PUBLISHING NEWS!!!

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When I first took the leap from writing fanfic to writing my own characters and worlds, this weird little thing with the working title Light started sprouting weeds in my brain. Since then, this little book I started because I wanted to see queer characters in more than just the role of the Sassy Gay Friend has undergone complete rewrites until it wasn't even recognizable anymore. It taught me a ton about characters, about voice, about writing, about writing QUEER CHARACTERS where being queer wasn't an issue. It taught me about writing the books I always wanted to read.

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my Gay Firefly with magic debut science fiction novel EMPIRE OF LIGHT will be published by NineStar Press.

I couldn't be more excited to be working with their team to get Damian, Aris, Raeyn, and the rest of the crew out into the world.

I can't wait for you all to meet these characters! It's going to be a BOOK, everyone! Thank you to all who have been along on this wild ride and thank you for supporting queer books everywhere!

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Cheers and rainbow explosions. Watch this space for updates, tales from the editing trenches, previews, giveaways and release info!

Alex

February Accountability Roundup, or: Bring it, March!

February, oh, February, where did you go? While I definitely got quite a bit of editing in, overall I only added about 10,000 words to this draft. This is what happens when all the conferences and writing events happen in a month. castle-you-should-be-writing

On a happier note, I also had some major break-throughs, which should make work in March much more streamlined and effective. Either way, I have some serious deadlines to crack in March, including:

  • Finishing these revisions by 3/31
  • Finishing my master's coursework for this semester by 3/20
  • Help planning a writing conference (and giving two workshops for said conference)

So, basically, this will be me in March: cat-deadline-is-coming-animated-gif

I may be a bit of a masochist, but I actually work better under pressure, mainly because I'll be utterly out of excuses to dither or to become wholly absorbed in the crush of self-doubt. Here are some other things that work for me when things get crazy:

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  • Coffee. Lots of it. Obviously.

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  • Obsessive planning. To-do lists are my friend and my bullet journal my trusty side-kick. Checking off things is incredibly satisfying.

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  • Scrivener word count targets. Also, I'm going to start using this spreadsheet to tally up my daily work.

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  • Noise-canceling headphones. It also serves as my signal that I'm working, so my wife, whom I'm sharing an office with, will let me be (fortunately, she's great about that.)

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  • Getting up early. Yeah, 5 a.m. is cruel, but I feel so energized when writing is the first thing I do in the morning. So, instead of giving up something for Lent, I'll instead commit to those early morning hours and deal.

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Bonus: Spring break! I'll actually be off for 10 days at the end of March. This will be my "dead week" of edits. So, yeah, March. Bring it!

Anyway, that's my list, what's yours? Tell me all your secrets to getting stuff done, because I definitely need them.

On that note, cheers and happy writing!

Monthly Accountability Roundup: What I Wrote and Read in January 2017

Okay, I haven't been doing these for a few months and I don't know about you, but I always am SO much better at staying accountable to my own goals whenever I publicly share them with someone. So here I am, back at monthly accountability posts due to go live the last day of each month, so I can briefly recap what I read and wrote this month. I'm also still doing my calendar, complete with color-coded magnets. I've changed up the way I use my green magnets though to account for either 500 words written or one hour edited to better keep track of time spent editing. In my bullet journal I log both hours edited and words added each day to help keep track.

Before I launch into what I did get done in January, here is a quick overview of my goals I set for myself for the first half of the year:

  • Finish up this revision of my Bi Agent Carter book by 3/31
  • Draft a sequel/side project by 6/30
  • Write pitches and plot out two new ideas

That said, here's how January went down:

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Writing:

  • Goal: Add at least 20k in edits/revisions to MENTAL NOTE
  • Words added: 21,145

Since I'm switching between counting hours edited and words added for each day, I can't really average things out, but looking at my calendar shows that January definitely had a bit of a slow start, but once I got back into the swing of things (and had my house and writing nook back to myself after my house guest left!) everything really started to take off. This draft of MN is currently sitting at 44k and I am hoping to add about 25k to this through February, bringing it right around 70k.

Also, I have started using weekly writing goals to set weekly goals that I keep track of with #WeeklyWritingGoals. This method is based on the Agile Project Management approach and really helps to make up for those days where writing just has to take a backseat. By setting a weekly goal, it's okay to miss a day--as long as you figure out a way to catch up at the end of the week. Anyway, my goal for this week is to add 10k to this novel and I am about 2.5k into it, so here's to that.

