Welcome to the perfect morning.

 

I decided to take some time off this week (gasp!) to treat myself with a long weekend of [refer to above photo].

As a writer with a full-time day job in a field that demands a significant amount of my energy and focus on any given day, one of my most daunting challenges is making the time and harnessing the motivation to write after a long and difficult day at work (or, on the weekend after a full week of long and difficult days). Fortunately, I have a day job that actively encourages best practices in work-life balance, a supportive team, and A LOT of PTO days accrued. Hence, Stormriders Staycation 2018.

I absolutely understand how fortunate I am, in these respects, and I admire my fellow writers who are making things happen with limited resources and support… a special shout out to my fellow indie writers.

Dear Indie Writer With A Day Job,

Your time is a treasure, and your process is valid, however that looks for you. I have every confidence in the story inside of you, the one you absolutely MUST tell, the one that makes your soul cry and sing and hope and despair at the same time. You WILL write it. And if it’s not done tomorrow, that’s okay. Maybe in a month, or a year, or a few years. All of those time frames are valid. Because your story WILL be told, and by you. There is no better person to tell it.

If you’re interested in supporting indie writers in their endeavors, I highly recommend exploring Patreon, a crowdfunding site for artists, authors, and other creators. You can visit my Patreon page here.

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2017 Updates, and Looking Ahead to 2018

Wait, what, it’s almost 2018 already? Hold the freaking phone…

It has been nearly a solid six months since I’ve posted something – anything – on this blog, about writing, or even not writing. For that obscene lapse in communication, readers, I profusely apologize. But a lot has happened. Allow me to share…

In which the author finds herself gainfully employed once more.

I accepted a position in county government, smack dab in the middle of my degree field, so that is the good news! (MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: All thoughts, opinions, etc. I post on this blog are mine and in no way represent my employer, whose name I am intentionally neglecting to reveal. Must keep day job and dream job separate, people! SECONDARY DISCLAIMER: And no, I’m not a spy or anything. County government administration doesn’t really require a new employee to bring with them a spy’s skill set, anyway.)

However, the inevitable trade-off with gainful employment is, of course, fewer hours in my day/week to devote to my first love and ever-aspiring career accomplishment: publishing a book people want to read. This acknowledgement has been a devastating one, friends. But by acknowledging this new yet necessary obstacle, I have been afforded the opportunity to actually expand my creative leanings into the realm of time management. I’ve discovered there is joy in rising before the sun, brewing coffee, and diving into the world of Stormriders for an hour or so, before most of the rest of the world has any idea a new day has begun. And this is speaking as a human being who keeps a List of Top Five Activities Of Which To Glean the Greatest Sheer Delight, and includes the art of sleeping near the top of that list.

In which the author recommits herself to the completion of the book of her heart.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet a memoir by Jen Lynn Anderson

Once upon a time, a girl visited a land far, far away. It was many years ago, but the colors and voices and sounds and tastes of that land have stayed with her, vibrant and strong. Throughout that visit, she kept a journal. From that journal, came a story. A true story, according to the girl, but what she didn’t realize was her truth didn’t necessarily align with the truths of others. And so the girl soon realized she was left with a hopelessly personal and biased story, from the perspective of an optimistic and idealistic Western white mind. It was a story that did not tell the entire truth of the land wherein the girl worked and played and explored and rested her head for a month of her life. And the girl’s heart broke as she began to understand how close she came to harming the people and places she has come to care about the most, by making the story hers instead of theirs.

The world does not need another story of a privileged girl learning from people who look and speak differently than she does. The world DOES need to hear those people’s stories, from their perspectives. And so, the book that began as the personal tale of a voluntourist has become a journalistic voyage into the villages and neighborhoods around Moshi, Tanzania, to bring to Western attention the efforts of local nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, run by people who grew up within those same neighborhoods, visionaries working tirelessly to improve the lives of their neighbors and communities.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet was going to be released late this year. For obvious reasons, that has been pushed back indefinitely while I rework the structure of the book and conduct interviews. But I am excited and grateful and privileged to tell this story the way it needs to be told, the way it should have been told from the beginning.

In which the author resigns herself to yet another headlong foray onto the literary roller coaster that is National Novel Writing Month.

Like my fancy NaNo mug? Get it here.

