until 1972 when it was shuttered. In the ten years between Raft’s death and the last issue of the magazine, the League of Raftean Examiners established their national organization. This was also the first year of the national LoRE Convention.

Since then, LoRE has remained a loose network of academics, journalists and amateur investigators. They still seek out unexplained (or poorly understood) phenomena like ball lightning, the Brown Mountain Lights, ooparts, spontaneous human combustion, rains of unusual animals or materials, and UFO’s. The most recent convention in Chicago counted over fifteen hundred attendees. Lectures included collecting, sharing and publishing data on a variety of unexplained phenomena.

Herbert Allan, former history professor at Valparaiso University, and his wife Ginny were major organizers for the annual LoRE convention. Allan still maintains connections with many of his former Examiner colleagues. Many of these colleagues have begun an uncoordinated investigation of paranormal events since the solstice.

I’ve taken a deeper dive into backstory…

When I made the decision to reinvent the history of the Earth of Fantastic America I only went back a short distance. I’ve discovered a need to go further back, and its difficult for me to stop once I get started. A new path allows new wrinkles to the story. Writing with that in mind is fun for me, and hopefully for my audience as well.

My most recent dive into the history of this world has taken me to the 1860’s. July of 1863 to be more precise. A small town in Pennsylvania that will change the course of the Civil War and American history. The little nudge to what happened here is unremarkable to recorded history, but will have ripples through the entire story in modern times. I won’t ruin the surprises in store, but I’m almost giddy with how well it’s working out!

The changes go deeper, so my dive will continue. I have more than a few ideas that may not show up until after the first book in the series. I’ll keep writing, and keep posting on this blog, so stick around for clues and explanations you won’t find in the books. This is already a wild ride, it only gets weirder from here.

I’m often surprised at how ideas come together…

shallow focus photography of paintbrush

I had very specific ideas for Fantastic America when I started the project. Back then, it wasn’t even called that, but I still had a plan. Eventually, I had too much material for one book, or even four books. Rewriting and expanding the ideas, I lost some of the focus on ideas that became less important in my rush to finish the manuscript. Editing and rewriting didn’t bring those ideas back right away either.

Fortunately, rewriting is a long process. I was inspired to add in an idea that addressed shortcomings I found in my latest round of edits. That idea brought many of those older ideas that had fallen by the way side back into focus. As often happens, the way opened for all those ideas fit together more neatly than I could have planned.

Now, I have a perfect method to introduce concepts, names, and events that I want to plant as seeds for the rest of the series. There is a bit of mirth and joy that bubbles up out of no real attempt on my part. I often credit my muse for a good deal of my personal creativity, and this may be another example of how she helps me write.

I fell in love with my book all over again…

Fantastic America has gone through dozens of re-writes since I finished the original manuscript. Rounds of self editing, expansion, developmental editing, and polishing have (I hope) focused and refined the story. In that months long process, I kind of lost that loving feeling for the book. It wasn’t what I envisioned, and I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I hear a lot that the only way to learn to write a book is to write a book, and I believe it.

I have learned a lot that will help me with Midwestern Magicians and every other book I write in the future. Those lesson fortunately came before I tried to send my first book out into the wide world. Which brings me to my new appreciation of FA. It sings to me again. The characters are deeper, their struggles have more impact, and their service of the larger narrative is back in harmony with my original vision.

I can’t wait to share that with the world (or at least my small audience within the world)!