Reading:

I love signing up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge every new year. Usually I like to shoot for 100 books a year, but given that I made it to 135 in 2016, I decided to shoot for the lofty goal of 150 books read in 2017. January definitely was a good month for reading. Between binge-reading some m/m romance and participating in #DiverseAThon, I managed to read 20 books altogether. Here's a list of what I read:

  • Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II - G. Willow Wilson
  • No. 6 The Manga Vol. 1 - Atsuko Asano
  • Widdershins - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Threshold - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Stormhaven - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Moon over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch
  • Necropolis - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Bloodline - Jordan L. Hawk
  • No. 6 The Manga Vol. 2 - Atsuko Asano
  • Hoarfrost - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Maelstrom - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Whispers Under Ground - Ben Aaronovitch
  • Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk - Danielle Krysa
  • The Summer Palace - C. S. Pacat
  • Hunter of Demons - Jordan L. Hawk
  • Fallow - Jordan L. Hawk
  • History Is All You Left Me - Adam Silvera
  • When the Moon Was Ours - Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Of Fire and Stars - Audrey Coulthurst
  • The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

So, yes, lots of reading. I hope to keep it up, because reading begets writing for me and I love to be in the zone like this. Unfortunately it often means far too little sleep, but who needs sleep anyway.

So, anyway, here goes to writing and editing 25k in February and reading just as many books!

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What are your goals for this year? For next month? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers and happy writing (and reading)!

Alex

Let's talk about accountability! #WeeklyWritingGoals

weeklywritinggoals Okay, I am probably not the only one slightly thrown by the end of 2016 and the start of the new year. Still, apologies for the impromptu blogging hiatus as I had to prioritize writing for a bit.

Be that as it may, January 2017 if already half over and many a lofty new year's resolution probably already lapsed. Let's make sure writing doesn't go the way of half-hearted new year's resolutions--especially for those of us who have deadlines to uphold.

I'm a huge goal-setter and a bit of an accountability junkie myself, so here's something new I want to try and I'd love for people to join me in sharing their weekly writing goals. The idea is loosely based on the Agile project management approach in which instead of setting a daily goal, you instead break goals into manageable weekly project goals, just in case you have a day where writing does have to take the backseat.

In 2017, I will still do monthly accountability roundups at the end of each month, but I'll supplement that with brief weekly check-ins. I'm expanding this to Twitter and Facebook using the #WeeklyWritingGoals tag and invite you all to join me.  The whole point is that it's quick, easy, and communal so we can all cheer each other in. I'll post my goals and checkins every Monday but feel free to use whatever day best works for you. Just tag it with #WeeklyWritingGoals

My #WeeklyWritingGoals for January 16-22 are: 

  • Add 7k in revisions/rewrites to MENTAL NOTE, my Bi Agent Carter WIP
  • Outline and begin drafting the sequel to EMPIRE OF LIGHT, tentatively titled REPUBLIC OF SHADOWS (This will be my side project as time allows; I'm planning to get the first chapter or so drafted by Sunday.)

What are your #WeeklyWritingGoals? Share them with me on Twitter (follow @AlexHarrowSFF), FB or in a comment here.

Happy Writing and see you next week!

So Long, Summer Break

fantastic Tomorrow it's back to school--and ALL the meetings--for me, but I wanted to take a quick moment to recap everything that I've done with these last ten weeks of summer break. This summer, I have:

  • signed with my amazing agent
  • added some extra shiny to my first novel
  • rewritten and revised 30,000 words of my current WIP
  • finally learned how to write synopses before writing the book and outlined a series
  • read 30 books, an overwhelming amount of them featuring diverse protagonist, including lots of #ownvoices
  • finished and aced the first semester of my master's degree
  • taken two road trips to visit some of my most favorite people

I think I can call it a pretty awesome summer altogether. I wish I was even halfway ready to get back from it, but then again, I don't think I ever am. That said, this school year will mean a lot of compartmentalizing and crazy time management as I juggle writing with teaching and continuing my master's degree, but hey, it's not my first crazily sleep-deprived rodeo.

I'll keep you all posted on some strategies I used and well, you'll see my accountability updates.

So, anyway, let's call this one a massive win.

As for my upcoming goals on top of teaching and grad school, I hope to keep up my streak of writing/revising at least 1,000 words a day and finish this draft/revision of Mental Note by the end of September.

