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A Long Hiatus…

Hello, Blog-World. It’s been a while.

It’s one of those moments where I’m not entirely sure where to begin, because a lot has changed in the last year. While I’ve tried to keep this blog a positive place, because I firmly believe that the world needs as many positive things in it as possible, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been rather absent lately. Well, unfortunately that absence was due to some negative situations that needed to be ironed out.

However.

I have learned many things while walking this journey. I’ve learned that sometimes we are given challenges that will shape us into the best people we could possibly be. I’ve learned how to say no. I’ve learned that there is always a lesson to be taught, whether it’s easy or not. I’ve learned that having dreams and desires isn’t easy for everyone else to understand. But most importantly?

I finally found my voice, and I learned how to forgive myself.

It’s really hard to stand up for yourself without feeling like you’re being selfish. (Especially when there are negative influences in your life that might tell you just how selfish you’re being.) But how are we supposed to love others if we have nothing to give them because we’ve no idea how to love ourselves? I don’t mean empowering self-centered mindsets, because it’s also rewarding (and good!) to put others before yourself. But I firmly believe that you must still be kind to yourself.

I beat myself up inside because I made some mistakes, some poor choices. I look back and see what I should have seen the first time around. I can either continue to chastise myself for going down that path, or I can remember that I was young and naive and grant myself some grace.

I know I’m being somewhat cryptic, and for that I apologize. I’m not quite ready to share my full story just yet. But I also know there are people out there who will understand. Remember, negatives can be turned into positives if you know how to look for it.

Last year ended in a way that was seen as very bad for many of the people looking in from the outside. I choose to see it as necessary. It brought about freedom and the chance to start over.

My hope is to continue blogging regularly again. I’ve missed it. Thank you to those who have remained faithful to this little piece of internet in a vast cyberspace. I hope to keep up this journey.

Blessings,

K.C.

So I’ve mentioned my brother a few times now. He’s pretty cool for the most part, except when he makes fun of me. But name me one little brother who doesn’t pick on his sister from time to time? (Besides I usually deserve it. Don’t tell him I said that.)

Today, however, I got to actually get a good laugh at him. Poor kid had to work the day after Christmas, which he really wasn’t looking forward to in the first place, but he got ready and headed to his car to take off anyway.

My family has this tradition that we always wave to each other from the window or doorway. It’s a longtime ritual that first started with my grandma and grandpa. As my grandpa went to work each morning, he wanted my grandma’s face to be the last thing that he saw as he drove off, so every time he left the house, she was there at the window waving to him. If it was dark out, he would flash his lights a couple of times to show that he saw her. His other common signal was to hold up one finger, then four fingers, then just three, which meant “I love you.”  Two generations later, my family still carries this out even to this day. Whenever we leave, we always wave to each other, and my dad often gives the sign for “I love you,” just as his dad did.

Thus I was at the window this morning, ready to wave to my brother as he went off to work. This was how I was able to witness the glorious moment when he carefully looked over his shoulder, slowly backed his car up….and ran straight into our garbage cans.

I’m pretty sure that I laughed for a solid ten minutes straight.

He looked very sheepish as he got out of the car, fixed the cans and proceeded to drive off. I was kicking myself for not having my cell phone ready and in my hand, but I still chuckled about it all day.

However, I started to feel kind of bad as the day wore on. Brother had already been kinda down about having to go to work, plus Life had given both of us a swift kick in the @$% recently. In fact, we had just been talking about how we were feeling kinda bummed before our awesome family came over for Christmas and cheered us up.

So I braved the after-Christmas crowds and did my best to make it up to him:

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What you can’t see behind my note is a couple of keychains he’d been wanting too. See, I’m a good big sister. Most of the time.

Harley Quinn makes everything better, right? I think I made the world right again. *puffs chest out*

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Suicide Squad yet, DO IT. Disclaimer: It’s super dark (obviously) and really not a very wholesome movie. But it’s freaking awesome and probably one of my favorites of the year. Won’t be for everyone, but if you want to see a great action flick (and get some Harley Quinn eye candy) give it a go.

I don’t post political entries on purpose. My opinion is my own, and I don’t feel that it’s my job to change someone else’s mind. Not only that, but I’m not nearly as educated in politics as others are, so I leave the explanation and persuasion to the many diverse blogs and authors who can articulate far better than I.

However.

