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Happy Birthday

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This is my second blog site and for anyone who actually seen my previous blog, I will be removing it once I figure out if I can migrate my posts. There’s only a few, so I suppose really I could even copy and paste. I have entitled this post “Happy Birthday” for two reasons: 1 – as it will be very close to midnight by the time I get this published it will be youngest daughter’s (18th) birthday; 2 – it just seemed a fitting title for a first post on a new blog site.

2017 has been an incredible year. March 31 – April 2 I attended  Creative Ink Festival

My parents paid the registration for me a Christmas gift. The gift was two-fold; I didn’t have to pay the fee but more importantly because the it was non-refundable, I couldn’t back out. I had though about going in 2016 but chickened out. I didn’t have a completed manuscript (it wouldn’t have mattered) but I was also extremely intimidated by the idea of being surrounded by people I didn’t know and the fact that they were all industry professionals (even if not all them actually were).

#CIFEST17 was amazing! I don’t have the words to properly convey my feelings from the weekend, but suffice to say, it gave me the encouragement and motivation to continue my journey as a writer. I met some amazing people who I now call friends and had the opportunity to pitch to publisher. The pitch resulted in a submission request which was ultimately passed on. This was strangely uplifting and the timing of it opened a new door which is the real reason for this new blog.  I say the rejection was uplifting because my immediate reaction was “I got my first rejection – I’m a real writer now!” *waves impostor syndrome goodbye* (for now).

Currently I am involved with #PitchWars. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is organized by Brenda Drake and is contest hosted on Twitter. If you’re a writer and don’t know about this I suggest you check out her website http://www.pitchwars.org or find her on Twitter and seriously consider for next year if the timing works for you. Anyway a fun part of PitchWars is little thing called #pimpmybio, not required, just a bit of fun for contestants. Thus I wanted to start a blog site that was a little easier to deal with so I could participate.

So, now that I’ve got you up to date on my amazing writing year, let me tell you a bit about what you can expect from my blog. I plan to share with you the ups and downs of my journey as a writer. I don’t plan to post anything family related here, I want this to eventually become my writer’s website where you will one day be able to purchase all of my wonderfully scary books and perhaps related merchandise. Who knows, maybe I will branch out in my writing and do romance or a series or something, but for now as far as I can tell my works will be stand-alones.

My current manuscript has a working title of EVERGREEN. In prepping for Pitch Wars, I’ve done a lot of genre related research and my MS definitely could fall under several #s from Women’s fiction to Low Fantasy or Urban Fantasy to Thriller to Magical Realism. I think I will wait until I either find representation or a publisher and let them decide.

For tonight, let me end by saying Happy birthday to my wonderful daughter and happy birthday to my new blog.

 

 

Heavy Developmental Edits

A year ago, I had no idea what developmental edits were. A year ago, I didn’t really understand character arcs, pacing, plot points…

Rewind further to I think 2012, when I really started working on my manuscript in earnest. It had been roughly 20 years since my last English class, I had never taken English Lit and had not read very much in the over the past 15 years. But there I was, trying to write a book.

The story was good, my daughter who read voraciously, loved the 80 or so pages I had at the time but got to the point where she wouldn’t read it anymore because it wasn’t finished.

Fast forward to October 2016. I am almost finished but can’t quite get there. I start doing some edits, mostly what I now know to be copy edits. Spelling, grammar, fixing continuity and such. I ended up making a few developmental changes along the way and low and behold, I managed to finish my manuscript in time for my first writer’s festival/conference.

Fast forward to May 2017. I’ve been working on tightening up my manuscript, fixing passive language and working on the formatting. By September I have received my first edit letter and have read it a few times. We were also heavily into move-mode so my manuscript, along with that edit letter sat and sat and sat.

March of this year, we were finally here, in our new town. No, not in our new house, but a few doors away. The Creative Ink festival was a mere 2 months away and I hadn’t touched my manuscript since probably October, maybe longer. I dabbled as we focused on major renovations.

Creative Ink in May 2018 was great. I thought I had learned a lot the prior year, but even through a recent concussion, I managed to absorb so much more. It has been a month since I returned from Creative Ink and I have created a chapter information table, entered the notes from my edit letter, made personal comments and started some major revisions.

