Friday, May 12, 2017

Confessions of a Literary Masochist

Well, as of Monday, I'm back to writing and writing only. Dabbled in the break-neck marketing world these last several months, but that's an experience not really worth talking about. What IS worth talking about is what I took away from that lifetime. No, not resume fodder -- though there was plenty of that. More valuable than experience, more blindsiding than that final sit-down, was a moment of self discovery that struck barely a week into the gig.

I'm a literary masochist.

The only time I'm capable of writing exceptionally well, when the thoughts are flowing and the worlds practically build themselves, is when I have zero time to write. Case in point:

When the hubs and I moved to Portland in late 2015, I had the opportunity to skirt full-time work for a bit. The hubs had a great job, the cost of living was significantly lower, and I had pent up creative energy we both knew needed to be expelled lest I self-destruct. So I stayed home, took a freelance gig here and there, and warred my way through a book. At times, it was pulling teeth. I could spend hours hung up on a single sentence, hell, a single adjective, and finish the day with 50 words that I'd go back and delete the next day.

"That's why you've got to go out and do things, Amanda. Nobody can write if they stay locked away all day, starving themselves of experiences. Duh."

Yes. I hear you. But the problem is: I was going out and doing things. Rock climbing, concerts, parties, hikes, camping, shenanigans -- I was doing plenty, because I was thinking the same thing. If I just kept myself stimulated, surely something would give.

It didn't.

I finally put the book to bed last summer, and finished a grueling round of edits by winter, at which time I felt compelled to rejoin the full-time workforce. I knew I didn't have it in me to plow through another book. The ideas just weren't there. There were gems, scattered about, each stuck around 10,000 to 30,000 words, but I was nowhere near a place where I could polish them.

The job hunt was easy enough. I'd been out of the game for almost a year, and yet, all those mad skills of mine stuck around. It happened during my second week of employment. In passing, I heard a developer gripe about buffering. It seemed insignificant at the time. As someone with slim to none technical know-how, I imagined some form of cushioning. Later, that word -- buffering -- continued to nag. I thought of the wheel that appeared next to my cursor when I had way, way, way too many applications running.

Then, halfway home, the ideas kicked in. I imagined mediators, sunless skies, totalitarianism, and: Oh. Oh, yes. I should pull over. Now.

I pulled off to the side of 99, whipped out my notebook, and wrote it all out. It came from nowhere, and it was good. By the time I made it home, I had my world and my characters and my plot and... and an empty stomach, and dogs that needed to be walked, and a workout class I was running late for, and dinner with those friends we were supposed to catch up with last week, and I needed to be in bed by ten because I had to get to the office early and it was not okay.

For the sake of my sanity, I ended up forgoing bedtime and the gym. The saga continued. I found myself writing during my lunch, during my breaks. It was simultaneously fantastic and horrible. Ideas rolled in, new stories, new worlds, each one as effortless and it was demanding. The saga reminded me of college, juggling school, work, and writing; determined to keep all the balls in the air, and doing an excellent job of fooling everyone into thinking it was easy.

I don't know how else to describe this phenomenon. It seems twisted, taboo in a tasteful way. If zero time equates to infinite ideas, though, I'm alright with suffering. My creative energy reserves are brimming and my under-eye concealer does wonders.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Yes, "Book Two" Has a Name – SYNOPSIS

I'm garbage at working titles. Three-day old, baking in the sun, rotting garbage.

Now, I've been told otherwise, but I take pride in being my biggest critic. Long before I ventured into the world of grown-up publishing, back in the days of journals and neopets, I'd sit at my desk staring at the garbage title for the not-garbage project and think: If they can just get past the title, they'll love it.

But we all know that's not how it works. Spines and covers are judged long before the blurb, and that is why I am grateful for the people who make me a little bit less garbage-y – the critique groups, agents, editors, publishers, and everyone in between.

^^me, alone, front flipping into a working title^^

If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or have ever endured more than one drink with me, you've no doubt heard me throw around the phrase "Book Two" more than a few times. "Book Two" was what I jokingly started calling the project I picked up right after getting ZHUKOV'S DOGS out the door. At that time "Book Two" was a twisted saga about hackers living with post-traumatic stress. I abandoned that project ~30k words in, at which time, I began another "Book Two" about teenage elementals, racism, and war. Got a bit further along with that one, but ultimately abandoned it, hopping over to tell the story of a pill-popping exorcist instead.

