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#WDC17 – Thoughts and Roundup

Another Writer’s Digest Conference has come and gone. This was my fourth straight, and I, as always, had a blast. Reading that, you may be itching to ask: “Hey Ron, did you see the eclipse?” If you did, I’d answer: “Why are you thinking that right now? Have I bored you to distraction in two lines? Focus!”

I kid. Everybody’s been talking about the damn eclipse. It’s okay. At least people didn’t look at it through their fidget spinners. I hope.

If you’re not thinking about the eclipse, you may be wondering how the conference went.

It was awesome, for all the reasons I listed for past WDC cons here, here, and here. In addition, there were some extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moments, too. That’s where we’ll spend our time.

In no particular order…

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #1

If I haven’t shouted it loud enough, take note: Tabitha Lord is a badass. We met as baby writers at WDC 14, wet behind the ears, just writing all the things we wanted to write. Since then it’s been my inexpressible pleasure to watch her grow as a professional writer, taking control of her stories and career like a boss. She was part of three sessions this year (two panels, one of which she moderated, and a solo session), and at the closing keynote received her Writer Digest 2016 Self Published Novel of the Year Grand Prize award. I couldn’t be happier for her. Check out her books here.

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moments #2

This one is HELLA self-serving, and has nothing to do with writing. You’ve been warned.

Before the panel on world building, Tabitha was talking to Chuck Wendig and gestured in my direction for some reason–probably because I’d been taking pictures and tweeting like a fanboy. Chuck (yes, I’m going to call him Chuck because we’re (not really) bros now) looked and me and asked: “Did you submit a picture for a contest on Terrible Minds?” Filled with inner panic, I responded “I don’t remember, that was a long time ago.” (which it was) and then made a lame-y lameface doppelganger joke. Seriously, I’m still *facepalm*-ing over that one. Cringe City, USA. Anyway, everything goes back to normal and the panel starts. Flash forward two hours and I see on twitter that my bro Chuck tweeted and old pic of me @ me with “Isn’t this you?”

How. In. The. Blue. Hell. Did. He. Remember. That!?

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #3

Talking with independent writers is fun. They’re people doing stuff their own way, taking advantage of tools and options writers have never before had available to them. Ben Sobieck and Rob Dircks participated in the self-publishing panel, and I got to hang out with them some. Ben is a Wattpad rockstar, and Rob’s first book has over 300 reviews on Amazon and has sold more than 10K copies, which is tremendous for any novel, let alone one for which the writer did everything himself. Cool guys, both smart and eager to share what they’ve learned.

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #4

Round Table Companies had a table where you could secretly share something about yourself, and one of their crew would put that up on their chalkboard. It was part of raising awareness for their game, ‘Vulnerability is Sexy’, and added some much-needed newness to the vendor area. I got to play the game with my dear friend Amy and some new friends, and it was everything RTC promised. You draw a card from one of three piles, and then do what the card says. This can range from something fun and silly, like high-fiving everyone at the table, to revealing something deep about yourself. It’s all about sharing and opening up in a fun, safe, bonding way. Very cool idea. I was able to snag a copy of the game from the cool folks at the booth. Friends, if you want to play, let me know. (disclaimer: I’ve always been an open book, so come willing to experience all my weird-ness 🙂 )

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #5

You’re seeing the people-centric theme here, yes? Writing conferences are wonderful for writing tips, learning how to query agents (Barbara Poelle was great), pitching practice, marketing strategies, publishing industry secrets, etc., but the most profound experiences come from the people. As usual, I met several friendly new writers, all eager to soak up as much as they could and apply that to their writing; all making writing friends in and out of their categories/genres; all looking to be inspired. That’s what keeps me going back–reconnecting with people I feel like I’ve been friends with forever, and building new friendships.

The days of the isolated writer are over, people. That’s a great thing.

Blah blah wonderful people blah blah. What about the writing stuff, right?

There’s always a theme that emerges at these conventions; some kind of trend I see crossing between sessions. I don’t think it’s some Machiavellian plot devised in the war room at Writer’s Digest, it just kind of happens. This year, it was writing honestly.

Lisa Scottoline talked about writing stories based on her experiences.

Steven James talked about writing ‘worthy stories’.

Richard Russo talked about “Fuck it” writing.

David Levithan talked about how editors see through a writer being dishonest.