Yes folks, I am doing Developmental Edits. I am paying attention to character arcs, pacing, plot points, spelling and grammar and continuity all along the way.

This draft of my manuscript currently sits at 13 chapters, 97 pages and 24,176 words.  The previous draft at this same point was 14 chapters, 116 pages and 28,767 words.

A funny side story – during my concussion therapy today, I had to read a short story and answer questions on it. Nothing too difficult, but I realized something. I was having a really hard time reading the story. It was something used for teaching students how to analyze for theme and what not. Funny thing was, I couldn’t get past how poorly written it was. The grammar was awful, the narrator’s brother was mentioned in the first sentence, but then completely disappeared. I told my husband about it and he said, “You’ve turned into a writing snob.” I guess what that really means is I’ve become a writer.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Three things since Creative Ink 2018

It’s been a couple weeks since I got home from Creative Ink Fest 2018 and writing things are happening.

First, I’ve been applying ideas I received from C.C. (Chris) Humphreys’ master class and found so many places that need to be reworked in my WIP EVERGREEN. Slashing pages and scenes like crazy! All for the better though. I am not sure how many words I’ve cut / rearranrged /added back but I’ve worked my way through 2 iterations of my second chapter as well as reworking the remainder of the first six!

Second, I joined the Kelowna Writer’s Group (online and in person). What a great group of people. I attended my first meeting on June 5 and along with several other first timers, was welcomed with open arms. Jonas Saul sort of chairs the meetings but by no means makes it feel like he owns the group.

There is lots of reading (anyone who wishes to share) with immediate, helpful and constructive feedback, encouragement and support. I was left wishing I had printed a piece to read which really surprised me for a first meeting with strangers. Everyone also gets the opportunity to talk about their accomplishments since the last meeting, anything writing related. I am so glad I went to this and it would not have happened if not for Creative Ink.

Third, I officially joined the organizing committee for @CIF2019 and have been dubbed the Okanagan Wrangler. 😁  I have been given the very important task of scheduling blue and red pencils, pitches, and kaffeeklatches. Keep an eye on the Creative Ink Festival website, Twitter and Facebook for updates on next year’s event.  I really hope to see you there.

 

Creative Ink Festival 2018

I just returned from my second year at the Creative Ink Festival (#CIF2018). It is such an amazing event and I just can’t say enough about it. Actually, I could go on for days, but I will try not to.

First of all, hats off to Sandra Wickham and her very dedicated organizing committee (which I have volunteered to be a part of for next year). They do an astounding amount of work for this 3 day writing festival in Burnaby, BC, from arranging amazing Guests of Honour and Keynote speakers to enticing pros of all sorts (publishers, editors, published authors among others) to come and do panels, workshops, blue pencil critiques, readings and provide general entertainment, not to mention the enormous wealth of knowledge they share.

I first learned about this festival on Facebook in 2016 and was prepared to go, but I chickened out. Why? I had a huge inferiority complex (impostor syndrome) and low self esteem kept me from doing pretty much anything on my own. I told my parents about the festival several months later when I began sharing my (very unfinished) manuscript with them.  That year for Christmas, they purchased a weekend pass for me for the 2017 festival.

It was there that I learned that amateurs and pros alike felt the same way I did.  Many of the pros I met that weekend had impostor syndrome – there was even a panel about it. The fact that I hadn’t published – or even finished – anything didn’t matter, what did was the fact that I wanted to learn.

This year’s event was held May 18 – 21. It started off with a bang. I attended a Master class taught by CC (Chris) Humphreys – yes, the Chris Humphreys from stage, screen and page. The class was great, but better than that, he is so NICE! Genuinely so. Happy to chat with anyone at anytime throughout the weekend. It doesn’t matter that he’s been in the game for a long time or that he’s done a lot of different things, he enjoys sharing his knowledge and doing what he can to help others be successful.