Thirty days. 50,000 words. Fifty. Thousand. I do sometimes feel a bit repetitious this time of year. You’ve heard it before. The problem is, I’ve gotten close but never actually have won NaNoWriMo. Every October, I prep and plan and post words of inspiration and encouragement. “THIS IS MY YEAR,” I say. Only, it never is.

So this year, I’m going into it a little differently. I’m taking my newfound love of early morning candle-lit writing sessions and will commit to put as many words as I possibly can into that hour before dawn. I am going to ignore the daily word-count.

I’m going to remember, each and every single time I sit down in front of my computer, that I am continuing a journey with the characters I love and whom I miss when I’m away from my keyboard. I’m going to surround myself with music and images that inspire me and remind me of those characters and places I am trying to get out of my head and into the book. And what the result will be? I won’t know until I’m there. But whether it’s fifty or fifteen thousand words, my goal is to have a completed first draft of Stormriders in my possession by the end of November. “Winning” be damned.

In which the author signal-boosts a wonderful little group of fellow writers and dreamers.

I’m a big believer in sharing. But as a writer, sharing your work is often incredibly difficult to do. Sometimes it is flat-out painful. Criticism hurts, and even constructive criticism can sting. But critique is a vital component of any writer’s growth in their craft. So what better cure for the sting than finding others who are on the same growth journey as yourself?

Writers groups are an invaluable resource for any seasoned or aspiring author. They prevent you from writing in a vacuum. Whether you have a story you already know you absolutely must tell, or are still searching for your story, a writers group gives you a place to start. To sit down and talk about your ideas, to navigate the tricky twists and turns of the imagination only writers know about. To commiserate about the numbing void of writer’s block, and tap for feedback on the books of our hearts (yes, even when that feedback hurts).

Fortunately, the Twin Cities, with its many celebrated arts communities, boasts dozens upon dozens of well-established writers groups. In any city or town around the TC metro, you can most certainly find a group of your fellow writer people who meet in a somewhat organized fashion at least once a month. Just in Carver County, we have juggernauts such as the Arts Consortium and the Chanhassen Authors Collective, for starters. For my part, I love the small but meaningful meetings of the Waconia Writers Group, where anywhere from four to a dozen or more writers of all ages and experience levels meet twice a month.

Writing can be a lonely experience. It’s easy sometimes to forget that we’re NOT alone. Writers groups help us remember that fact. So don’t be afraid! Find your people, find your story, and grow your writing.

The Power and Authenticity of Fictional Languages

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Research! (Book cover courtesy of author Robert Hendrickson and illustrator/cover designer Cathy Rincon)

Creating a new dialect ain’t easy.

During my worldbuilding endeavors for my serial novel, Stormriders, I discovered that some of the people who lived in the World I Built spoke an interesting hodge-podge creole of Appalachian English and Pirate English vernacular. Interesting, but tricky. I’d never created a dialect before. Luckily, I have been able to research to my heart’s content because The Interwebs. And what I’m finding is fascinating!

I’ve learned that there are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials out there for just about every language that exists or has ever existed on the planet. And many of those are free!

I’ve learned that Appalachian English remains the closest still-spoken dialect on earth to the language of Shakespeare (Hendrickson, 1997).

I’ve learned that Pirate English is a dialect that is actually spoken by more real-life people today that I could have imagined.

I’ve learned that creating a language, even a creole dialect of English language variations, is HARD. But as words fly out of my main character’s mouth and onto the pages of my story, it’s apparent how worthwhile the effort is.

Language brings authenticity to the world you’ve created.

World-building is one of the most enjoyable writing exercises for me. And why wouldn’t it be? Science fiction and fantasy authors the world over have created some of the most vibrant, beautiful worlds I’ve ever pictured inside my head via the words on their pages. And all of those worlds came replete with rich geographical, climatological, political, and cultural details.

I’m no J.R.R. Tolkien. Inventing a brand new language from scratch (as Tolkien did multiple times for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) is daunting in a way I can’t fully voice. Perhaps Tolkien felt similarly as he began wandering through the World He Built. Perhaps not… he was a philologist, after all.

Thankfully, for the purposes of my story and the world I’ve built for Stormriders (which takes place in a post-apocalyptic former North America), I did not have to invent a new language from scratch. But for one group, the Shoalfolk of the Carolina Shoals (a string of low-lying islands and cays that formerly comprised the Appalachian highlands, before catastrophic flooding devastated the low-lying continental United States over millennia), it felt inappropriate to neglect to honor that rich culture that, to this current day, reflects the linguistic cadences and phrasing of Elizabethan English.