Allons-y!

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Accountability Roundup: What I wrote and read in May

Every month I post these I feel like I really should have a spreadsheet for my word count tally instead of adding up numbers from my calendar on my phone's calculator. Then I remember why I don't do spreadsheets for this. For me, there's just something about tactile planning. I am a techy person who has notebooks, but hardly ever writes in them. My iPad or laptop are constantly with me and I'm all over productivity apps, which totally is another post in the making. But I love planning on paper. I have a paper planner (did you KNOW they make coloring book planners?! I was SO excited to learn this, of course I had to buy one!) and keep myself accountable with a magnetic calendar and differently colored magnets above my desk. YMMV, but this is what works best for me. 2016-06-01 08.25.54

Anyway, so May! This month was pretty crazy. The school year was winding down, I was about to start my master's degree--and, yes, I finished writing a book! For a while, I thought it wasn't going to happen with all the teacher stress and general life stress compounding into a big ball of anxiety about life, the universe, and everything, but in the end I managed to make my deadline--a full eight days early! MENTAL NOTE is clocking in at just over 75,000 words, which is a bit on the lean side for me, but that's good because now I get to take it all apart, work out plotting kinks and actually turn it into something readable. Hopefully over the summer. But first I had to let it sit for a week and take a few days completely off writing. Well, not completely, given how I am pathologically incapable of taking a break from words, but as you can see on my calendar and my Goodreads profile, I got some reading in, I organized my bookshelves rainbow-style, and yes, I started that master's degree of mine which seemed hugely overwhelming at first, but thanks to obsessive, color-coded planning actually looks quite manageable (Remind me of this whenever I'm about to hit my stress ball wall again, okay?).

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Anyway, here are my numbers for May:

Writing:

  • Goal: 500 words/day
  • Total word goal for May: FINISH THE DRAFT (~12,000 words and some change)
  • Total Words written: 12,699
  • Total writing days: 13
  • Average words/writing day: 977
  • Best writing day: May 23 (1,612 words)

One pattern I noticed is that I write more productively if I get a good start at the beginning of the month. Reaching at least my 500 words a day goal, let alone exceeding it, gives me a huge boost that helps me keep going. Another thing that has really helped me is getting the Productive app that reminds me if I haven't gotten my 30 minutes worth of writing in during a day. Though honestly as you keep going, much like running or exercise, daily writing becomes a habit and it felt weird to take a whole week off to just let things simmer. But now I can dive back into things and make it all shiny, so, it's worth it!

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in May: 12
  • Titles read:
    • Rachel Caine - INK AND BLOOD: So much love! Cannot wait until book two comes out in July. This is like Harry Potter meets The Book Thief with book smuggling, spies, and treason. I loved, loved, loved it!
    • Jim Butcher - CHANGES (The Dresden Files, Book 12): Making steady progress of my re-listen of the series and loved how well plotted this one was in particular. Holy cliffhanger ending. This one gets huge points for awesome plotting!
    • Barbara Ann Wright - PALADINS OF THE STORM LORD: Humans gain superpowers and become Gods waging epic battles in space!
    • Michael Darling - GOT LUCK: Loved the noir tone and Dresden Files-esque narrative here.
    • Meredith Russo - IF I WAS YOUR GIRL: I read this book in one sitting. Love this trans girl's story told from a trans woman's perspective. Russo gets it right. I'm adding this to my class library.
    • Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples - SAGA, Volume 6: No, it's not out yet, but I tend to binge-read my Comixology subscriptions because I can't just wait for a month to see what happens next. This is my favorite comic series ever.
    • Evangeline Denmark - CURIO: The world building in this book was so cool! Seriously, porcelain people. This is like dystopian steampunk mixed with evil alchemists.
    • Jacqueline Koyanagi - ASCENSION: I loved the cover and premise of this book and really wanted to love it. Alas, the slow, meandering plot left me kind of meh.
    • Renee Ahdieh - THE ROSE & THE DAGGER: I loved THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, but this sequel was even better. This doesn't happen very often, but I positively devoured it. The prose is gorgeous as is the entire book.
    • Alex London - GUARDIAN (Proxy, #2): I really, really liked the breakneck pace of PROXY and GUARDIAN follows through by keeping it up and introduces Liam as a compelling new character. Recommend.
    • Jim Butcher - GHOST STORY (The Dresden Files, Book 13): This could have been an awfully cliched book but it's so not. Well done, Butcher. *applauds*
    • Marie Rutkoski - THE WINNER'S CURSE: With book three just out, everyone was talking about this book and I quite liked it, especially the reversals within the story, but also wanted a little more.