I feel compelled to write something, simply because my heart hurts at just how much hatred is going on the USA right now, on BOTH sides. Regardless of how you voted, regardless of how you feel, what’s happened has happened.

I saw a meme floating around FB that said something along the lines of hoping for Trump to fail as President is like hoping the pilot will crash the plane we’re all flying aboard.

That just about covers it, in my opinion. Yes, I truly hope that Trump does well as President, just as I would have for Clinton. Not because I necessarily like either of them, but because I want this country to do well. I know I might push some buttons by saying this, but STOP IT.

To the Democrats: Your nominee lost. Move forward and stop being jerks about it.

To the Republicans: Your nominee won. Move forward and stop being jerks about it.

Seriously, people, this is the exact opposite of what this country stands for. We are the UNITED States of America. I have many friends that I disagree with who I still manage to love. It doesn’t mean that your voice doesn’t count. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t believe what you do. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t say exactly how you feel. It just means we need to at least be civil with one another. Try to keep the other person’s feelings in mind when you speak.

In the long run, we’re still all in this together.

So please, EVERYONE…be kind.

Rose City Comic Con!

Okay, here it is. THE BIG POST. Yes, it’s probably going to be a little on the longer side, but it’s been a month and I’m still so flippin’ excited I can’t hardly stand it. I’m already planning for next year.

So as I mentioned before, this was my first ever comic con. I had always wanted to attend one and just never had before. Well, my very sweet friend Tracy decided to treat me to this particular con, because she wanted to me to experience the greatness firsthand. It was a wonderful and amazing gift, let me tell you. I decided to go as Black Widow from The Avengers, and I think it’s safe to say that I made a few fanboys pretty happy. 😉 (Total side note, but I absolutely LOVED how my costume turned out. Buying from Amazon is never a guarantee, but in this case it was very well-made.)

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Not the best picture, but meh lighting will do that.

 

The only thing my grandma and I had to adjust was the shoulders of the costume, but I blame that entirely on my inability to measure correctly. I’m no seamstress, so I’m sure that I just sent in the wrong measurements. Everything else fit perfectly, and the accessories were just as good.

 

 

Tracy and I attended both days, and while I didn’t get a chance to listen to any of the panels, it was still a worthwhile experience in my opinion. It was a flurry of costumes and people, even a few service dogs. I glomped on right away to some of my favorite characters.

 

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And naturally, I had to pose with just about any character from the Marvel universe. Because Marvel. (And yes, I realize that Black Widow wouldn’t be grinning from ear to ear for all these photos, but I was excited and couldn’t help myself. Pretty much anyone who came and asked to have their picture with me got a huge smile because that was totally flattering.)

 

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This guy’s costume was INSANELY realistic. His voice sounded all electronic and everything. It was probably one of the most impressive costumes there, in my opinion. (And yes, it was even better than naked fish guy in the background.)

 

My personal favorite picture was when I found Captain America, Bucky AND the Black Panther altogether. I had seen the Captain and Bucky from a distance, and their costumes were probably the most detailed of all of the different Marvel characters I saw there. I had hoped that I would get a chance to take a picture with them and, low and behold, as we descended down the escalator, I spotted them with Black Panther and posing for a few people. I immediately dashed over and said, “I have GOT to take a picture with you guys.”

 

The second they saw my costume, they got all excited and motioned me over. Tracy was the primary one taking pictures for the weekend, so she snapped a couple of photos. Unbeknownst to her, a group of people immediately crowded behind her with their cell phones, getting shots of the four of us together. I tell ya, I felt a little like a celebrity for a few seconds. It was kinda cool.

 

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Not a bad looking bunch, eh? Team Captain FTW, baby. (And is that a handsome Captain America or what?) 😉

 

I even managed to find some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

 

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Of course, then I found out they were actually working for HYDRA.

 

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So that was the majority of Saturday. Oohing and aahing over costumes, checking out all of the vendors (I got a GORGEOUS Doctor Who print that I love) and getting some autographs from pretty famous celebrities. Sunday was reserved more for photo ops and more perusing of the vendors.

 

Which brings me to perhaps my favorite moments and my celebrity reveal: I GOT TO MEET BILLY BOYD!!!

 

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Okay, this man is one of the nicest people you could ever want to meet. Seriously. He has such a sweet, gentle spirit about him, and he made every single person who came up to him feel special. I got majorly tongue-tied around him, but he was still nice despite my stuttering.