A little while later, after spending an hour volunteering to “manage” the blue pencil room, I found myself in the company of three or four writers from Kelowna (our places of residence were on our name badges this year). One of the group happened to be a published author about to provide an hour to blue pencil critiques. Perhaps you’ve heard of Jonas Saul? Well he and the other Kelowna writers, seeing Kelowna on my name badge as well, demanded (satirically) to know why I was not a member of their writing group! I’ve only been in Kelowna for 2 months and have barely left the house unless it’s to get more materials for renovation work or buy food. Anyway, suffice to say, the festival was not even an hour old and I had been recruited into my very first writing group.  More talk with Jonas over the next 2 1/2 days would solidify my resolve and I will meet with the Kelowna Writer’s Group for the first time in June.

During the dinner hour on the Friday evening were the opening remarks by the Guests of Honour – one being Chris Humphreys, the other being the equally esteemed, Kevin Hearne. Both of these men were extremely down to earth, and great to talk to. Their writing and other professional experiences are vastly different, but both had a wealth of information (and experience) sure to be of help to pretty much any writer.

The Keynote speaker at the banquet this year was indie author Adam Dreece. I met Adam for the first time last year when I went to him for a blue pencil critique. His critique and reaction to my words on that piece of paper was so positive and completely amazing. I have it on good authority that that blue pencil session meant almost as much to Adam as it did to me.

I was also surprised to learn that another blue pencil critique I received last year from Surrey RCMP sergeant and published author, Tyner Gillies, is as well remembered by him as it is by me. The thing to realize here is that these people are all very successful in their own rights, and their interactions with the people they help mean a lot to them. They are often just as affected as the people they help.

The feedback, support and encouragement provided to me last year by both Adam and Tyner propelled me to a level of self confidence I never imagined having before, especially with regard to my writing. Without them, I would probably not have rushed home to start the work needed to rework my manuscript to get it finished and I would likely not be writing this blog tonight as there would be absolutely not reason to do so.

I feel I have digressed… back to #CIF2018.

There were panels and workshops galore all weekend. A dealer room was open during most of the festival as well.  The dealer room was occupied by tables full of books by presenting authors for sale, publishers Myth Hawker, Pulp Literature, Filidh Publishing and Vancouver Island Paranormal Authors (a small two author company publsihing their own works), Cascadia Author Services, Geek Crossing and Wild Heart Emporium. The dealer room ( as well as hallways, registration area, lobby, etc) was also a great location for meeting up with people having some pretty amazing conversations – I ended up spending an hour receiving some invaluable information, encouragement and general inspiration from Jonas Saul,Randy McCharles, John Mavin, and Jim Jackson.

What is the point of all this? The point is that the Creative Ink Festival is an amazing event for writers at any level.  There is networking, friends to be made, free critiques to be had, chances to pitch directly to publishers, editors and agents and for a very small fee ($80 for the whole weekend, additional $25 for the Master Class) the amount of information, contacts, new ideas, possibility to meet writing groups, critique partners, etc, etc is too amazing to pass up. Even if you are the most extreme introvert and don’t talk to anyone, sit in the back of all the panels and workshops, don’t attend the banquet for the keynote address, you will still gain a wealth of information you didn’t have before. More than likely, your lack of participation will be noticed by someone and by the end of the weekend, whether you like it or not, you will have met new people and made contacts you never would have imagined.

And then you know what happens? You go back the next year, tell a whole bunch of people (whether they hear you or not) and have an even better time, because now you know people who want to keep returning to this festival year after year for the warm, encouraging, welcoming family that it is!

For me, my spark has been reignited – my drive, my need to write and in the words of Adam Dreece “No damn it, I’m doing this!”

I really hope I see you next year!

 

 

#PitchWars a first timer’s perspective

Earlier this year, I found a hash tag on twitter (which I’m new to); #PitchWars. I didn’t know anything about it, so I started researching and I found Brenda Drake’s website.  Brenda an her team run an amazing contest for every year and from a first-timer’s perspective, it initially seems a bit daunting. When you look at the calendar which outlines the entire event.  The first item on the schedule (Pitch madness) is in February. As I found out about PitchWars much later in the year, I am still not entirely sure if anything on the contest schedule prior to July actually pertains to PitchWars itself or not. Regardless, during the last half of July, hopefuls get to start looking for Mentors (other writers who’ve been published) to submit to.  The submission includes a query and your first chapter (plus prologue) *NOTE: all official details and requirements are here and should not be taken from this post*.