In order for readers to believe in your characters, you have to be able to answer questions about every aspect of the world in which your characters were born, grew up, and have embarked upon their journeys. Language is one of those critical aspects (and I would argue, perhaps one of the most important), which can shape a culture and bring authenticity to your characters themselves, as they move through the world you’ve tirelessly imagined.

And it’s a big, big world out there, indeed.

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A Story in Installments: Using Serialization to Publish a Novel

In late April, I was approached by the founder of Channillo, a new(ish) digital publishing platform that hosts work by authors from all backgrounds: established and new/upcoming, using traditional and/or indie publishing avenues.

At the time I was extremely unfamiliar with the serialized fiction format; releasing a story in online installments was a brand new concept for me. As it stood, I was not keen on attempting to release The Bearers in a serial format, as I had already started the novel and was not writing chapters chronologically. I WAS intrigued by the idea of attempting a serial release with the post-apocalyptic pirate story concept I had been developing. I uploaded the prologue for Stormriders to my Channillo series page in early May, where it will grow every month and hopefully gain subscribers. Ah yes, I forgot to mention the site is subscription-based, which I feel is a good thing, for reasons I’ll touch on below.

As I mentioned, I was intrigued to try writing a series in real-time, both as a way to get some work in front of a potential audience relatively quickly, and also to keep myself on a disciplined writing schedule… nothing beats a deadline for getting a draft done. So far, Channillo has been a wonderful way to accomplish both goals.

So how does online serial publishing work, you might ask?

The Channillo platform itself is an open book to the authors who are accepted as contributors. The application process allows you to pitch your series concept and nail down parameters (how often you’ll post new chapters, etc.) Follow this link for more info on how to participate as a contributing writer. Poetry, short story anthologies, essays, nonfiction book chapters, fiction book chapters… all are accepted genres. As a contributing writer, you also have the opportunity to subscribe to other contributing writers’ series… more on that in a second.

Once your series has been accepted, you are able to create a customized series page with description blurb, cover art, and link to your author profile. You can start publishing whenever you have content to publish. I’m opting for the start-from-scratch method, where I spend a month writing the next chapter, editing, and reviewing the plot arc for continuity… then I post. I would guess that some writers are publishing preexisting work; the caveat with this is, said work cannot be available for free elsewhere on the Interwebs (on a blog, on a free platform like Scriggler, etc.). Authors DO retain all rights to the work they choose to publish on Channillo.

Some folks may be wondering: why go the subscription-based route, when there are dozens of free digital publishing platforms out there?

The primary difference, in my mind, is writer compensation. Free platforms potentially have a wider reach, in terms of audience, but because they are free there is no compensation for contributing authors. What a subscription-based platform like Channillo does is offer a membership program with a pricing tier that offers subscribers (the online reading public) a certain number of series to which they can subscribe based on what they pay monthly. Authors are then compensated proportionally (based on the number of subscribers they have for their series) from the monthly subscription pool. While it certainly will take a specific, special type of reader willing to make monthly payments for access to only indie-published material, it doesn’t mean those readers aren’t out there.

I should note: EARNING ALL THE DOLLARS IS NOT MY PRIMARY MOTIVATION HERE. Nor is it for many of the contributing writers on Channillo, I would assume. A lot of the writers are subscribers themselves, as a way to network with other authors, which I believe has a lot of merit. Of course, building an audience while getting a little compensation for your time and effort spent marketing is not a bad thing.

And now, we write. And write. And write some more.

I am having a ball writing Stormriders in a serial format. It gives me the opportunity to to truly reinvest in my characters each month. While I have a general plot hammered out and did a monstrous amount of world-building and character development prior to starting, each month is a fresh opportunity to explore this world I have created, and to genuinely discover how my characters will interact and work through their story arcs within it. Every month will hold a surprise or two for me, right along with my readers, which is a unique phenomenon with this format.

As I’m sitting here, editing Chapter One to upload on Channillo this week, I have no idea how this story is going to end and couldn’t be more excited about it. The sheer giddy excitement is sparking inspiration. And the swiftly growing potential of the unknown is the tinder.

UPDATE 4/6/17. Please please PLEASE Google “first publication rights” before posting on any digital/serial self-publishing platform, especially if you think you may want to try the traditional publishing route with your book someday!!!

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