 

I got Billy’s autograph on one of my Lord of the Rings movie guides, which is officially the crowning achievement to my collection. (Yes, I have an LotR collection. It’s pretty awesome, though I have yet to be able to properly display it. I’m hoping to fix that one day.)

 

We also got to meet Dante Basco, who played Rufio from the iconic Hook. That movie is one of my absolute favorites of all time. Talk about a piece of my childhood. (And tell me, what girl growing up didn’t have a crush on Rufio when this movie came out? I’m guilty as charged on that one.)

 

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Dante was super cool in a more casual way. He was laid-back and easygoing but still very nice. He even told me I looked sexy in my Black Widow costume. That gives him major bonus points in my book. (This was taken with Tracy, the friend who invited me. She made her own costume and based it on a character of her own creation. Pretty darn cool.)

 

As we were standing in line to get pictures with Dante, there was this absolutely adorable little girl in front of us with her dad. She was maybe three or four, and she kept showing me her toys that she’d found at the conference. How was I supposed to resist such a cutie-pie wanting to play airplanes with me? The best part was when they went up for their photo with Dante, however. The dad had cut out a picture of his wife’s face and put it on a stick, so that she could be in the picture too. It cracked me up to no end. He looked rather sheepish when I asked him about it.

 

“She doesn’t actually know that I did that yet,” he said. “And she hasn’t seen the pictures.”

 

That made me laugh all the more, just picturing her reaction when she saw her smiling face in the photos as well.

 

I also got to (briefly) meet Stan Lee, Marvel creator and super-writer. There were so many people in line for the photo ops that our encounter was very short, but it was pretty overwhelming to be standing right next to a living legend.

 

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Naturally I had to wear my costume for part of Sunday, just long enough to get a shot with Stan Lee.

 

So yeah, I think that’s about it. It was an amazing time and really fun. I was very impressed with how respectful and considerate everyone was. All of us were there for the same reason, which was to have a good time and meet cool people. No one shoved in line to meet celebrities or got impatient. They were all willing to wait their turn and were super nice whenever someone asked to get a picture with them.

I highly recommend attending a smaller Comic Con like this one to anyone who wants to meet other geeks and have a great time. As I said, I’m already planning for next year!

Wing it right back and add some lemons of your own.*

Okay, not really. But life does sometimes hand us some unexpected surprises. While prepared to go to Monterey, as previously noted in my blog, it was not something meant to be. In fact, a lot has happened in the few short months since I wrote that post. Far too much to go into detail at this time.

So instead, I will shift my focus to something far happier:

I’M GOING TO ROSE CITY COMIC CON!!!!!!

This is my first EVER comic con, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s just what I needed to help get through some difficult stuff right now, and it’s a more than welcome distraction. I have always wanted to attend one of these, so it’s awesome to get the chance to experience it firsthand.

For my costume, I decided to keep it rather simple and am going as Black Widow from Marvel’s Avengers. And you know what? I just have to say THANK YOU to Scarlett Johansson. She’s a kick-butt character in those movies, for sure, but she still has her curves and isn’t afraid to still be feminine. (Plus Scarlett is only about 5’3″, according to most web sites, which means that she’s only an inch taller than me. It’s extremely difficult for me to find characters to cosplay because I’m either too short or too curvy. Or both.)

So yes, thank you, Scarlett. For being an amazing, in-depth character that women can still relate to while not taking any crap from anyone. For having a slam-banging hourglass figure that those of us who aren’t 6′ tall can cosplay.

All that to say, a full blog post jam-packed with pictures will be coming after this weekend. (Plus you’ll get to see the super celebrity that I’m getting a photo op with!)

Until next time!

*In case you don’t get the reference, it’s from one of my favorite comics of all time:

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Dark Energy

Dark EnergyDark Energy by Robison Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Parental guide: Minor swearing, some violence, nothing explicit.

Holy moly, this book was SO GOOD. It’s a fairly quickly read, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Alice is one of the best protagonists that I’ve read about in a loooong time, and I felt that the author did a fantastic job of writing from a female perspective. Also? I loved the fact that she had such a great relationship with her father. I feel like too many times in YA literature, the parents are either absent for one reason or another, or they’re portrayed as idiots. All parents were teenagers at one point in time or another, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that some of them remember what it’s like. Alice’s father was a good mixture of protective and supportive, which made their interactions that much more fun.