Anyway, I missed a part of the contest where people could have their queries critiqued, although, some mentors (and agents and editors who follow along for the later part of the contest) will offer up random draws for query critiques as well. As you all know, queries are not easy, especially when reduced to 140 characters including any relevant and important hashtags.

Between Aug 2 and 6, the flood gates open and writers from all over the world submit to their chosen mentors (4) and the collective stress level of the twitterverse attains new heights.

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I think this was probably the most tweeted GIF of the week. The next three weeks (Aug 6 – 24) raise the stress level even higher – if possible, as the 2,999 hopefuls for this year’s contest wait with baited breath to see if they will be chosen.

At this point, I all but ignored twitter. I didn’t want to get caught up in the worrying. Even so, something I can tell you is that it is without a doubt during this time that you discover how utterly amazing the writing community around the world really is.

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I’d like to take a moment for an aside… I am a new writer. Well in so much as I have just recently (this year) allowed myself to be called a writer and have been actively seeking out other writers. Before this year, I felt unworthy of the word and yet I have been working on my current (first ever) manuscript aggressively since about 2014 and in small bits at a time, (mostly) off and on for over 20 years. It took a lot of personal acceptance to get to that point which brings me to my next point about Pitchwars.

While thousands of writers world wide are freaking out about whether they will be selected by a mentor they are simultaneously, along with mentors and the entire team behind the event, reaching out to each other, offering words of encouragement, support and love for everyone involved in this massive endeavour. The mentors are amazing first of all for volunteering sacrificing their after-work lives to read (in some cases) HUNDREDS of submissions and requesting further materials including full manuscripts from some of their hopefuls over a scant 3 week period and then have to choose 1 to mentor. And they do this joyfully without complaint.  

Without even going on further about the contest, I continue to be inspired by how amazing and supportive the writing community at large really is. I had always envisioned this cut-throat industry where editors want to say no and the competition will steal your ideas right out from under your nose, but I am finding more and more that it is exactly the opposite.  Everyone wants you to succeed, if the writing deserves success.  And if the writing is lacking, they want to help you fix it. Professionals can give you all the advise in the world, but when it comes down to it, they want it to still be your story.

I did not get selected as a mentee for #Pitchwars 2017, but in the 3 days after the announcements were made, I sent samples (up to 3 chapters in one case) of my MS to 5 people through a post-#PitchWars “party” called #CPmatch (critique partner match).

Also, thanks to #PitchWars and the related twitter feeds, my twitter following is currently 194. Note I had never used twitter before April of this year.  My point – my name and my work is getting out there. Published authors, publishers, editors, agents, other writers in my position and every level are getting my name.  To me, it has been a giant virtual networking event and that is more valuable than winning any contest. Sure it would have been amazing to get selected and go into the next round in November, but let’s be real for a minute…this is my first writing since English 101 (longer ago that I care to admit) and I haven’t had anyone who is unbiased read it yet. I had small portions read in blue pencil at the Creative Ink Festival, but no full reads yet. That made it a long shot to begin with, add my (probably) less than stellar (and never critiqued) query into the mix and there are a lot of people much more prepared for this than I was.

I’ve gotten off point a bit.  Although I didn’t get selected, I have made contacts, and all important first steps in getting my name out there. So chin up fellow writers, look to the positive in every “rejection” and remember that you can’t get better and you can’t get your “YES!!!!” without having the courage to first be in the game.  And also, they are nice out there, at least most of them – I’m sure as with any group there are assholes, but I haven’t found one yet.

So in the words of Dory,

 Image result for just keep swimming dory

 

 

Pitchwars – Pimp my bio

So it’s day 2 after the submission deadline for 2017 #Pitchwars. There has been a lot of activity on Twitter; teasers from the mentors, anxiety from hopeful mentees and a few people are still posting their #pimpmybio pages. So, I guess here’s mine.