So, yes, May was an excellent month for reading and writing! And now it's summer and despite master's degree homework I plan to keep this up. So here are my goals for June:

  • Take apart MENTAL NOTE and re-plot; finish and polish a synopsis, possibly write a query and begin revising this draft. Ideally I would like to get 20-25k into this.
  • Keep reading all the things. Haha, I know that's vague, but I hope to read at least 10 books each month during summer, including some books on craft.
  • Get back into regular exercise. I'm pretty terrible at it, but I've missed my Zumba and Bolly X classes, but I'm committed to getting back into it, at least three times a week.
  • Write at least one blog post a week. Possibly two. I've been getting better about keeping this space updated, but there are lots of things I want to talk about on here, so I'm making some time to do so. I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Anyway, it's summer! It's June! It's Pride Month and my nails are sparkly rainbow! What are your summer plans and goals? Tell me all the things!

Happy Writing!

Alex

And it's a BOOK!

Yep, that squee is the sound of me finishing the first draft of MENTAL NOTE, my Lesbian Agent Carter with monsters alternative history fantasy about a special agent who doesn't remember firing the bullet that killed her partner and in trying to solve a murder she is convinced she didn't commit finds help among the very monsters she swore to protect her city from. This has been  tough one to write. Historical fantasy, even faux historical as I would call this one, is hard, people.

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Anyway, this draft clocks in at a lean and mean 75,058 words and I've written it in just under 5 months (see those 9 days I had left?! Yay!). I know that this might not seem so huge given the staggering word counts some people get on the page every day, but for me this one is huge, because not only does this draft prove that I can write hard things, but more than that, that I can write at all again. Regularly an while having fun with it at that.

After a good two years of feeling convinced that my writing creativity and ability had all but dried up due to stress, anxiety and the depression, this has me ecstatic, because as the adage goes, writers write. This book has been my return to that and I am incredibly excited about that.

Do I already have half a million things that I want to change about this draft? You bet. But that's what editing is for. That's when the magic happens and I'm super excited to take this on over the summer.

For now, here are three things that helped me get back into the swing of things:

  • No matter how busy things get, you have half an hour.

    This is an adaptation of the wonderful Barbara Ann Wright's blog post  which came to me at just the right time. I realized that if I kept telling myself I was too busy to write and continued feeling guilty about it, no writing would get done. Simple as that. And yes, as a teacher I definitely get busy like crazy during the school year. So I set myself a manageable time limit. I would spent half an hour a day on writing. That's it. Sometimes I would write 500 words, sometimes 800, sometimes none at all. But I kept at it and as several months of tracking my word count show, there's a book at the end of this!

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  • Track your progress.

    I'm a visual person. Color code for me and I'm in love. Track things and this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship. This bit of advice came from Rachel Aaron's book 2k to 10k which has been a huge motivator in this as she suggests to track your progress and figure out your most productive hours. It also suggests plotting in advance. All of these things definitely paid off. Yes, there were months like March where barely anything happened, but again, in the end there's a finished book today.

  • Stick with it and finish the damn thing.

    No matter what. This bit was a joint piece of advice from a lot of my writer friends. Like, a lot. And yes, this may have resulted in a pink sticky note above my desk that reads in sparkly, cat-sticker-adorned script, "Fuck that first draft, just write the damn thing." Because editing is for second drafts. Not for the first. Yes, it's hard and yes, my Scrivener Document Notes section may be slightly inundated with all the things I want to change once I edit this, but in the end I just had to get this story out. Finish a thing before you edit a thing.

Those are just a few things that helped me focus on what's important: the writing and having fun with it. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't give props to my amazing PPWC Speculators whose encouragement and sage advice to get my head off the querying game by diving into this new thing have pulled me back to sanity, or what passes for it, more times than I can possibly count. Writer friends are awesome like that and without them I would probably be even more of a self-doubt-ridden madwoman than I already am, so thanks for that.

Anyway, now I am going to have victory ice cream and tomorrow I might start thinking about how to polish this bloody mess into something that's actually readable, let alone good.

For now, superhero movies and ice cream await.

Cheers and happy writing!