Anyway, if you’re in the mood for a quick sci-fi, give this one a chance. I’m off to go check out some of the author’s other books now, don’t mind me.

For those of us involved in an art form, be it writing, drawing, painting, photography, music, etc., we are always perfecting our craft. I think that’s part of what entices us about these arts in the first place. We are always learning and always growing. There’s really no limitations to what we can achieve if we practice and work hard.

As an author, I can already see how much my writing style has changed over the years. I’ve made wonderful connections and good friends since I first published Prince of Light. Back then, I thought getting an agent and a publisher would be a snap. (Yes, I was that naive.) After getting nothing but rejections on all of my query letters for PoL, I felt pretty discouraged. That’s something I think we’ve all experienced: the rejection pile.

It’s a long, hard road to traditional publishing. While some small presses will allow for unsolicited queries to be sent, the major publishing houses (i.e. Random House, Scholastic, Penguin, etc.) require all of their “pitches” to come straight from a literary agent. So once you’ve written that super special awesome book and polished it to the best of your ability, you need to write and even more super special awesome query letter.

I’m pretty sure that the query letter is harder to write than the book itself. There are several amazing resources available to give you an idea of what agents are looking for in a query. Two of my favorite sites are Query Shark (written by an actual agent) and Agent Query Connect. Query Shark is a blog with multiple examples of both good and not-so-good queries. I found it extremely helpful in giving a lot of examples of what agents are looking for.

Agent Query Connect allows you to talk directly with other authors to get their feedback on your query, synopsis, first 250 words, etc. There are both published and non-published writers there, so you really get a broad spectrum of opinions. I had some great feedback when I was finishing up the query for my current standalone YA story. (Just a side note, AQC’s primary site, Agent Query, is a pretty good database of agents and publishers. You can search by genre to see which agents are interested in your specific story.)

The other day I went through a bunch of my original emails to agents, when I first tried to query Prince of Light. For some of them I literally wanted to crawl in a hole and die of embarrassment. For others, I just shook my head.

So just for fun, I decided to post one of my (not quite as humiliating) early query letters and critique it myself, based on what I’ve learned over the years. Not only can I give you a bit of a laugh, but hopefully this will give you a little inspiration and confidence in your own projects. At the time I couldn’t understand why no agent was interested. Now, I certainly do.

Here’s the original query I sent, italicized for better readability:

Dear Agent,

Celestyn: Master of every weapon he touches. Heir to the throne of the elven kingdom. Destroyer of any who dare get in his way. Alone for all eternity.

Seventeen-year-old Evanthe finds herself held prisoner in an unknown castle after an attack on her village renders her homeless. When the first living thing she meets is an imposing half-dragon, half-man beast, her only thoughts are how she can stay alive long enough to find her family. Strange and often frightening creatures seem to be around every corner (which actually makes having a dragon-man beast for a bodyguard come in rather handy). She is befriended by the handsome young mage, Delanor, knowing only that he is keeping her hidden from a dark presence that is shadowing her every movement. When she catches a glimpse of the man that is supposed to be so deadly to her, however, she finds her heart is full of conflict, for she is being sought after by the rogue elfin prince, Celestyn.

And he is by far the most beautiful being that she has ever laid eyes on.

Though she is frightened by his cold cruelty, Evanthe finds it very difficult to resist the ethereal, god-like prince. She will eventually have to choose between the two men that she has come to love and, even worse, between the few fellow humans that have also crossed into the land and the newly-made friends she has grown to care for.

PRINCE OF LIGHT is every fangirl’s dream book, containing everything from a hot elf and shapeshifters of every kind to battle scenes that would send even Percy Jackson into hiding. (Not to mention a love triangle worthy of any Twilight fan.) This medieval fantasy is complete at approximately 89,000 words in length.

While I have never had any of my works formally published, my short story entitled “Range of Vision” won an honorable mention at the 2009 Nature of Words Writing Competition and is included in their anthology. I also worked at a public library for six years, primarily with teens, which allowed me to be immersed in young adult literary fiction. I feel that PRINCE OF LIGHT would be a great addition to any young adult publisher based on the feedback that I’ve already received from both teens and adults alike.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Yup. That was it. Now allow me to critique my own work, based on what I’ve since learned about the industry. My comments are in red:

Dear Agent,
(Just as a side note, always personalize your query letter. This is just an example, so I didn’t put an actual name, but in a real letter definitely use an agent’s name and make sure you spell it right. Also? Only send one letter per agent. Don’t group send several agents at once; they really don’t like that.)