Long story short, "Book Two" was a working title for me. I have commitment issues when it comes to writing, and I defaulted to "Book Two" to make the inevitable breakup easier to deal with.


Now "Book Two" is done! "Book Two" has a beginning, middle, and end – and yes – now it has a name. It's an official working title that's likely to change as I hurdle and hack my way through the publishing process, but for now, I'm lovingly calling it THE PLIABLE RUSE.

There's a fun story behind that title. My good friend Evan, who is not a writer by any means but has supported my insane pursuits and tolerated my general awfulness since 2009, is due some credit here.

I was strangely hung up on getting a title for this one, not content to just slap a "you know what this is, amanda, go to bed" in the save bar. I think I knew this was going to be the one, so I started texting Evan, the only person I knew would be up and coherent at that ungodly hour. Evan asked what my two favorite words were out of the ~8k I'd written that day, and somehow, it worked out fittingly. He wasn't smug about it at all. I continued calling it "Book Two" as the months went on, but from day one, I knew I had my title.




THE PLIABLE RUSE is a ~117k word gaslamp fantasy that tells the story of an exiled lord prone to arson, an overworked shaman with horrible taste in men and waistcoats, ambitious spiders, and clowns. It acts as the first book in a trilogy, (working) titled PECULIAR.

Intrigued? Repulsed? Hungry? Whatever you are, here's the synopsis:

You can always go home. You can’t always leave.

It’s a miserable winter’s eve when Sterling Hawtrey is dragged home by threats of treason. The newly appointed Magister of Argent was enjoying his twelfth year of exile an ocean away, rounding up mercenaries, pirates, and bastards, when his brother’s black, lard-clogged heart ruined everything.

Shoved to the forefront of a colony he wants nothing to do with, Sterling immediately sets to work dismantling his foul family’s legacy. What should have been a simple task of numbers and handshakes takes a deadly turn as the layers peel away, and Sterling soon finds himself smack in the middle of a century-old feud with the very witches his ancestors chased off the island. With cousins catching fire left and right, and the clock ticking on his escape plan, Sterling must turn to the circus for help.

Witch doctor Wylie Rook has plenty of reasons to hate the world, and every one of them is a Hawtrey. Branded as a criminal in a land where magic is not only frowned upon, but punishable by death, the shaman has been living quietly among the gilded undesirables of Garnet & Garnet’s Traveling Spectacular since his release from prison.

When the circus sets up shop in the capitol, Rook is determined to learn the truth behind his sister’s death, even if it means breaking a few laws along the way. In his search for answers, he ends up robbing the one person who might hate Hawtreys more than he does – the new Lord Argent himself – and gets tangled up in a dangerous witch hunt he wants nothing to do with.

It will take more than herbs and potions to undo the damage Sterling’s crusading ancestors did, and Rook quickly realizes he’s in over his head. A few witches he can handle, but a few witches and a handsome lord that shamelessly defies every expectation of his birthright? Well, that just won’t do, not when someone’s trying so desperately to kill the man. Sterling is relentless in the face of rejection, though, but in his eagerness to prove to the shaman he’s not a monster, settle his family’s affairs, and flee the colony, will he get them all killed?
Right, now it's time for coffee, cookies, and queries. Let's chat again soon, blogosphere.

Today's blog is accompanied by the unstoppable musical prowess of the incredibly talented, always flawless, lovely, lovely LP.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Inbox Is Burning

Diving back into the query game like:

But for realzies. It's terrifying. So much has changed, and yet, everything's the same. It's still a polite game of "hey, so, here's my baby... please don't punch it in the face" – only now, all the resources I used in 2013 (,, etc.) are horribly outdated. I feel like one of those ol' folks trying to get into the hip new lingo all the youngsters are reppin' 'round tha' block.

I'm turning 26 this August. THE PLIABLE RUSE is only the second novel I've attempted to sell. I know I shouldn't be panicking, but o lawd it's a scary time to be agent hunting.