There were other examples, but you get the idea.

It seems like a simple idea, but is quite profound. No matter what story you’re telling, regardless of your tea-sipping dragons, pacifist ninjas, cannibalistic were-goldfish, etc., tell it from your heart. Don’t cut corners, don’t make characters do things that aren’t loyal to them just to move the plot, and don’t write something you don’t believe in because you think it’ll sell. Agents and editors see right through that, and so do readers. Fantastic message.

Okay, that’s enough, I think. There was a secondary theme I saw, but if I write about that, I’ll make it another post because it carries beyond writing conventions.

Another great event. I highly recommend, if you can float it, you get yourself to this show next year.

 

Thanks for reading,

{RDj}

 

Cover Reveal for Michelle Hauck’s New Novel, STEADFAST

Thanks to the super-cool Michelle Hauck for letting me participate in the cover reveal for her new novel! 🙂


It all starts, of course, with getting hit with the writing bug. You have an idea for a story. You bravely sit down and write it. You learn that you don’t know how to write quite yet and you begin to gather experience plucked from other writers farther down the road. 

A manuscript or four later your craft has improved enough to land an agent. Your brilliant story goes out to the scary land of editors and may or may not sell. But you persist. You write other stories if the first one fails. And eventually you make your first sale for, say, three books.

Now you are faced with the scary fact that you need to write your first sequel and carry on a story line. You get the wonderful news that the characters you adore will live on. At the same time, you are full of anxiety that a sequel is a daunting thing and you’ve never tried one before. Bravely you forge forward and write a sequel that meets your editor’s approval. 

A new first appears now that you conquered the other challenge. You now have to write the ending book of a series. You have to take all the characters and all the obstacles you created and bring them to, not just an end, but a highly exciting end. Once again you doubt your talent and ability. You plunge forward nonetheless. And you succeed.

Cover reveals. Release days. Publishers Marketplace announcements. All those days are great days, but they are blips on the actual journey. The true test is the challenge you meet everyday to go out and do what scares you because you might fail– and see yourself instead succeed. 

So a cover reveal is not so much a celebration of art as it is a celebration of spirit. Another test passed. Another doubt proved groundless. A forging forward on the journey of you, whether you are a writer or something else. 

Proof I climb this mountain in the form of a third cover for my Birth of Saints series. Thank you for being a witness and may you climb your mountains. 

 Do what scares you my friends and face those challenges.  
Against an angry god whose only desire is to wipe out all life, what hope is there to survive?The army from the north has left a trail of burned and captured cities. In trying to stop them, Claire and Ramiro unleashed the northern god, Dal, but now they face two monstrosities and no amount of honor or hope can stop the killing as Dal grows in power.

Searching for a miracle, Claire finds the elders of the Women of the Song, who might teach her a thing or two about using her voice magic to fight back—if they can put aside their own problems first—while Ramiro searches for truth in his dreams, leading him to the northern priestess Santabe, the only one who could share her knowledge of Dal and the mysterious magical Diviners. 

Claire must unite the Women of the Song in the face of utter destruction, and Ramiro must decide how far he will go to get the answers he needs to defeat the rampaging god.


It will take nothing less than a saint to rise and face the leviathan before they all become martyrs. (unofficial blurb)

Steadfast releases December 5, 2017


Enter Giveaways to Win Signed Copies of Grudging and Faithful:


A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.




Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.




About the Author:

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two college-going kids. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, Picture Book Party, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging (November 17, 2015) and Faithful (November 15, 2016) and Steadfast (December 2017)  is published by Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing.

Find her on twitter at @Michelle4Laughs or at her blog.

Quick (yeah, sure) thoughts on round 1 of #QueryKombat 2017

I’m participating in #QueryKombat this year. If you’re not familiar, Query Kombat is an annual competition run by this writer and this writer and this writer, where you submit your query and the first 250 words of your novel. For the first round, 64 selected Kombatants are paired off to go one-on-one (shout out to O.C. Shaw, who is a friendly and gracious writer whose book I want in my life). Judges read your entries, offer constructive criticism, and declare a victor. Get enough votes and you move on to the Agent Round where literary agents review your entry and decide if they want to ask for more pages, and then round 2. Entries can be updated before the agents get to see it.
Continue reading “Quick (yeah, sure) thoughts on round 1 of #QueryKombat 2017”