Celestyn: Master of every weapon he touches. Heir to the throne of the elven kingdom. Destroyer of any who dare get in his way. Alone for all eternity.
Ooooookay, problems right from the get-go. This doesn’t really work as a hook for several reasons. For one, it’s super generic and a little cliché. Secondly, the story isn’t even written from Celestyn’s point of view, so none of this matters. Always start your query letter with a good hook, usually just one or two sentences, that will immediately grab the agent’s attention.

Seventeen-year-old Evanthe finds herself held prisoner in an unknown castle after an attack on her village renders her homeless. When the first living thing she meets is an imposing half-dragon, half-man beast, her only thoughts are how she can stay alive long enough to find her family. Strange and often frightening creatures seem to be around every corner (which actually makes having a dragon-man beast for a bodyguard come in rather handy). She is befriended by the handsome young mage, Delanor, knowing only that he is keeping her hidden from a dark presence that is shadowing her every movement. When she catches a glimpse of the man that is supposed to be so deadly to her, however, she finds her heart is full of conflict, for she is being sought after by the rogue elfin prince, Celestyn.
This is character soup. Only main characters need to be introduced, and even then it should be kept to a minimum. Who is the main character? What are her goals? What stands in her way? None of that is really answered with this paragraph. The voice isn’t necessarily horrible, but it’s certainly not as strong as it could be.

And he is by far the most beautiful being that she has ever laid eyes on.
While perhaps an interesting factoid, this doesn’t actually bring about a conflict, so it’s kind of pointless.

Though she is frightened by his cold cruelty, Evanthe finds it very difficult to resist the ethereal, god-like (Ugh, why so many adjectives?) prince. She will eventually have to choose between the two men that she has come to love and, even worse, between the few fellow humans that have also crossed into the land and the newly-made friends she has grown to care for.
Too much description, not enough plot. And again, there isn’t any conflict until it’s mentioned that there are other humans in this world.

PRINCE OF LIGHT is every fangirl’s dream book, containing everything from a hot elf and shapeshifters of every kind to battle scenes that would send even Percy Jackson into hiding. No. Just…no. (Not to mention a love triangle worthy of any Twilight fan.) SWEET BABYBACK RIBS, NO. I am truly ashamed that I sent this to agents. And that I thought it was good. This medieval fantasy is complete at approximately 89,000 words in length.
All the final line should say is “PRINCE OF LIGHT is a young adult medieval fantasy complete at 89,000.” If you have some comp titles, that’s fine, but it’s not a requirement. Also, always round up or down your word count when writing a query, and do capitalize the title for this part of the letter. At least I got that part…

While I have never had any of my works formally published, my short story entitled “Range of Vision” won an honorable mention at the 2009 Nature of Words Writing Competition and is included in their anthology. I also worked at a public library for six years, primarily with teens, which allowed me to be immersed in young adult literary fiction. I feel that PRINCE OF LIGHT would be a great addition to any young adult publisher based on the feedback that I’ve already received from both teens and adults alike.
Honestly, I didn’t include any of this information when I sent out the queries for my newest project because none of it matters. Unless you have a previously published work, and sorry, most self-published books don’t count, just leave out any credentials. (I’ve been told the exception to self-published books is if you’ve sold 100,000 copies or more. But that’s SOLD, not just downloads.) If you have a lot of short stories published or the like, that seems to be semi-okay to send along, but in that case it seems to depend on the agent and their personal preferences.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
I think this is pretty much the only line that I got halfway right.

So there you have it. And as I mentioned, this is my so-called “improved” version. It’s just so…bad. Not because the writing is bad, because structurally it’s pretty sound, but because I didn’t know the business. Agents receive literally hundreds of query letters a day, so it is absolutely vital that you make your story stand out from the slush pile.

It’s helped to see how far I’ve come, which is why I sometimes go back and view my earlier writings. As I continue to work on book two in the Prince of Light series, I already have an idea for the description, which is light years ahead of where I was when I finished book one. (And yes, that book really will get finished at some point. I promise.)

To my fellow writers, I have to encourage you to NEVER GIVE UP. Your first book may never get published, traditionally or indie. That’s okay. Keep writing and keep reading. If this is your passion and it’s what you know you want to do, learn all that you can and just keep going. You will improve.

Best of luck!