To be fair, I did this to myself. I dove into the grown-up author game as a YA/NA sci-fi writer, and over the past three years, my lovely agent Kimberley has been nothing but supportive. This new project wasn't up her alley, though, and I knew there'd be risks diving into the steamy, wonderful world of adult gaslamp fantasies. Alas, the story of Sterling Hawtrey had to be told, and with six or so half-finished YA dabbles sitting on my desktop, I took the plunge and finished what I needed to finish.

I'm proud of my new work, proud of my old work, and proud to still be repped by the fantastic Ms. Cameron. So, that said, it's into the fire I cannonball, determined to resurface with a new agent for my new venture.

Send pizza.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Year in the Life

Yeah, no. I'm still here. Let's play catch-up.

IN 2015 I

in order of appearance

  • Enjoyed year two of continued success at grown-up job
  • Moved**
  • Wrote ~50k words (Witch Doctor)
  • Abandoned ~50k words (Witch Doctor)**
  • Cried
  • Cut off my hair**
  • Vomited random ideas all over my computer
  • Abandoned all random idea**
  • Cried
  • Quit grown-up job to write grown-up books**
  • Moved
  • Wrote ~60k words (Spark)
  • Abandoned ~60k words (Spark)**
  • Cried
  • Cut off my hair
  • Wrote ~90k words (The Pliable Ruse)


That's all you missed. 2015 was chill.

Unrelated: I'm one chapter away from finishing Book Number Two.

Noteworthy: This will be the first book I've finished since Zhukov's Dogs and I am quietly losing my mind because of it.

Brace yourself, Internet. I'm back and ready to kick ass.

#sorrynotsorry. #unlessyournameiskimberleycameron #inwhichcase #kimberleyiamsorryittooksolongtogetmyshittogether <3 #ty4beingthebest <3

TL;DR - Me going into 2016:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Naked & Afraid... BUT PUBLISHED!

Yes, yes. I’m still here, don’t get your hopes up. Something about a 40 hour work week on top of a writing career makes blog posts startlingly more difficult to find time for. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, though, you’ve heard that my debut novel is finally out! That’s right! You can now purchase Zhukov’s Dogs and digest what all these rambling posts have led up to!

I recently had the pleasure of writing a guest post for Robyn over at Project Nemesis, in which I detailed the long trek up to this release – the way time blurs from the moment you start riding the dizzying, sometimes surreal, high into the world of publishing – and offered advice to those attempting to juggle a day job with their publishing high or dreams of reaching one. Since I know at least one person reading this blog meets those requirements, I thought I'd extrapolate on that advice a bit more here.

  1. It’s Going to Be Stressful

    This one should be obvious to even the finest of multitaskers. There are only so many hours in the day, and since we can’t all be Time Lords, things like sleep and yoga slip through the cracks. Often.

    Breathe through it and practice moderation on all fronts, because you don’t want to burn out and end up hating either of your full-time gigs. If you already hate your day job, you've got an advantage over most, as that hate serves as an excellent motivator for writing a novel successful enough to get you out of there.

  2. Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

    Be smart. A manuscript, no matter how confident you are in it, likely won’t pay the bills all by itself. As lovely as it would be if our final word-counts matched our annual salaries, it doesn’t work that way. You can dream about quitting your day job, but make sure you get out of bed for it in the morning.

  3. You’re Going to Have to Make Difficult Choices

    I’m not just talking about deciding whether or not you get a full 8 hours every night. I was lucky when I was writing the first draft of Zhukov’s Dogs because I didn’t have the day job going at the time, school was easy (yup, I was studying English), and my then-boyfriend/now-fiancĂ© was incredibly supportive, both financially and emotionally.

    I started juggling two professions after my agent sold the manuscript in early 2014, and I quickly realized neither was getting the attention it deserved. It’s a hard truth that still makes me sad when I think about it, and on more than one occasion I’ve had to ask myself which is more important. All I can say is it's a good thing my boss went through the publishing process himself not too long ago and is super understanding because of it.

  4. You’ll Be NAKED

    Yup. Naked. I’m not sure how else to describe this sensation of knowing my friends, family, and coworkers will soon be reading my work. At least for me, feedback from strangers is perfectly fine, but what about all of these people I see on a daily basis? The next time I give a presentation or throw a party, it’s possible half the room will have glimpsed into the world I built, and I find that simultaneously terrifying and thrilling.