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I am new to both blogging and writing. I have no idea what I’m doing with this, but I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

Me: Well, my name is Stephanie Galay. I am married with 2 (newly) adult children.  I’ve been working in the accounting department at a local University for the past 20+ years and only recently decided that I want to be a full time writer when I grow up. (yes I think there’s still time.) I love Supernatural, Game of Thrones, The Magicians, Lucifer (the TV show), and am currently reading The Man of Cloud 9 by Adam Dreece.

My journey to Pitch Wars: In March, I attended an amazing local writers festival (Creative Ink Festival #CIFEST17) where I met some incredible people; writers, editors, publishers, a host of volunteers and book lovers. The warmth and support from that community gave me an incredible amount of encouragement and confidence to put my MS out into the world.  I received my first rejection a couple of weeks ago and decided to try my hand with PitchWars. I don’t expect to get selected as a mentee (there’s that self doubt thing), but I figure at the least I am getting my name out there and hey, you don’t know if you don’t try.

Enough about me, how about a little about my book (and a little more about me as a by-product)?

My story’s life began more than 20 years ago as about 3 pages of hand written material (because we didn’t have a computer at home, not many people did) on full scap paper. It sat in a box for a looonnnng time. At some point after my kids were born, I think the oldest might have been 7 or 8, after I had re-written them on to new pieces of paper a few times, the words made their way into a word document on my lap top. Yep, bypassed the hole massive home computer we did have at one time and straight on the hard drive of a lap top. That summer, I wrote a lot (in retrospect, not really that much, but it felt like a lot at the time). More than I had in the past 10 years combined. I think I got up to 80 typed pages and it sat that way for another long time.

In 2012 I had a nervous breakdown and during that first year of healing I decided to quit school. The designation I was pursuing was no longer what I wanted; I didn’t want any more responsibility at work than what I already had. After almost a year off work, I found those 80 pages again and through the latter part of 2012 the story began to take more shape and I would begin to write more steadily over the next 2 1/2 years.

During 2015, I wrote and re-wrote but never got to the end. I finally achieved my first completed draft in October 2016. I started editing almost right away, but was never really happy with it. It wasn’t until I attended the Creative Ink Festival in March of this year that things really took shape.With new found inspiration and having learned a lot, over the next 2 months I cut 4 characters (down to 8 from 12) and trimmed over 100 pages of that first draft. What remains now is EVERGREEN.

EVERGREEN, for me is really hard to categorize. It might be NA, but it might be adult, I’m not really sure.  The main character, Liz Porter, is a senior in University, just about to start her final semester.

The difficulty in categorizing my MS lies deeper than that for me. To be honest, I was really wanting this to be a horror. I am Stephen King fan through and through and it wasn’t until recently that I would read anything other than horror. I have not achieved horror level, that I am fairly sure of, but where it fits, I’m still not sure.  Maybe if I give you all the run down, you can comment. Concensus wins?

About EVERGREEN:

Liz Porter hasn’t been home since she left for Washburn University, not even to see her parents for holidays. Tragedy struck early in the summer when her parents were both killed in a car accident. The funerals were done in Topeka, where she goes to school, but now Liz’s best friend has convinced her to come home to Evergreen to clear the house and land before she sells it.

On the night she arrives in Evergreen, Liz has her first dream since leaving almost exactly 5 years ago and it’s a doozy, part memory, part nightmare.

Within a few days, Liz has run into all of her old friends, most of whom are happy to see her. Among the friends, her ex-boyfriend who she was really hoping to avoid. She still has feelings for him that she won’t admit to anyone, afraid they may use her feelings to get her to move back – the last thing she wants. Another old friend has been holding a grudge almost since the day Liz left town and has no qualms about letting Liz know she’s not happy to see her.

Before Liz has been in town for a full week, strange things begin to happen to her friends. Accidents are not a common occurrence in the small town and when 3 of her friends all have accidents in the space of two weeks, the group suspects the work of a demon they thought they had destroyed during their senior year of high school.

When one of the group turns to her family for help, she is informed that the family is not a band of gypsies as she believed, but the remains of an ancient coven of witches.

Liz must put her past and her fears aside to work with her friends and the coven in order to save not just themselves, but the entire town.

To Close: No matter what happens next, I am proud of the fact that I have 300+ pages that I can call “my book”. Now, if only I could get the play button on the next book in my head to work that would be great.