    This unease is especially bothersome because I'm a confident, extroverted individual in the day-to-day world. I like to think it will go away as time goes on, but as of today, I don't think I could handle a face-to-face review of my work. Imagine we're sitting at coffee and you want to talk about Zhukov's Dogs. Give you a synopsis? Sure. Explain what went into the publishing process? Bring it on. A general "loved your book" doesn't even bother me, but you mention specifics like "that one scene in that one place between those two, I mean I just..." and suddenly there's a fascinating spot on the tiles beneath the table I MUST investigate up close.

    Although I opted against it, I encourage everyone who’s ambling down the publishing path (with or without a 9 to 5) to seriously consider the levels of exposure that come with plastering your name on a book. There are benefits to pen names.

  5. It. Will. Be. Awesome.

    If you press through to the high – through the drafts, revisions, queries and rejections – all the sacrifices and stress will suddenly make sense. Writing is a labor of love, and if it’s something you’re passionate about, regardless of where you are in your life, pursue it to its end. Sleep can wait when there’s a story to be told.

Monday, September 15, 2014

COVER REVEAL: Zhukov's Dogs

Today's the day! Presenting the cover for my debut novel, Zhukov’s Dogs, a new age dystopian available October 27, 2014 in both paperback and e-book formats from Curiosity Quills Press.

And now a bit about the book (for all you lovely people squinting to read the jacket designed by the amazing Alexandria Thompson):

A good dog doesn’t ask questions, especially when The Council holds their leash.

Lieutenant Colonel Nik Zhukov never disappoints—never questions the orders given to him—even as each mission further reveals how corrupt his handlers are. For the sake of national security, the desensitized prodigy pretends he’s just like any other seventeen-year-old living in the year 2076. At least until it comes time to pull the trigger.

On the verge of promotion, Nik is dispatched to the underground city beneath the icy Seattle tundra. What should’ve been a simple bit of recon is complicated by the underground’s dark secrets. He soon finds himself treated as an equal and swept into battles alongside the misfit revolutionaries he was sent to spy on. Their gray-eyed leader isn’t fooled by his ruse, though, and as Nik worms his way into their lives, he unknowingly breaks the number one rule within his ranks.

He allows himself to feel normal. It’s a mistake he pays for dearly when he learns The Council’s true intentions for Seattle.

For more information, please visit the Goodreads page for Zhukov’s Dogs. You can also follow Amanda’s rambling about her literary adventures on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Please share and remember to be awesome!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grown-Up Problems

Dearest readers,

I am secretly 12. Well, not really, but that's the the disclaimer I often find myself attaching to the everyday. If I didn't have a job, bills, and a dwindling metabolism, I assure you I'd be doing nothing but playing video games, building LEGO towers, and immersing myself in the fictional worlds I create while hunched over a keyboard. Life is hard at 23, and 24 is rapidly approaching.

This year, I traded a freelance career for a big-girl job with an Internet conglomerate, starting out as a coordinator in the content department then climbing my way into management. I love my big-girl job. I love the 9 to 5, the people I work with, the projects I'm working on, and how much I've grown as a writer and editor since taking the job. The only drawback is that it cuts into my personal writing time. I knew that would be an issue going into the grown-up world, but I've been forcing myself to dedicate at least half an hour to creative writing every day. Sometimes, all that comes out during that half hour is "blaaaaagh, I'm too tired for this nonsense," though, so some days are better than others.

That said, I'm buckling down -- I'm determined to have Book Number Two finished within the next three months. Given my current word count, that roughly translates to writing a minimum of 500 words/day. Totally doable now that I'm in crunch mode. I'm pushing to do closer to a minimum 800 words/day so I have ample time to edit within the 90-day period.

We'll see how this goes. During the final two-week haul for Zhukov's Dogs, my immune system kindly requested I go fuck myself and took a long holiday that ended with me in the hospital. I wasn't working full-time back then either, so I expect Book Number Two will likely kill me. When I'm gone, dearest readers, please use my tragic death as an excuse to buy more copies of my books.

As a closing thought: Book Number Two finally has a title! It will probably change, but for now, I'm calling it The Spark. It's a delightful blend of fantasy, sci-fi, and action that's neatly wrapped up in the New Age genre, and I can't wait to share it with you.